I have been doing some serious reflection on how truly important visual literacy is to everyone. I have especially been considering what significance visual literacy plays in the classroom. I think in order to make instruction engaging anymore, any teacher can tell you that the traditional method of lecturing just doesn’t cut it. It is an age where our students spend the majority of their day looking into a screen to be stimulated, and most of their daily input of information comes visually.
I have students that are absolutely incredible at making flyers, slides, you name it, beautiful. Where does this come from? The student I am thinking about has yet to take an actual art class, and he definitely doesn’t consider himself an artist, but he is extraordinary. Anything that can be done on a Mac program, he can do. Ruamrudee is hosting the SENIA (Special Education Network in Asia) conference this year, and we needed a logo. Considering the conference is geared towards Special Education, I figured it would make sense to have a competition within our Special Needs program at school to have a student design the logo. This particular student created an absolutely stunning one. What he designed is actually on our school website on the bottom right corner. He should be proud.
And then this got me thinking…as a trained Special Education teacher I am constantly adding supplementary materials to enhance student understanding. It is just what we do. More often than not, students with language disabilities need to have new content material disseminated to them in multiple modalities. Visuals should accompany information given along with the auditory. Usually students with disabilities in one area are unusally skilled in another area. It makes sense that our bodies would compensate. People who are visually impaired tend to have a keener sense of hearing. Students who struggle understanding complicated academic vocabulary, compensate by quickly understanding visual graphs and charts. This aligns with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed a model of intelligence that separates intelligence into specific groups based on modalities. Originally there were 7 various types of intelligences: Logical-mathematical, spatial, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Naturalistic and existential intelligence were added later. Obviously all individuals have strength and weaknesses in different areas, or “intelligences”. Teachers should take into account all of these intelligences when possible AND as frequently as possible.
I believe that if teachers begin to start taking into account the significance of visual literacy into the classroom, that is just may level the playing field. We have already seen technology doing that in the classroom. What student really needs to know how to spell anymore? Sure, it is nice, but is it necessary? In fact, emphasizing visual literacy in the classroom will benefit all students. I believe that any sort of accommodation that a student with special needs gets, usually will benefit the class as a whole anyways. Many accommodations align with best practice teaching techniques, such as checking for student understanding or providing graphic organizers. Why wouldn’t be aim for full understanding from everyone?
Ever hear of the 10 and 2 principle? That on average most adults can only maintain concentration on listening to others for 10 minutes. That most likely is even less for teenagers. The significance of this is that as teachers we should only require students to listen to us for 10 minutes, and once we have reached this limit, we need to change the modality. Ask the students to generate a response, or perform some related task. Because, if the students aren’t listening, then they aren’t learning. There is also research that supports the notion that adding visuals increases retention. According to John Medina in Brain Rules, “If we hear a piece of information, three days later we will remember 10% of it. Add a picture, and you will remember 65%.” So, as teachers it is our responsibility to increase visual literacy into our classroom. Remember, that as long as the target content standard is met in the student’s understanding, it doesn’t much matter what medium the student chooses in which to present it…