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Title: Promoting intercultural and visual media competence in the foreign language classroom with the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters through Visual Media
Authors: Méndez García, María del Carmen
Lindner, Rachel
Abstract: “It is because pictures say nothing in words that so much can be said in words about them.” This quote from the introduction to The Mind’s Eye: Using Pictures Creatively in Language Learning (Maley, Duff, & Grellet, 1980) neatly summarizes why communicative approaches to foreign language education (FLE) have a history of using visual aids in the classroom. Beyond the common use of images as prompts for language production or to support reading and listening in the second language, educationalists in the field (e.g., Goldstein, 2008; Hecke & Surkamp, 2010) have more recently seen a role for FLE in fostering visual media literacy,1 which, according to Averginou and Ericson (1997), Eilam (2012), and Stokes (2002), involves developing in students the cognitive skills needed to engage criticallywith the myriad of print and digital images from all over the world with which they are confronted daily. In view of the encounters with otherness that take place through these globally transmitted images, the authors of this chapter propose that language learners need not only visual media literacy but also intercultural competence to engage with images and articulate their reactions to them. Specifically, the authors of this chapter report on insights for teaching gained from using the Council of Europe’s Images of Others: An Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters Through Visual Media (AIEVM) (Barrett, Byram, Ipgrave, & Seurrat, 2013a) in an online intercultural exchange (OIE) that was conducted between preservice teachers of English at Dortmund University (Germany) and Jaén University (Spain). In this exchange, the AIEVM served as the central instrument around which activities were developed to help students reflect on the way cultural “otherness” is represented in and interpreted through images. An analysis of students’ work during the exchange and post-exchange feedback suggests that the OIE learning environment enriched the experience of working with the AIEVM and helped in particular to heighten critical cultural awareness of visual media. The chapter opens with a brief overview of the role of visual media literacy in education, then considers more specifically the use of visuals in FLE. It is argued that, although visuals are widely used in FLE teaching materials today, visual media literacy generally and intercultural and visual media competence in particular are rarely promoted. The chapter then presents the AIEVM and the theoretical framework that underpins it. It shows how this educational tool is designed to encourage structured reflection on intercultural encounters through image, which in turn can activate intercultural and visual media competence to help users deconstruct images of “others” and “otherness” in relation to their own sociocultural context(s) (Barrett et al., 2013a; Barrett, Byram, Ipgrave, & Seurrat, 2013b). The chapter explains the rationale for using the AIEVM in the FLE classroom and in language teacher training and then goes on to outline how it was implemented in the online exchange mentioned above. In the discussion of this learning scenario, excerpts from students’ work and feedback are included to illustrate the learning opportunities afforded by the AIEVM in a multiliteracies approach to FLE.
Issue Date: 2021
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