ArtigosCategoriasArtigos Científicos
Cristina Portugal
Cristina Portugal
Image as a Language Learning Innovation
Publicado em 2010
EDULEARN10 - International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. Barcelona
Cristina Portugal
  Artigo disponível em versão PDF para utilizadores registados

This study has as a main question witch is the role of the image in the knowledge construction. Assuming that the visual literacy is increasingly present in our daily life we should not forget that oral, written and by signs communications occurred with the aim of developing a language to reach a certain type of communication. The entire Project of the Multi-Tracks Game has been through a long investigation about the visual language to be used in the components of the game, scenarios, cards etc. However, in order to illustrate this paper about the role that the Design plays in Teaching and Learning Situations, we are going to present the illustration process of LIBRAS (Brazilian Language of Signs) of the Multi-Tracks Game, which resulted in the development of a new graphical language to represent this language.

1. Introduction

Starting with an open view to the inclusion that characterizes the field of Design, this paper supports the idea that, in the field of Design, there is a great potential for developing works together with the area of Education, in order to meet the new demands of the contemporary society. It was precisely this understanding that led the discussions held here on the possibilities of an interdisciplinary dialogue between Design and Education as the basis of the effects that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are driving in image and language as a significant issue to be addressed.

As a guiding principle of this paper, we considered the issues about images and ICTs; therefore we are going to present, as an example, a part of a project of Design in Education, called Multi-Tracks, which is a game that helps the acquisition of a second language by deaf children. This game was developed in the light of methods and techniques of Design, coordinated by Professor Dr. Rita Couto in the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Design / Education - LIDE, in the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - PUC-Rio, in partnership with the National Institute of Education for Deaf People in Rio de Janeiro - INES / RJ, Brazil.

The entire Project of the Multi-Tracks Game has been through a long investigation about the visual language to be used in the components of the game, scenarios, cards etc. However, in order to illustrate this paper about the role that the Design plays in Teaching and Learning Situations, we are going to present the illustration process of LIBRAS (Brazilian Language of Signs) of the Multi-Tracks Game, which resulted in the development of a new graphical language to represent this language.

2. The Image and the Technologies

Issues of language, images and writing are addressed by Kress (2005), considering the far-reaching social and cultural effects in the near future and argues that the transition to the screen as a dominant mean of communication will produce far-reaching changes in power relations and not only in communication. According to the author, the democratic potential of the new technologies of information and communication will have unimaginable broad consequences on the political, economic, cultural, cognitive and epistemological concepts.

For Vilches (1984), the images in the mass media are transmitted in the form of cultural texts that contain a real or possible world, including the very image of the viewer. The pedagogical contribution discussed in his book entitled La lectura de la imagen, is reflected in the critical proposal of some methodological models to analyze the procedures of sequentiality, temporality and the behavior of the image in the information on the various mass media.

A crucial point to be considered in this work, based on the authors mentioned above, concerns the fact that we can’t understand the images without taking into account various factors that imply their meaning, e.g., cultural, technological and economic factors.

In this regard, Kress (2005) seeks to problematize that there are two distinct factors, though interrelated, that deserve to be highlighted in particular. These are, firstly, the movement that is taking place since the writing that has dominated our media for centuries, to the new domination of image, consisting of the movement that goes from the domination of the book as a mean of communication, to the domination of the screen as a mean of communication. These two changes are producing, by themselves, a revolution in the uses and effects of visual literacy and the associated media to represent and communicate at all levels and areas. According to Kress, in this respect, two important questions are imposed: What is the likely future of literacy and what would be the most likely social and cultural effects?

The author says that what is represented in oral or written speech inevitably has to lean on the logic and sequence of time. Consequently, the world represented in oral or written speech is (re) configured in a real and almost temporal way. The human interaction with the world through the image cannot escape this logic, which instructs and configures how we represent the world and it configures, in turn, the way we see the world and how we interact with it. The genre of expression is the culturally most potent formal expression of this situation. The narrated world is different from the world represented and expressed by the image.

In relation to the text and image, Freedman (2003) argues that the semiotic theory has been used to suggest that the visual images are read as text. The images are similar to the text in some aspects and both are forms of representation. The assumption that images can and should be considered as texts is a simplification of the images. They are perceived in a holistic manner and therefore may seem simpler than the texts. They affect us in ways that may not be captured by simple perception, i.e. by recognition, and can be recalled in much more complex ways than the texts in their intermediation and in the subtlety of their influence. The image can increase the strength of the text by juxtaposition and legitimize text without an apparent realism.

