TMC6 Dennis-Moore

If You Give a Kid a Camera: Participatory Visual Literacy in the LLC 

By Jane Dennis-Moore

With today’s students becoming increasingly more visually oriented, this teacher-librarian explores how engagement in learning experiences in the LLC using photography leads to student empowerment and expression of voice. The author shares her journey developing LCC student-run library Instagram accounts that create a virtual space for participatory student learning.

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Jane Dennis-Moore is a zealous photographer-creator-gone-teacher-librarian. She is currently settling into her new library location at a Brampton elementary school. Previously, she enjoyed the bustling habitat of a middle school learning commons, and prior to that, taught Media Literacy in a cozy elementary school in Port Credit. Jane is passionate about giving children and adults opportunities to discover and “read” the world in a different light through visual literacy and participatory learning. In a virtual-visual, media-saturated world, Jane believes it is imperative to help students construct and deconstruct the images around them. As a teacher-librarian in the Peel district school board, she is constantly seeking ways to innovate and curate visual literacy with critical literacy through her programming. Follow her @MsDennisMoore


  1. Jane,

    I was going to begin my comment with "when I grow up I want to be like Jane Dennis-Moore" but I'm going to revise that to say "I wish I could turn back time so I could be a student in Ms. Dennis-Moore's school". How absolutely engaging and student-centered all of these endeavors are! The samples are so incredibly professional-looking. I am just in awe.

    My school has a resurrected Photography Club, but I love some of the innovative ideas you have with regards to challenges, community building, and sharing. I hope you don't mind if I "steal" some of these ideas for our club!

    I had a minor quibble at the beginning, about our virtual and IRL selves - I think they are two sides of the same coin and not separate.

    Thank you for being aware of the equity issues involved with camera use and even computer access. This shows you launch into these tasks with eyes wide open as well as enthusiasm.

    You had many sentences that I loved. This was one of my favourites: "When students work collaboratively to take and curate images, they become more critical consumers of the images they encounter. Constructing images enables one to deconstruct them." So. Very. True.

    I love, love, love the various school-wide projects you undertook with your students and staff at the various schools. I have to avoid a Pokemon approach - gotta try 'em all - because it looks like this has taken time and careful scaffolding. Which would you try first? Which had the biggest impact on the school community?

    You quoted a dear friend and inspiration of mine, Melanie Mulcaster, when it came to cautions: "“We must consider carefully how all students and student work are being showcased with respect. Free and informed consent must be gathered and we must ensure that student privacy is respected and personal information remains confidential.” (Mulcaster, part 2, pg 7)"

    I intend on carving out part of my busy time at OLA SC 2020 to attend your session on photography. I promise not to try and stalk you too much and pepper you with questions. (The key word here is "try").

    Diana M

  2. "Photography is a way to make thinking visible. A way to make thinking about identity visible. A way of thinking through identity and making identity." I think you've covered UNESCO's Sustainable Development Goals in that one quote. I love the pictures in this piece and how they exude a confidence that goes way beyond age or maturity or any other identifier that we associate with school children. Hands down the most impactful though are the anti-selfie and visual voices self-portraits which reflect how powerful the same transliteracy tool can be reimagined by every participant. I really liked how you worked caveats into your paper about student privacy. I wonder if you've used digital signage to promote the images or how else you manage to involve parents and the greater community while still maintaining student safety. Could you elaborate?

  3. Hi Jane,

    This was a very enjoyable read. I have shared this with some of my teacher librarian colleagues. You make the possibilities for student engagement attainable through your examples/descriptions.

    I will also share this with my first year teacher candidates in Language. The media literacy, writing, visual arts, critical thinking and cross-curricular connections will be obvious once they are aware.

    Thank you,
    Greg Harris

  4. Hi Jane,
    This just makes sense on so many levels. It certainly fits with participatory learning with a built in authentic audience. I love your line that visual literacy is "a way of thinking through identity and making identity." This was super evident on your project involving identity but also in all the projects that required students to take pictures and be the curators of their own lives and within the life of the learning community and beyond. I applaud how you have taken a love of your own and made it work as a learning tool for students. I always tell the new teacher-librarians in my division that much of the job is what passions and talents they bring to it. This certainly proves my point.

    I'm also going to have to delve a little deeper in adobe spark. I've used it with students to create videos but I now see the possibilities for creating websites and social media posts.


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