The use of audio and visual messaging has become more commonplace with the soaring popularity of social media and instant messaging apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat. In fact we are moving to a more pictographic form of communication with the increasing popularity of emoticons. Professor John Sutherland from University College London embellishes by adding
But lets go back… how did this all start?
Cave painting was the first form of communication. Earliest men and women drew pictures on the caves to communicate and to tell stories. Cave paintings from 30,000 BC could easily be called the first infographics, depicting animals and other resources in the surrounding area. Later the Ancient Egyptians used infographics to tell stories of life, work and religion. Fast forward to 1066 and the Bayuex Tapestry ( The story of William the Conquer and Harold, Earl of Wessex, who led the Norman and Saxon armies to battle).
So humans have been communicating since the beginning of time. Visual communication is a natural way of communicating with one another.
What about today?
We are exposed to anywhere between 300- 20,000 visual images everyday! So images are very important to us in our daily life. In fact we are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.
We are taught to read, write, create reports, write stories but are we taught to read images?
Writers, directors and photographers direct your eyes to tell a story. Our roles as educators must be to help train the eyes of young people so they can interpret the imagery or film and then create their own images or films. That way children will be able to get their point across to a wider audience.
Everyone knows what literacy means–reading and writing words. Visual literacy is reading and writing images. The “reading” is that when you see an image, you understand what’s being communicated by that image. The “writing” is when you find appropriate, compelling images and put them into materials to communicate, teach, or learn.
The importance of including visual literacy instruction for our students in the classroom comes from the discovery that students gain a deeper understanding of a concept when they are encouraged and enabled to create a nonlinguistic representation of that concept.
So what can schools do?
Technological advances in recent years have given educators a gleeful marriage between what’s right (teaching digital literacy) and technology.
However exposure is not enough and children need to inquire into the who’s, why’s and what’s. So that their thinking becomes deeper. Elizabeth Thoman states
Therefore children need to be asked leading questions as they delve a little deeper and their conceptual understanding grows. With this greater understanding children should be creating content:-
- Using tools such as Typorama or Skitch get children to write a statement using a photo to support it
- Photograph a process using Paper 53 and write up the experiment
- Using Bookcreator create a photo story
- Create a slideshow using Haiku Deck of a field trip
- Take a photograph and add filters or modify the photograph in Instagram or iPhoto
What is happening in my classroom?
We work a lot with visuals in the Early Years. Visuals are key. Visuals are part of the daily routine (calendar, what lessons are happening when.) We use visuals with adjectives, with key words to do with our Unit of Inquiry.
Photographs, paintings, films and music are all part of our weekly work but I will strive to add more to my weekly planning.
Being a First Grade teacher I use a lot of picture books in class. My favourite children’s author is Anthony Browne who with every book seems to delve into some aspects of visual literacy. I have used these books in my class at different times in the year.
- “Voices in the Park” is an excellent example of powerful visual literacy. The story is told from four different perspectives; a mother and her son, and a father and his daughter.
- “Zoo” allows for discussions on framing and colour, to name a few.
- “Piggybook” gives discussions on symbolism and changing modality.
- “Shape Game” is a fun activity that children enjoy, but it can also be a valuable creative tool for the classroom. What can you create?
But it is not only consuming. We are creating. Using: –
When we have it we are sharing it with the wider world. Putting it on our Kidblog page. On top of this we are joining the Out of Eden Walk and are also going to be part of a global project involving a Travelling Teddy where we will be creating visual literacy for others. We are also preparing to start tweeting as a class. As a class we are learning that…
Visuals have so much power.
An educators role in this journey is to teach children skills because visual literacy does not just happen. We become visually literate by studying the techniques used to create images, learning the vocabulary of shapes and colours, identifying the characteristics of an image that gives it meaning, and developing the cognitive skills necessary to interpret or create the ideas that inform an image, be it a television show, photograph, painting, chart, graph, advertisement, Power Point slide, animated GIF, or monster movie”