In contrast to the general similarities of images and texts, the author says that the images are distinguished by how they interact with human cognition. Firstly, in the way of image construction, our perception of these images takes place as a gestalt. It is immediate, or very fast and very easy to memorize. Secondly, are the ways in how the images build us, attracts us and makes us want to look at them. But the author says it's important to remember that the image is not a common place, since it implies large-scale symbolic identity. From a postmodern perspective, the image has a deep cultural meaning.

Following the same line, Vilches (1984), summarizing the main contributions of the discussion on the icon according to a semiotic theory of image, states that the entire image theory foresees a theory of meaning and that the cultural systems should be studied in the operations of representation. The images are not represented in a direct way through objects, but through perceptual and material operations, technology and graphic standards determined by the culture in which they are inserted and produced. But, the materiality has to take into account its direct relation with the representation.

3. Talking about image is talking about communication

The appreciation of visual literacy is daily increasing in our world. One should not forget that all communication - whether oral, written or by signs - occurred with the aim of developing a language with the intention of communication. Here it is used the definition of image made by Appiano (1996) in order to approximate the image as a result of social activity.

Appiano states that one must consider the image, first and foremost, as a figurative event, as a result of global activity, representative of the factual elements or imaginary concepts, of the material or immaterial data, consisting of perceptible visual signals of which the whole comprises a visual communication system encoded according to a communicative intent and aimed at an activity of decoding and interpretation the receiver. (Appiano, Ave, 1996. apud Ribeiro, 2008: 46) (Emphasis added by the author.)

Therefore, talking about picture is talking about communication, language and graphic language. The language defined by Nunes (2006) is intended to be a tool for communication, transmission of ideas, social interaction and, to be understood, it must go through factors that were not considered external to the language, such as the environment, context of use and social and cultural factors. The author also states that today we realize the importance of language in the production of knowledge.

In order to better visualize the different languages of communication we used the descriptive scheme on language by Twyman (1985). To the author, language is defined as a communication vehicle, while graphical language is what is drawn or conducted visibly in response to conscious decisions. The author also explains that communication is a process of transmitting messages, which can occur through various forms of languages, such as sign language (through gestures and facial expressions), the verbal-spoken (through speech, with words and sentences) and the graphic language. This one includes the pictorial language (with images and visual symbols), the verbal-written (record and graphical encoding of verbal-spoken language, spoken) and the schematic language (with graphic marks being not numbers, letters or pictures).

For Twyman, language is a vehicle of communication. Because of this, for planning and organizing the information it is necessary to take into account the needs of the user, his repertoire, experience and culture. The author suggests that all the study of graphic language should be developed within an operational structure, and he identifies some variables, which are: a) purpose b) informational content, c) essence of the information, d) organization of the different ways of organizing the elements of graphic language in the space e) mode, f) means of production, g) available investments h) age, ability, training, interest, circumstance of use in relation to the context and conditions of reading.

In turn, Goldsmith (1984) developed an analytical model that aims to ensure that the images used in an educational context provide more significant effects. The author believes that with this model the designers of educational material must admit that there is a perfect illustration that can be included or left out, according to the various demands of a context. She suggests that the understanding of this issue involves three different types of responses, which are: a) the response to the graphic signs as an image or as a group of images; b) the response of an image in terms of meaning, in short, what the artist intends to express; c) the response of the meaning that the artist grants to the image in terms of a previous experience and which is present in the judgment of the viewer.

The author also suggests that certain visual factors should be considered in order to be related to these levels. The factors are: a) Unit - an area of the image (or of the object) that must be recognized as if it had been separately identified, b) Location - the spatial relationship between object and image, c) Focus - the hierarchical relationship between the object and the images (the levels of importance).

The Analytical Model of Goldsmith was developed by grouping these four factors and the three levels of responses. Both in the model of Goldsmith and in the model of Twyman, it must be taken into account how the conditions and the variables shall be resolved every time the graphic language is used.

One of the biggest challenges in the process of teaching and learning deaf children in a bilingual education program, such as the INES, is the acquisition of vocabulary to read and write in Portuguese. Students need to learn the lexical meaning of words, so that they can effectively use them for reading. This was a fact that made us focus our study on the acquisition of a second language by deaf children. The Multi-Track Game has this goal, since it is structured in such a way that the child learns the lexical meaning of the words, as we see in the preparation of the cards that make up the game. With the cards, it is possible to work the vocabulary of the Brazilian language including adjectives, nouns, papers and verbs, as well as the visual language that provides the teacher and the student a whole universe of possibilities.

