Derewianka, Beverly M. and Coffin, Caroline, 2008, Time visuals in history textbooks: some pedagogic issues, in L. Unsworth (Eds.), Multimodal Semiotics: Functional Analysis in Contexts of Education, London: Continuum, 187-200.
All pages are by definition multimodal but, as Baldry and Thibault (2006) point out, some are more obviously multimodal than others, ‘combining traditional semiotic resources such as language and layout with more ‘modern’ resources such as colour and photographs’ (58). Within history textbooks we can identify a wide range of ‘modern’ resources which are deployed across any one page. Aside from the use of colour and typography, resources include the reproduction of historical cartoons, posters, advertisements, leaflets, handbills and photos of historical events, people and places. It is, however, the visual timeline (such as that shown in Figure 12.1) and other types of time visuals which can perhaps be regarded as indexical of the register of textbook history (following White’s (1998) notion that certain salient semantic preferences may act as indices of a given register). Given time’s central place in history, the frequency of time visuals is not surprising: ‘the practice of history is inextricably linked to ideas of time, to calendrical systems, and above all to the metaphors through which we think about periods’ (Jordanova, 2000: 115). However, although claims have been made that the use of historical images and timelines can develop students’ sense of time (e.g. Hoodless, 1996; Stow and Haydn, 2000), our research suggests that their use in textbooks and other teaching materials is not always effective in facilitating students’ understanding of the multidimensional meaning of time.