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Visua l Lear ning Bruce B a Chen M rker ing Yuan Rhianna UlrichRickey MoggioSuzanne Rose Current Tren ds and Is sues in I nst IT 6750 ructional Techno logy F Universit all 2009 y of Col orado De nver
When one considers the term “visual learning,” a vast array of ideas and concepts come to mind.Definition But in reality, what is visual learning? One definition claims that visual learning is a teaching andlearning style in which ideas, concepts, data, and information are associated with images and techniques(Wikipedia.com, 2009). From a psychological standpoint, it is a type of sensory learning controlled by the corticalvisual areas of the brain. Visual thinking and learning utilize graphical ways of working with ideas and presentinginformation. Research in both educational theory and cognitive psychology show that visual learning is among thevery best methods for teaching people of all ages how to think and learn (Inspiration.com, 2009).Learning Styles To truly understand visual learning, one must see its role in relation to other learning styles. Traditionally, learning styles have been broken into three categories: visual,auditory, and kinesthetic. Recent research has even added verbal, logical, social, and solitary to the list(Advanogy.com, 2007). Each learner favors certain learning styles and techniques to varyingdegrees. Identifying and differentiating these styles helps educators andlearners adapt to differences. It also helps learnersincrease their preferences so they can adapt to ues Techniq dingutilizing and balancing multiple styles. The preferred E ffective nderstan g Style spatial utechniques for each are in the table to the right. Lear nin res, imag es, Pictu Visual nd musicSo how does one identify learning styles? The Kolb Sound a se of to uch Auditor y dy, ha nds, senLearning Style Inventory (KLSI) is an excellent resource. Your bo h and w ritingIt is designed to align with the principles and standards Kinesth etic oth in speec Words, b sof the American Educational Research Association, the Verbal g, system Logic , reasonin opleAmerican Psychological Association, and the National other pe Logical s or withCouncil on Measurement in Education (1999). It analyzes In group studycriteria and identifies the personal needs and educational Social use self- A lone andpreferences of an individual (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). SolitaryAccording to the KLSI, learning is best conceived as aprocess of creating knowledge, not in terms of outcomes(Kolb & Kolb, 2005).This process is molded by learning techniques. Educators must balance how they deliver content to utilize it bestand expand learning preferences. Once a learner knows their needs and preferences, they can begin to stretchbeyond them and develop a more balanced approach to learning (MindTools.com, 2009).Researchers have, however, given significant focus to visual learning. But what sets visual learning apart from theother styles? It is the most used, the most universal, and in some cases, the most effective. Visual learningtechniques help educators communicate something quickly that people comprehend at a near innate level.The concept of visual learning is based on the type of visual communication utilized and the visual literacy of anindividual. A typical visual learner has the ability to remember details, including colors and spatial arrangements,because they can visualize them in their mind (Kelly, 2009). “We are not all visual thinkers (though we all have thepotential). However, we are all visual learners” (Armano, 2009).The presence of visual elements in today’s teaching and learning is increasing through the integration of images andvisual presentations in textbooks, instructional manuals, classroom presentations, and computer interfaces(Kleinman & Dwyer, 1999). Visual signals and queues are the most universal to all countries and cultures. Imagesand spatial relationships are almost innate to audiences.
