When you look at this image, what words come to mind... Spring? Noisy? Hunger? Survival? Demanding? Ugly? Beautiful? Desperation? Helpless? Abandoned? Parenting?
According to data shared by the Visual Teaching Alliance, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual [Hyerle, 2000] with our eyes registering up to 36,000 visual messages per hour [Jensen, 1996]. Visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text [3M, 2001]; we can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second and the brain can see images that last for just 13 milliseconds.
Our brain capacity and processing is pretty impressive! With images [photos, artworks, infographics, maps, charts, etc.] so prominent in our digital world, what is the impact on our teaching practices? Let’s take a look at visual literacy.
Back in 1969, John Debes first coined the term ‘Visual Literacy’ and defined it as “ 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.”
Lynell Burmark, Ph.D., educator and author of Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn, said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched”.
An Ontario teacher captured some key concepts on visual literacy across the curriculum very well in this video.