.GIFs as Art (and Literacy)


From NPR

Last week NPR had a great article espousing the rise of GIF files as an art form. You can check out the article for yourself here. Specifically it is the Museum of the Moving Image (sounds like an apt place to display GIFs as art doesn’t it) in Astoria that is touting the value of the GIF as a legitimate art form. (Sorry redditors–it’s not just for the internet underbelly anymore.) Kidding aside, the article got my gears turning. With my interest in multimodality and alternative literacies in the classroom, I surprised myself that I hadn’t even considered a GIF as yet another form of literacy, yet here I am now pondering the implications of GIFs in the language arts classroom.

I immediately turned to one of my professors with my first thoughts on GIFs as literacy; he quickly turned around and sent me an article that focused on critiquing another article. In the original article, a scientist argues that using GIFs to teach science is completely counter productive and really becomes distracting rather than a way to genuinely help students learn new scientific information. The counter article agreed with the main premise of the original, but argued that a GIF can indeed aid in the understanding of science. The author cites the use of a looping GIF of using planets passing by a star to identify stars and their wave lengths as a great way to reinforce the points he makes to his own students. You can find the article on i09 here.

I really appreciated the article from i09 as it put in perspective the importance of relevance of any digital tool or creation in the classroom. My first thought upon rethinking GIFs as literacy centered around simply having students generate them to express a thought that is difficult to do so in words. Given, I would then have them use that GIF as a launching point to then try and articulate the thought or emotion in words. The issue here is how relevant would the GIF be to a student’s understanding of the content or skills in my class? This is something I’ll have to keep pondering. Initially, I’m thinking that having students generate GIFs to express a hard to define or exemplify rhetorical device would be beneficial. Think about how much better a concept like chiasmus, litotes, or anaphora might be locked into a students memory if they have distinctive images in which to associate with them. It would be a difficult task, but the cognitive skills required of a student to understand the concept and then apply in a multimodal fashion has promise.

I suspect I’ll genuinely try this next year with my classes, but feel free to take this sort of idea and run with it in your own. I’d love to hear how you use it and how it turns out in your class if you give something like this a shot.

Thanks to Dr. Ryan Rish, here is a link to assignment possibilities using GIFs. In the meantime, her are some GIFs to get your gears turning too!


Imagery: Could this kind of GIF help students develop similes? Metaphors? (from 4gifs.com)


Juxtaposition: Could a GIF like this help teach this concept? The contrast between going from a moment of deafness to the ability to hear? (This may be a stretch, but it still has me thinking…) At the very least you could some fun inserting some onomatopoeia. (from 4gifs.com)


Hyperbole: How about this GIF to demonstrate the absurd or even gross exaggeration? (from 4gifs.com)


Irony: There are certainly more appropriate GIFs that show irony, but I’m a Family Guy fan and, well, this does a pretty good job doesn’t it?! (from 4gifs.com)


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