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Surprising students with images

October 5, 2009

For a recent post in the “Bionic Teaching” blog, the author fabricated a scary, convincing FBI wanted poster for Christopher Columbus that is designed to get students talking about the darker side of the famous explorer.

Although I’m tired of all the Columbus-bashing, I’ll freely admit that I believe surprising images are a great teaching tool. The jolt can come from extreme beauty, lively humor, abject fear, or unexpected situations. In my classes I have been known to play with “demotivators” (see despair.com), spoofs of the posters that feature a term like “teamwork” and a large, meaningful photograph.

You and I can use PowerPoint to add text to an image for display, but the brave will resort to PhotoShop. And there are lots of places to find good images, including Flickr. Unless your subject is inherently visual, the most difficult and creative aspect of this strategy can be deciding what kind of image to look for in the first place.

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