For Dondis (2003), the consciousness of the visual language is perceived not only by sight, but also through all the senses, and does not produce isolated and individual segments of information, but integral interactive units, totalities that we straight assimilate with great speed, through the vision and perception. The process leads to knowledge of how the organization of a mental image and the structuring of a composition happens, and how it works, once it has occurred.

4. Graphic Representation of LIBRAS for the Multi-Tracks Game

The entire project of the Multi-Tracks Game has been through a long investigation on visual language to be used on the scenarios, cards etc. However, in order to illustrate this paper about the role that the Design plays in Situations of Teaching and Learning, we are going to present the illustration process of LIBRAS of the Multi-Tracks Game project, which resulted in the development of a new graphical language to represent this language.

With the progress of the work we decided, finally, that the cards with verbs, adjectives and pronouns would present a graphical representation of the Brazilian Language of Signs – LIBRAS and the referred word written in Portuguese. For the other grammatical classes we chose to stimulate the association of other languages - such as drawings, photographs, illustrations - with the Portuguese writing. To achieve these goals, we initiated the studies of the illustrations in LIBRAS. The first copies were made from photographs taken of students at the INES-RJ and from research in the dictionary.

The big challenge in the graphical representation of LIBRAS comes from the existence of five parameters that make up the grammar of the LIBRAS, which are: a) Configuration of hands (dactylology); 2) Place of articulation: where the sign is located (in the body or away); 3) Movement: the form that it will be used and the move. Some signs do not use movements, 4) Orientation: the proper way to fit the sign, 5) Facial and body expression: The facial expression must demonstrate the feeling according to the organization of the sentence. The body also presents posture according to the meaning of what it wants to express.

These five parameters must be all in the same line and inserted in a context. If any of these parameters is removed, the sign will not come out properly. Based on these parameters, the LIBRAS illustrations of the Multi-Tracks Game were developed.

Faced with this challenge, we sought the author Wanderley (2004) who developed a work in which she discusses the three main informational dimensions for graphic representation of actions: (1) the conceptual dimension, (2) the graphic dimension and the (3) reader dimension. The parameters were presented through the identification and characterization of the conceptual information of the 'dynamic actions' (the elements that form or would form the idea), of the graphical information for the actions (the means and the graphic elements responsible for transmitting it graphically) and of the reader’s effects (the reader's characteristics, influential in the perception of pictorial actions). These parameters were studied and applied in the process of illustration the LIBRAS. Like the models of Goldsmith and Twyman, mentioned above.

The first step was to identify the verbs and adjectives which better suited the learning of the child beginning literacy. After selecting the verbs and adjectives which would be graphically represented in LIBRAS, a study was accomplished through dictionaries Portuguese-LIBRAS, through pictures and movies made by us of deaf children using the verbs and adjectives chosen to be graphically represented in LIBRAS. With this material, we started to outline the first illustrations and we introduced the first drafts to consultants specialized in LIBRAS ready to be validated and modified, if necessary.

The construction process of the graphic language of LIBRAS is detailed in the works of Couto (2009) and Portugal (2009) and it was accompanied by two teaching consultants of INES / RJ, who are deaf and by a translator. The choice of a deaf consultant was extremely important to ensure that we were developing a language for the deaf. Moreover, the drawings were presented to the children of INES / RJ in order to identify the best way to represent them graphically.

Another important point for the illustrations was opting for infant characters according to the age of our target audience and considering the differences of the Brazilian people for the creation of the characters, seeking to bring the drawings the different colors of skin and hair, eye shapes etc.

It was noticed during the trials that the drawings of the characters representing in LIBRAS could not
stick just to the use of hands, as mentioned earlier. Punctuations and intonations used in sentences in
Portuguese are represented in LIBRAS through body and facial language. Some illustration studies
were conducted to identify the best way to graphically represent body movements and expressions
involved in this language. Below (figure 1) we present some studies of graphical representation of LIBRAS.

For applying the illustrations on the cards, once drawn free hand, the images were traced, colored on the computer and applied (figure 2).

It took us more than one year researching and interacting with people who would be involved in the real situations of interaction, to reach the understanding of the importance of the active participation of the teacher as a builder, as a co-author of the game.

5. Closing Remarks

This project can illustrate the potential that the field of Design has for the construction of educational artifacts. Besides the ability to use visual resources such as lines, colors, contours, direction, texture, scale, size and movement, the designer should consider elements that are elaborated from relationships of balance, tension, flatness and sharpening, direction of the reading, attraction and grouping, and the relationship figure-background etc.

In this paper we address the issue of image, language with the advent of new technologies from the perspective of design as a potentiator of information and communication in education field. The understanding of an image requires a viewer who can understand it and that has a meaning for him, not limiting its use only as an aesthetic appreciation.


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