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Notes for 2/17/2011 Webinar – Visual Literacy – Seeing Meaning

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Consider this Part 2 of:

March 18 – Perceiving Reality: Visualization
Recordings: 3:15pm WebCast | 7:15pm WebCast

When we try to define Visual Literacy, there are many factors to consider. Here are four definitions that have been proposed by others:

“Visual Literacy refers to a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences. The development of these competencies is fundamental to normal human learning. When developed, they enable a visually literate person to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols, natural or man-made, that he encounters in his environment. Through the creative use of these competencies, he is able to communicate with others. Through the appreciative use of these competencies, he is able to comprehend and enjoy the masterworks of visual communication.” source

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Images and visual media may include photographs, illustrations, drawings, maps, diagrams, advertisements, and other visual messages and representations, both still and moving.” source

C.”Visual literacy stems from the notion of images and symbols that can be read. Meaning is communicated through image more readily than print, which makes visual literacy a powerful teaching tool.” source

D.”Visual literacy includes such areas as facial expressions, body language, drawing, painting, sculpture, hand signs, street signs, international symbols, layout of the pictures and words in a textbook, the clarity of type fonts, computer images, pupils producing still pictures, sequences, movies or video, user-friendly equipment design and critical analysis of television advertisements.” source
Any one of these serves as a teachable definition. But where does visual literacy fit into commonly accepted educational standards? The last webinar on Visualization talked about Maine Learning Results and 21st Century skills, but now we have Common Core for both ELA and Mathematics. Not surprisingly, there are many references to visual skills included in the many standards. In ELA, for both Literature and Information, strand 7 has many references to those skills. For Literature, strand 6 also includes many pointers to visual skills.
An example standard from ELA:

Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Say, for instance, you wanted to have students understand Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. You could use YouTube video, text, audio or even a Wordle to see it from different perspectives.

In Math, you can see that visuals are important in both Data and Statistics. So, we can feel pretty good that we don’t have to “add” Visual Literacy to an already burgeoning set of standards.

There are some simple strategies that teachers can use to bolster the visual skills of students. At the eduscapes website, they outline five in particular:

Reading Visuals – Seeing what is there
Interpreting Visuals – Looking for meaning in the image
Using Visuals – Constructing meaning by collecting and organizing images
Reconstructing Visuals – Making mashups of images to create new meaning
Making Visuals – Creating your own images

http://eduscapes.com/sessions/digital/digital1.htm

Fortunately, for each of the strategies we have technological resources available to us.

Reading images – the Internet, iPhoto, PhotoBooth, online book illustrations, etc.
Interpreting images – the Internet, iPhoto, PhotoBooth, online book illustrations, etc.
Using images – the Internet, iPhoto, PhotoBooth, online book illustrations, Comic Life, Keynote, OmniGraffle, etc.
Reconstructing Images – iPhoto, PhotoBooth, Comic Life, Acorn, internet resources like JibJab’s Elf Yourself. etc.
Making images – SketchUp, iPhoto, PhotoBooth, Numbers, OmniGraffle, NoteShare’s SketchPad, Acorn, Data Studio, Logger Pro, Grapher, Keynote, etc.

Here are some online resources with lessons and suggestions for incorporating Visual Literacy into different curricula:

What Could America’s Top Models Be Thinking?

Analyzing the Purpose and Meaning of Political Cartoons

Teaching Visual Literacy to Students

Visual Literacy Home

Smithsonian Education – Every Picture Has a Story

Visual literacy K-8

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