Non- Robin Williams explains in the example to the right by stating, Robin Williams’ The “In the list on the right, what do you assume? It appears Revi ew this example from ok (2003): that the last four flowers are somehow different from the Designers Design Bo My Flower List others. You understand this instantly” (2003). Visual My Flo wer List learning techniques enable people to communicate messages Marigold Marigold Pansy clearly and quickly. An audience can glance at a map or chart Pansy and instantly grasp an idea. Rue Rue Woodbine Woodbine Daisy Simple techniques such as formatting, spatial relationships, Daisy Cowslip and the size and location of text show relationships that Cowslip Car nation people comprehend at a near innate level. Additional Carnation Primrose techniques include the use of images, pictures, colors, maps, se Primro Violets and charts to organize information and communicate with Vio lets Pink others (Advanogy.com, 2007). Pink Now imagine combining these benefits with the benefits of other learning styles. For example, an auditory learner absorbs information by hearing it through lectures, books on tape, music, etc. By adding a picture, graph, or diagram to this learner’s experience, it enhances and strengthens the transfer of knowledge. When information is presented in diagrams, sketches, flow charts, and so on, it is designed to be understood quickly. By developing visual learning skills one can significantly Visual rep rese ntations of reduce time spent learning (MindTools.com, 2009). support al concepts a l learning nd ideas r styles. T einforce a In fact, this approach remains consistent with the hese tech nd highly respected Dual-Coding theory developed by • M niques hel ake abstr p learners Allan Paivio in 1971. Paivio’s theory propositions that, act ideas : “The human mind operates with two distinct classes of • C visible and onnect prio concrete mental representation…verbal representations and • P r knowled mental images, and that human memory thus comprises rovide str ge and new ucture for conc two functionally independent (although interacting) analyzing, thinking, w epts systems for verbal memory and image memory”• F planning, a riting, dis ocus thoug nd reportin cussing, (Thomas, 2008). Basically, when learners receive hts and id g information through both verbal and visual stimuli, our and interp eas, leadin minds process and store them separately. This essentially retation g to under (Inspiratio standing creates two separate, but intertwined memories. A memory is n.com, 20 more likely to be retained and retrieved when two memories 09) work to trigger one another. History In addition to understanding the role of visual learning in relation to other learning styles, one must also understand its role in history. This section presents significant events throughout history that relate and demonstrate aspects of visual learning; it will serve as a timeline to show how we developed through the ages. Cro-Magnons, the earliest known forms of homo-sapiens, painted images on cave or rock walls and ceilings to tell their stories approximately 40,000 years ago. Most themes of these paintings depicted animals such as bison, horses, and deer. Man’s image in these paintings were rare but there were tracings of human hands. Due to the relative lack of material evidence, there would be certain impossibility in attempting to understand the prehistoric mindset with a modern mind (Citrinitas.com, 2008).
Around 9000 BC, ancient cultures all over the world used cuneiforms and hieroglyphs. These were early writtensymbols based on pictograms (a symbol representing a concept, object, activity, place, or event by illustration) andideograms (a graphical symbol that represents an idea) (2008). Around 5000 BC, pictograms and ideograms beganto develop in a logographic writing system. A valuable component of characters in alphabets began as pictures withmeaning (West, 1997). Many ideograms are still used today in airports and other environments where patrons maybe unfamiliar with the language. In fact, pictograms are still the main medium of written communication in variousnon-literate cultures in Africa and the Americas.In ancient Egypt around 2000 BC, the first true alphabet, one that records consonants and vowels separately, wascreated. Most of today’s alphabets descended from, or were greatly influenced and inspired by, its design. ThePhoenicians, descendants of the Bronze Age, created the Phoenician alphabet from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet inthe mid 11th century. It was the first alphabet based on the principal that one sign represents one spoken sound(2008). The Greek alphabet then modified the Phoenician alphabet and is the source for all modern scripts inEurope today. Several Phoenician consonants were not present in the Greek adaptation, but were adapted torepresent vowels. This adaptation of vowels justly made it the world’s first true alphabet.The Romans, several hundreds of years later, used the Greek alphabet forthe uppercase alphabet known today. Depending on its purpose, theRomans developed several distinctive lettering styles for manuscripts andimportant documents. Less formal styles were used for letters and routinewriting, all the while refining the art of handwriting.Medieval Europe may have been one of the darkest periods known tomankind, but it held some of the greatest book designers that ever livedand produced some of the most beautiful books the world has everknown. These books were written over decades with one scribereplacing the other after their lifetime. These are now known as theIlluminated Manuscripts (2008). They are classified by art historiansaccording to their specific historic periods and types. Although most ofthese manuscripts are religious in nature, the artwork used created a newera in visual communication and learning.The next significant event occurred in the 15th century when Germaninventor Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press that, withrefinements and increased mechanization, remained the principal meansof printing until the late 20th century. The inventors method ofprinting from movable type, including the use of metal molds andalloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed mass production ofprinted books for the first time (Ideafinder.com).During the Renaissance, scientists began to illustrate their research andstudies with images. Some examples include herbariums andmedicinal books. The Renaissance brought the spirit of scientificaccuracy and helped scientific illustrations really come into their ownCitrinitas.com, 2008). Leonardo da Vinci recognized theimpossibility of recording volumes of data, and therefore translatedwords into drawings from different perspectives. As history repeatsitself, we may find that certain types of information is betterpresented visually rather than verbally (Stokes, 2001).
