Visual Literacy & the Internet

visual literacy

Visual Literacy is not a new concept.  As a matter of fact it was concept given a name in 1969 by writer and educator John L. Debes. To put it simply, visual literacy is defined as the ability to make meaning from what we see. The fact that this concept was around before the Internet and much of the technology we have now demonstrates that it transcends the barriers of time. Even before it had a name, people were making sense of images in their own unique ways.

Educators have been using visual literacy in education for quite some time. Students are often shown photographs or drawings to make meaning of a topic they are being taught. I myself remember my political science class in high school where we studied and made meaning of political cartoons.  I remember enjoying that very much and learning a great deal about the historical period we were studying. That was visual literacy, and the fact that is a vivid memory for me all these decades later further justifies for me the power of visual literacy. Even in college, in my humanities class, we had to study images of art and make meaning out of what the message the artist was trying to convey. Once more an example of visual literacy. The issue before us now is we have the Internet…how do we continue to harness the power of visual literacy in the digital age with 21st Century learners?


There are so many images available to us on the Internet. Some of my most favorite ones are the ever popular “infographics.” I enjoy finding relevant ones and breaking them down with my students. What is most interesting to me are the things my students will identify as they study the graphic. The same is true for your traditional still image. Just today I was revisiting the concept of patterns in math and showed my students this photo:

Discovery Communications, Inc.,  . Animal print & ripples on sand dune. [Image]. Available from http://www.discoveryeducation.com/

I told my students I would be showing them an image. I did not tell them why or what it may relate to. Then I had them do a 5 minute quick write of whatever came to mind when they looked at this image.  I was curious to see if the concept of pattern came to mind for any of them.  After the 5 minutes had concluded, I had them share their quick writes with their desk buddy, and then finally with me.  For those who shared out their ideas, only one mentioned the concept of pattern. Several of the students wrote short stories about how they would survive in the desert or about the animals that had been there as there are animal prints in the sand.  We did discuss the concept of patterns and where we find them, and the conversation on the whole was a lively one. Many students asked if I would continue showing them photos like this and asking them to quick write as they enjoyed it. I assured them I would.


The quick write situation I described is one way I will be using the Internet and visual literacy in my classroom. The study of infographics in the way that I studied political cartoons in high school, where we scrutinized every aspect and looked for symbolism and subtle hidden messages is another. However, that is me as an educator using images with my students. How will my students use the Internet and visual literacy to communicate? In this digital age, I want my students to find images that convey something to others, that support their learning, or cause their peers to think. Not only do I want them to locate such images, I want them to create them. It is at this point where the obstacle that is ever present gets in my way. The distinct lack of technology. I know I am a broken record when it comes to this bitter topic, but it is a reality in my classroom. I wish my students each had a tablet of some kind at the very least.  The ideal would be them each having their own laptop computer to work with in class at any time. While a reality for some students in this country, and likely in this state, it isn’t for mine. I recognize that simply complaining about this issue won’t get it resolved. As always I have to figure out some creative work around to getting technology into the hands of my students to create with and to demonstrate their understanding of what they are being taught.  For the time being the solution that I have employed has been reaching out to those parents and families of my students who have technology readily available at home and know how to use it. I was thrilled to have one such parent reach out to me recently and ask how they could add an image or a video to a Web 2.0 tool we are using as they helped their child complete a multimedia project for me. I instantly recorded a tutorial for just what they needed via Jing and sent it to them. I saw that student’s completed project today and it was perfect. It was truly a bright spot in my ongoing struggle to show my students how to use the Internet in ways that support their education and demonstrate their construction of knowledge.

(GCU TEC 538 Reflective Blog Post #2)


21st Century Learning

Digital tablet and apple on the desk

The instructional strategies we use with your students are very important.  Like our students, our instructional strategies can be quite diverse.  Any teacher knows that having a wide assortment of instructional strategies in your teacher toolbox is very handy indeed. However, many of our strategies can be ‘dated’ and need to be UP-dated in order to meet the needs of our 21st Century Learners. There is no denying that technology is all around us and it isn’t going anyway. On the contrary, its presence is ever increasing. The work ahead of educators now is how to use technology to bring new life to the instructional strategies we have used over the years to reach our students.  As with anything, you cannot keep doing something over and over and not change with the times or that strategy becomes less effective.  We always need to be looking for ways to incorporate technology into the instructional strategies we use to engage our students so that they are able to construct meaning from what they have been taught.

