The Functions of Images on Educational Websites

By Jean Kiekel and Elizabeth Kirk.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Applying Carney and Levin’s (2002) functional classifications of images, the researchers evaluated four educational websites. Implementing visual rhetoric as a means of determining the function of images provides researchers with a means to evaluate images (Foss, 2004; 2005) and assess symbolic processes found on recommended educational websites (Kenney, 2005). Scholars must evaluate both text and image, thus assisting students in comprehending what they are reading, especially on the internet (Walker, Schloss, Fletcher, Vogel, & Walker, 2005).
Levin (1981) identified five functions pictures serve in text processing now relevant when viewing pictures on computers (Carney & Levin, 2002). The functions the researchers implemented in evaluation of images are decoration, representation, organization, interpretation, and transformation. Levin (1981) describes how these functions “focus on the concreteness, relatedness, meaningfulness, and memorableness of pictures” (p. 214), thus increasing comprehension of reading material.
Images on the websites analyzed for this paper fulfill all of the functional categories described by Carney and Levin (2002). Careful image choices made by designers of these websites aided in understanding textual information on the websites.

Keywords: Image, Function, Visual Rhetoric, Comprehension, Educational Website

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.63-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 800.983KB).

Dr. Jean Kiekel

Assistant Professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

My area of research interest is related to educational technology and integration of technology in the classroom. At this time, I am very interested in the readability of educational websites, the use of web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and creating community in an online classroom. I am currently the chair of an ISTE special interest group for innovative learning technologies and am working diligently to disseminate information related to technology in the classroom. As an educator, it is important to understand the factors that encourage students to be successful in the classroom. All educational materials must be understood by the learner in order to accomplish educational goals. The researchers have discovered this is an area often overlooked by instructional and web designers of educational multimedia. We have already been accepted to present this research at an international conference.

Dr. Elizabeth Kirk

Assistant Professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

My research interest is in visual literacy. Currently, I am interested in the readability of educational websites. Scholars must proceed in the evaluation of the readability of both text and images on educational websites, because the Internet is rapidly becoming more image- than text-oriented. I will be joining the faculty at Concordia University Chicago as Assistant Professor of Literacy in the College of Education, where I will continue this area of research.