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution was a major technological, socioeconomic, andcultural change that spread throughout the world. In this environment, fueled by mass production, lithography wasinvented. This technique set type free from the typesetter. Movable type introduced an efficient method to bookproduction and led to a boom in the production of texts.In 1826, the invention of photography and in 1884, the development of photographic film, revolutionized visualimagery and visual communication. During this time, the Arts and Crafts movement was reacting toindustrialization, although it was neither anti-industrial nor anti-modern. It was a reformist movement that greatlyinfluenced architecture, decorative arts, furniture, and crafts in America and Europe. Art Nouveau and Eclecticismbecame leading trends in the movement.Modernism was a part of the popular culture in the 1930s. Modern ideas in art appeared in commercials and logos.Art Deco became a leading style movement that influenced architecture, design, fashion, and visual arts. In the late1940’s, graphic design in the modern style gained widespread acceptance and was applied liberally. A boomingpost-World War II American economy established a greater need for graphic design, mainly in advertising andpackaging (Citrinitas, 2008).In 1950, UNIVAC, the first computer designed to handle both numeric and textual information, was designed. Thisachievement launched the computer era. With research and technology advancing at exponential rates, the resultspropelled the visualization movement in modern computing, thus allowing for more profound insights andenhanced abilities to communicate ideas, data, and concepts.History shows that the development of visual communications has been the underlying fire to visual learning. Fromman’s early cave drawings to the latest in graphic design, we have seen visual learning evolve from its simplest formto the technological marvel it is today. Visual communication is the essence to understanding and learning in today’ssociety. Remember, we are all visual learners. Dynamic visual learning covers many genres including video,Dynamic Visual Learning: animation, simulations, slide programs, and more. It impacts anyDocumentaries visual learning tool that involves the movement of graphics. Recentlythere has been great improvement in the areas of documentaries, online videos, animations, and slide programs.Documentaries and videos solve a great need in our world and in education, “For us to know one another, to knowwhat’s really going on in the world around us and to feel a commonality of need and purpose with other people”(Maysles, 2008).Using live examples of work, experiments, and speakers are valuable to any course at any level. Although teacherswould opt for the real thing if possible, having famous literary authors, nuclear physics demonstrations, and aplethora of other exhibits live in a classroom is unrealistic. Documentaries oftentimes solve this dilemma. Theability to watch experts give their viewpoint, authors present their content, or researchers demonstrate experimentshas proven itself numerous times in the classroom. Traditionally, documentaries have followed a “dry” format.However, documentaries have begun to change their format and outlook.New trends in documentary filmmaking can be found in “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene, a film onadvanced physics string theory. The film incorporates animated simulations and advanced recreations to explainquantum theory. It uses easy-to-follow, real-world simulations as examples, while utilizing necessary interviews withspecialists on the subject. “With Greenes book in hand, the NOVA production team…created innovativevisualizations of invisible things, such as extra dimensions, parallel universes, and black holes” (The Making Of"The Elegant Universe," 2003).
Beyond the documentary, a new genre of teaching using film hasDynamic Visual Learning: arisen: the web video. Videos have emerged on trendy sites, such asVideo on the Web YouTube; they include a variety of educational video shorts and clips.Chris O’Neal researched what YouTube offers teachers, and stated, “I spent several days browsing YouTube, and Ifound tons of fun things and lots of potentially beneficial classroom video clips, as well as the usualeye-opening experience when dealing with the worlds population and the things people want to share” (ONeal,2006). Teachers benefit from expanding their library of tools to include content on the web, including websites suchas YouTube. For example: Students can be asked to find video examples of what they are learning. A high school social studies teacher gives the students a list of the different economic terms in the unit and asks students to find examples of a term from TV, movies, or YouTube. He explains that he only wants short two to four minute clips that focus directly on giving an example of the term. A student remembers a clip from the TV show "Burn Notice" on the law of supply and demand in the negotiation of hostages, goes to Hulu.com to find the show, and determines the start and ending time within the show. The student writes out the web address, the exact time in the show when the clip begins, how long the clip is, annotates what this clip shows about finance term, and posts it to the class wiki. (Tuttle, ND)The use of online video has expanded to include live webcasts. In one example, students had the opportunity to talkwith astronauts and ask questions in real-time through a live webcast (Rush, 2008). Although the option to uploadvideo clips to the Internet has existed for years, teachers have recently begun to utilize YouTube, live webcasts, andexercises asking students to create their own educational videos.Dynamic Visual Learning: Animations and simulations are becoming increasingly popular and span educational topics such as architecture, medicine,Animations and Simulations aerospace, marketing, history, engineering, biology, and even realestate courses (Skweres, 2004). These