While I am quite willing to use technology in my classroom to enhance my instruction and instructional strategies, as well as the learning of my students, my question is this: When will my school really have the technology it needs to truly prepare students for the 21st Century?  Teaching with technology is one thing, placing it in the hands of the students for them to construct meaning out of what they are being taught is quite another.

(Reflective Blog Post #1 – GCU TEC 538)


International Space Station

We have some exciting news at DGE today!  Our 2014 Teacher of the Year and HAM Radio Club advisor Beverly Matheson has made it so that our HAM Radio Club students are making contact with the International Space Station today! The whole campus is abuzz with excitement and you can view the contact from home via Ustream: http://ustre.am/1gN94 . The broadcast will begin at 10:50 am Pacific time. If you are local to the school, please do not come to the campus to watch the broadcast live as we are unable to accommodate unexpected visitors.  Enjoy!

~ Mrs. Ruiz



Hispanic Heritage Month

The Fontana Teacher’s Association has released information that its Hispanic Heritage Month Contest is now open!



I will be working with the class on entries for the essay and multimedia categories for sure, but you are more than welcome to work on an entry at home with your child and send them to me for submission to FTA. If you plan on working with your child independently on this, please let me know so I don’t leave your entry out!

Entries due to FTA by 4pm on Tuesday, September 16th. Entries due to me Monday, September 15th.  Have fun!

~ Mrs. Ruiz

P.S. Click HERE to visit Fact Monster for more information on Hispanic Heritage Month.  And HERE for a list of notable Hispanic Americans.



Back to School Night!

Hello Families!

Tonight is back to school night and I am looking forward to meeting you all. If you would like to see or review the information I will be sharing with you here is a link to the presentation.


Our principal will be speaking to families in the cafeteria at 5:30pm and classrooms will be open at 6pm. There will be two rounds of presentations. Back to School Night will be over by 7pm.

Also, I would really like to have as many parents as possible on email.  Please send an email to me at ruizmy@fusd.net so we can stay in regular contact.

Hope to see you tonight!

~Mrs. Ruiz


Summer Slump

Hello Everyone!

I am often asked about educational apps and programs for students.  I wish I knew them all well.  There are so many great programs out there!  One site I personally turn to when evaluating technology for my 9 year old son is Common Sense Media.  They have a great guide on avoiding the Summer Slump, do have a look!

~ Mrs. Ruiz


Class News for May 21st

Hello Families!

Next week is our last week of school and I wanted to let you know about  a few things.

  • Monday, May 26th is Memorial Day and there will be no school.
  • Tuesday, May 27th at 9:30 am is our trimester awards assembly. If your child is receiving an award, you will receive a letter from me by Friday, May 23rd.
  • Wednesday, May 28th we will be having a Water Play Field Day from 8 am to 9:10 am. Please dress your child in shorts, t-shirts and sensible shoes (no slippers), and send them with a towel and change of clothing. If your child has any water toys they might want to play with they can bring them, however we ask that no water guns be brought to school (water shooters are fine, but anything that looks remotely like a gun is not).
  • Wednesday, May 28th will also be our class party. Thanks to Sophia H.’s family, the pizza will be provided for the class. If there is any other item you might like to bring for the party/potluck, please email me (ruizmy@fusd.net). If you would like to bring drinks, individually packed drinks are best as it eliminates the need for pouring and the use of cups. Please keep the district’s healthy foods policy in mind when selecting a treat to share with the class.
  • Thursday, May 29th is a minimum day and the last day of school. It will also be our Tech Day. The kids are allowed to bring an electronic device to school to play with (tablet, hand held gaming device, iPod, etc). They will not be allowed to take them outside and they can only bring them with your permission. (Keep in mind there is no open wifi here so internet connections will not be available.)

Feel free to contact me with any questions.  Thank you for all your support.  We have had a great year and this is a great class.  I am very happy I was allowed to be their teacher.

~Mrs. Ruiz