Using visual metaphor in the classroom

Images can be a powerful way to generate ideas and promote creative discussion in a classroom. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of visual metaphors.

“A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. Metaphors “carry” meaning from one word, image, or idea to another”. http://grammar.about.com/od/qaaboutrhetoric/f/faqmetaphor07.htm

A visual metaphor improves the ability to reason about complex systems.

“Metaphors help us describe, visualize, and make sense of the world around us. For example, a possible metaphor for the brain is a computer. The images this metaphor creates help us to make sense of something complex — many would consider the brain, like the computer, to have intelligence, memory, and organization, and perhaps even to be user-friendly. http://www.learner.org/workshops/nextmove/metaphor/

“Modern advertising relies heavily on visual metaphors. For example, in a magazine ad for the banking firm Morgan Stanley, a man is pictured bungee jumping off a cliff. Two words serve to explain this visual metaphor: a dotted line from the jumper’s head points to the word “You”; another line from the end of the bungee cord points to “Us.” The metaphorical message–of safety and security provided in times of risk–is conveyed through a single dramatic image”.

http://grammar.about.com/od/tz/g/vismeterm.htm

Visual metaphors used in advertising are often simplistic and shallow. When used by filmmakers and artists they are usually more profound and complex in the conveyance of meaning as well as reality.

Look at these images. Each one could be used as a visual metaphor. What implied comparisons do they convey to you? How could you use images to promote complex reasoning and discussion in your classroom?

Michelangelo. Detail from The creation of Adam.

michelangelo-creazione-di-adamo

Henri Magritte. Time Transfixed

Magritte_Time transfixed

Salvador Dali. Detail from The persistence of memory

salvador-dali-the persistence of memory

Edvard Munch. The Scream

Edvard Munch-The-scream-1893

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