all currently contribute to learning, and are on the leading edge of educationaltrends. The advancements in these techniques and how they’re portrayed to students has led to a renaissance indynamic visuals in the classroom.One of the newest animated teaching trends has been student-created work. It is extended learning for the studentwho created the animation tool, and is used as a way to teach other students. Line Rider is an example that crossesbetween animation and simulation. Line Rider was created by a student in Slovenia in 2006 as a ‘time-killer,’ butfound a use in education.Line Rider is an application that allows players to construct their own virtual track filled with as many ramps, hills,and jumps as they can imagine utilizing a pencil tool. Once the player is done creating their course, they can senda virtual sledder down the route until he wipes out. The possibilities in Line Rider are onlylimited by physics and the players imagination with an almost endless numberof variations and replay. (Green, 2007) It may be hard to figure out how a“game” can contribute to learning, but the opportunities in mathseem endless: Discuss curves, parallel lines, background, foreground, perspective, even mathematical elements such as parabolas and arcs…Math teachers could use this toy as an engaging hook for geometry students that are about to start graphing parabolas. Imagine hitting the “slopes” of Line Rider, only to lead into talking about actual slopes of lines. Students could even measure and transfer the lines they’ve created on the computer screen to graph paper and compare which graphs would rate higher on the “radical” scale. (Rimes, 2006)
Programs such as this bridge the gap between games and teaching, and between old and new trends. By reachingbeyond traditional education techniques and methods into student-created simulations for teaching, we touchmultiple students in new ways. Incorporating games that students associate with fun, and showing them that theycan use it as a learning tool as well, is invaluable.Dynamic Visual Learning: The poet, Simonides, said, “Words are the images of things” (Benson, 1997). Although most people tend to think in words ratherMind Maps than pictures, learning through words is not the most effective way forour brains to process information. Thus, visual learning is increasing in popularity. For students who have trouble understanding a subject or information, visual aids may help them make connections with concepts that they may not otherwise grasp. Although technology and visualization alone does not help learning, properly using them does. The focus in this example is mind maps, which use graphic organizers or sketches to organize thoughts. In the 1950s, and early 1960s, Allan M. Collins and M. Ross Quillian developed the theory of mind maps. People regard Collins as the father of the modern mind maps (Wikipedia, 2009). A mind map is any type of visualization used to represent ideas, words, classifications, problems, and more. This allows the creator of a mind map more creativity because they can use colors, lines, and spatial relationships to communicate ideas. Educationalists, engineers, psychologists, and others who use learning, brainstorming, visual memory, and problem solving techniques have used mind maps for many years. With visual contents, users can easily see the whole picture and generate a regular outline. Recently, mind maps have expanded into a variety of formats. There are many tools for mind maps; some examples include Mind Manager by Mind Jet Company and XMind by XMind Company. In fact, there are over a hundred mind map tools on the Internet. This is due to their functions, abilities, and powerful visuals. In XMind, it is easy to type and create nodes. There are different charts and structures to choose from such as mind maps, concept maps, fish board charts, and more. Furthermore, Xmind allows users to search images or topics from the web and drag them into any mind map. This function saves users time when they insert hyperlinks or pictures. Users can also add attachments and insert custom files in this software. Adding notes and labels to make mind maps more understandable and the ability to change themes, background, and color greatly enhance the soft- ware. Recording is also a very special function of this software; for example, anyone can make a podcast and insert it into the maps. Upon completion of a mind map, Xmind enables users to share the maps with PDF, Microsoft Word, MicrosoftPowerPoint, RTF, Image, and Text files. This software won SourceForge.net’s 4th Annual (2009) Community ChoiceAwards “Best Project for Academia,” so it is highly recommend for use (Xmind.net, 2009).K-12 Visual Learning: Another valuable use of visual learning techniques happens in the the math classroom. Mathematics has traditionally been taught in an abstract manner,Mathematics Focus employing a combination of numbers, symbols, and a unique vocabulary. Ithas been largely compartmentalized into subsets or ‘strands’: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, etc. Visuals
used while math teaching were usually devoid of any real-world context; instead, educators used mostlyequations and graphs the generic variables ‘x’ and ‘y’. Geometry is the more visual, but traditional geometry dealtonly with abstract shapes like points, lines, cubes, etc. devoid of any worldly context. Textbooks included a fewtoken “word problems” at the end of a section, with maybe a picture or two to go along with them.With the advent of personal computers and the Internet, there has been an explosion in the amount of visual andmultimedia resources, both the products and the tools to produce them, available for the classroom teacher. Theseresources make it possible for teachers to design lessons with a rich, wide range of visuals (pictures, drawings,videos, simulations, etc.) to both engage their students and help them understand concepts. Of course, just theavailability of these technologies and resources does not ensure that all K-12 classrooms will