Seeing Rather Than Just Looking – using my work to highlight visual literacy elements to students

Digital literacy – is it new?  No. It has been around for years and has often been taught as part of the reading program, however what has changed, is the content.  Like hearing and not listening, the same applies to visual literacy, we often look but don’t see.  As stated in his TedTalk on digital literacy, Brian Kennedy highlighted the fact that 90% of all information we take in is taken in visually.  Therefore I question, how are we making sure students are able to interpret visuals in a way that they can not only understand the message being conveyed, but use their metacognition to realize what the author did to ensure they understood the intended message, and have they the ability to analyze it in a way that they can replicate these types of strategies in their own visual communications?  A first step is to ask whether I am demonstrating and modeling to my students these key elements of visual literacy when I share presentations, or key concepts?  Simply – no.

No, not because of a lack of awareness of how our brain processes information eg. if you close your eyes and you say the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘apple’, most people will say they saw an image of a red or green apple.  Very few would say they saw the letters a, p, p, l, e.  Therefore emphasizing most people are generally visual thinkers, not data processors.  It is easier to remember items when they are a different size, font, shape, color ie, whether color is used in a symbolic way eg. red = danger.  So I am very conscious of any work shared with my students to bold key words, underline headings, include subheadings, use bullet points where appropriate, plus use color, not only to separate each key idea, but to show connectedness between ideas where applicable. Therefore providing contrast, repetition and alignment as highlighted in both the Design better with CRAP article and Understanding visual design and hierarchy article.

What I need to do now, is to ensure that my slides don’t include too much information – limit each slide to one idea, paralleling the idea of only one idea per paragraph as mentioned in the article, Lazy eyes how we read on online, even if that means I have 20 slides!  The second major thing I want to focus on is to include more visuals where possible.  For me, it often comes down to a time factor for not doing enough this, so I need to change.  Highlighting these various visual strategies to my students, I believe is to be key as well, so they know the purpose for using them, and how it enables our brain to interpret, analyze and remember information easier.

One last thing I want to look more closely at is the periodic table to visual  literacy, which is below, as I feel there are some visual templates or ideas here that will genuinely support my teaching.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.41.52 PM

link to above table

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4 Responses to Seeing Rather Than Just Looking – using my work to highlight visual literacy elements to students

  1. Profile photo of Stephanie Stephanie says:

    Hi Bettina,

    When I initially saw your post on the periodic table I thought it was just that – a periodic table. I had planned to go back and read what you wrote because I am a science teacher. I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole bunch of visualization strategies. These are excellent and a great resource to refer back to for ideas. I noticed that one of my favorites was missing – infographics. I love infographics because it forces you to minimize the text and have pictures speak for themselves. I have my students create these for concepts they find challenging.

    I appreciate your honestly on the lack on modeling appropriate visual communication. I too struggle with this at times but when I am more mindful of it – the students are much more successful. It also reminds me how much time it takes and how I should be considering this when I assign it to my students.

    • Stephanie, I think I had the same reaction to the periodic table as you! Infographics are powerful, and I have yet to get my students to create one, so it might be a good study strategy for them to try – especially for a science topic. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Chrissy says:

    Some great reflecting here Bettina! Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts on seeing rather than just looking.

    I totally agree with ensuring that your slides don’t include too much information – limit each slide to one idea. Also, I’d highly recommend only one image per slide – and make that image take up the WHOLE slide. Add 3-4 keys words if you want or don’t have any at all. Remember white space can be your friend too!

    Enjoy the experimenting – look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  3. Profile photo of Valya Leaton Valya Leaton says:

    Yes, just like Stephanie, the Periodic Table caught my eye! And since I am currently using the actual table in my classroom, I wanted to add this one to my collection. I must admit that it has a lot of information displayed that I want to peruse later.

    Your statements regarding ‘too much information’ really touched home for me today. Yesterday I was showing information to my students using another’s presentation slides. TOO much information, not enough visuals, no interaction. What had I done to my kids? I apologized and made sure that my second round of students didn’t have to suffer through the same presentation. Lucky them!

    Your right, time was the reason for not getting more involved in the material I was wanting the students to learn. The visuals I incorporated today had the students engaged in their learning and discussing physical and chemical reaction. So different from yesterday.

    Thank you for your post and hitting home what is important.


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