be transformedovernight into high-tech multimedia learning environments. There are challenges like the lack of training, the lack oftime and effort required to search for and incorporate these resources, and teacher technophobia. Most schools,however, have a growing number of progressive, tech-capable teachers; between their influence on theircolleagues, and pressure from the public and online learning, more and more technology-integrated teaching withengaging visual media will emerge.In recent decades there has been a movement within K-12 mathto integrate the different strands and to center the mathlearning around real-world problems. Cooperative studentgroups perform experiments to discover the math related tothat problem. For example, a unit in course one ofContemporary Mathematics in Context involves starting up abungee jumping operation (Coxford, 2003). The studentsexplore the math related to designing the bungee apparatusand running the business. This new approach benefits fromvisual resources such as bungee pictures and videos,hands-on experiments and simulations of bungee jumps,and the graphing of the data that students collect. Alongwith a large increase in the contextual visuals included intextbooks, publishers are improving their teaching-supportwebsites to provide a variety of visual aids, programs, andInternet links to help teachers incorporate these visual andinteractive resources.Some examples of visual devices and programs found inthe classroom of a progressive, tech-savvy teacher couldinclude: a presentation program on an interactivewhiteboard and camera, wireless tablet and keyboardsystems, and clicker systems. A daily presentation slidemight include a page from the textbook with a photoand link to the website of the Biosphere 2 projectwhere students can take a video tour to see thevarious geometric structures used in the complex.Geometric shapes can be manipulated on thewhiteboard and linked to a downloaded applet whichsimulates slicing or transforming them. An online‘gizmo’ at ExploreLearning.com performsprobability experiments with varying odds.(Explore Learning, 2009)
Many math teachers use Smartview. Smartview is an interactive graphing calculator simulator where a studentcaninteract at the board while other students can see what they should be doing. Classmates can also offer help to theoperator. Some teachers use a TI Navigator networking system for their calculators, enabling them to project anystudent’s calculator onto the board and enables the students to send their data and graphs to the screen (e.g., tomatch a rainbow’s shape). A new and powerful drawing program is the free Google Sketchup which allows thedrawing of 2D and 3D objects very quickly, including elaborate buildings with all the windows, doors and furniture.All of these visual images and programs on the whiteboard are the central focal points for class work, mples, herinvestigations and discussions. Students and teachers can interact with, write and draw visualization exaon the images, and save them for later use and for representative ult to pic k just a fewabsent students. hile it’s diffic W ones: o its envir onmental are a f ew interesting ap relating overpopulation tData visualization (communicating information, derived A concept m t make up the • ves , 2009) all the things tha effects. (Cha teractive graph that showsfrom data, through graphical means) techniques ar introduced in math courses, but are used in countless An in family size • loch, 2008). er p lot comparing t-sized lation rate (B hot from a video of a scatt oints show differensubjects and disciplines. Graphs can convey information veryquickly and clearly, where words or tables of data cannot have inf A snaps p 006), where (color).the same impact. Tools used to produce traditional graphs • pectanc y (Rosling, 2 rent geographical regions kable to to life ex from diffe ts are clicsuch as bar graphs, line plots, scatter plots and pie graphs have countrie s (point size) changes over time, and poinimproved greatly since the advent of the computer. Along with to showthe increasing amount and type of data being generated and It is animated ion within each country. tmade available via the internet, the number of different ways to show the variavisualize this data is also expanding. Visual-literacy.org catalogsthe different types of data, process, concept, etc. visualizations into a “periodic table of visualization methods”(Lengler, 2007). Looking around the internet, however, it seems that people will keep coming up with new ways totake some data and turn it into a new type of graph, or mind map, or the web. One site that has attempted tocollect examples of the wide variety of visualizations out there is visualcomplexity.com. There are a growin number of sites that provide the tools and database access needed to produce and host sophisticated visualizations,such as ManyEyes.alphaworks.ibm.com and Google’s Visualization API.There is a large and rapidly growing population of visual methods, tools and resources available to the K-12classroom teacher. While there are hurdles to incorporating these effectively into all teachers’ lessons and practices,there is a growing momentum from parents, business, and local governments to create a more engaging andparticipatory classroom. With the leadership of forward-looking and tech-library of visual elements will be a largepart of future classrooms.Conclusion Ultimately, visual learning is the most universally acknowledged learning style because its impression and recollection. Visual representations of thoughts and ideas span fromman’s early cave drawings to walls to modern man creating mind maps on their portable media devices to theclassroom. It has the strength and power to stand the test of time and helps us communicate quickly and effectivelyto all ages and cultures [universally] in many environments. In fact, Aristotle stated that, “without image, thinking isimpossible” (Benson, 1997). Images enliven our worlds and our minds.
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