Archive for the “Visual Literacy” Category

I recently completed a Webinar for ISTE on visual literacy which was based on a framework I’ve developed for understanding visual literacy beginning with the brain and extending the concept through networked learning. It’s something that’s been through a number of revisions and I think it works well. You can see the hyperlinked text on my presentation Web site, and I’ve embedded the corresponding slide deck here. My thanks to ISTE for offering the opportunity to give four Webinars this fall. If you are interested, ISTE Webinars can be found here.

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It’s easy to bash presentations.  It’s also easy to bash presentation styles.

Included in this process is always the obligatory derogatory comments directed at PowerPoint.  Standard stuff.

Of course, much of this consternation towards presentations originates with having to sit through some really bad presentations where the presenters are just awful and have no clue how to communicate and engage an audience.  We’ve all been there.

It’s also easy to bash the lecture because everything now needs to be collaborative, on a wiki, shared in a Google Doc, or done together in a backchannel.  But I’ve attended some phenomenal lectures, where the lecturer/presenter just had tremendous ideas.  Mimi Ito and Connie Yowell come to mind, where for an hour I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to capture every profound thought.  My engagement was with the ideas, and singular.  Me.  Processing.  No one else.  Just a stream of ideas, balanced against my beliefs, with individual processing and plenty of time for collaborative discussion later.  But for an hour-me, the presenter, and ideas…

Most might look at the room and what was taking place with a presenter talking and people listening and characterize that as a passive learning experience for the participants.  But passive?  Only if you wanted it to be.  It certainly wasn’t that for me-it was very active.

And the presenters used slides.  With text.

So I was intrigued by this blog post by John Pederson, who quotes (I think it’s a quote) Heather Gold who proposes something called tummeling.

Basically, a tummler is hired to entertain and make sure everyone had a good time.  Sounds really good..you can watch her explain it here.  Be sure to also examine her comparison between presentation and conversation, which is interesting, if not outright wrong.

It’s easy to dismiss bullet points.  I don’t think they work especially well and a presentation filled with slides of endless bullet points can be absolutely disastrous for a presenter, not to mention the audience.

But let’s not dismiss text.  Text and bullet points are two different things.

And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss slides, because slides can carry a very critical element of a presentation.

Emotion.

In any presentation, you are selling ideas. As Seth Godin says: “Communication is the transfer of emotion.”

And that emotion is communicated through two channels:  the presenter and through the visual content of the slides, and processed by the 3.5 pound (1.58 kg) processor inside your head, all in an effort to make meaning.

The choice not to use slides, and not to use the capacity of those slides to carry images that communicate visually, represents a shallow understanding of human communication.  As the speaker in the video indicated, effective communication is supported by an “emotional substrate.”  Yes, that can mean face to face emotion crafted by the presenter..  However, it should also mean carefully selected visuals that enhance the emotion channel of the presentation.  Ignoring visuals, or failing to include visuals, means you just ignored or failed to include a very powerful communicative element-an element that might just make all the difference.

To extend your thinking a bit, if you haven’t seen Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning, you should.  His book is based on “seven researched based principles for the design of multimedia messages” that we should all learn and apply to presentation design.  Here are four that I think are most relevant to this post:

1.  Multimedia Principle:  Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

2.  Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal Contiguity Principle:  Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4.  Individual Differences Principle:  Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

Basically, images and text are critical to learning, and especially more so for low-ability learners when the media design is appropriate.

Let’s not forget that presenting is communication.  Let’s not forget that presenting has its place.

And there are numerous ways to present ideas, ranging from Twitter to blogging to sitting on a stool, telling a story.  You can even…ah…tummel.  However, presenting to a small or large audience alike requires, skill, effort, and knowledge as well as an understanding of human communication.  It’s in vogue to consider new ways to communicate, new ways to engage an audience, its vogue to present using a test-based wiki for example.

But having an audience walk away with being energized, being challenged to think, being moved by a message communicated through appropriate media, and with the ability to process additional insights that can lead to actionable next steps that they didn’t have an hour ago is also pretty damn good…

Mayer, Richard. Multimedia Learning. 9th ed. New York, New York.  Cambridge University Presss, 2007. 184. Print.

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I originally published this January 24, 2007. I’ve updated it considerably…

There is a biological basis for visual communication.

The auditory nerve transmits sound to the brain and is composed of about 30,000 fibers. Contrast that with the optic nerve which sends visual signals to the brain through 1 million fibers (Burmark 2002). Basically, you’ve got a dial-up connection from the ear to the brain and broadband from the eye to the brain. Teach kids to take advantage of the connectivity, and the raw capacity of the brain to process visually, and then teach them that…

Emotion, depicted through visual means, sells the message.

Students must learn how to convey meaning emotionally. That’s why digital storytelling, when done right, can be such a powerful learning experience. Anyone that has seen 4 Generations: The Water Buffalo Movie can attest to that. View that movie…how many of you would pony up $250 after viewing that? And take the video obituary (called the Final Word) of Art Buchwald at the New York Times where he says “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I just died” and they go on to tell his life story. Bizarre, yet powerful because of the intersection of emotion and medium. And then teach them that…

The most powerful producer of visual imagery is the individual, its you.

Digital cameras, cell phone cameras, 100 dollar Flip Video cameras, citizen journalism, photos of the London subway bombings, of Saddam Hussein’s execution, and 2,474,956,178 billion photos at Flickr attest to the capability and absolute unmitigated power of the individual to produce visual material and bring the world home. But simply producing this is not enough, because…

You have to share it. Understand Creative Commons. Post content online that others can use, that enable you to connect to other users, collaborate with others, create with others and contribute to everyone. So, teach kids to be able to do that, and in the process emphasize that…

Individuals must be capable of working in multiple mediums to create visual messages, in accordance with the principals of visual literacy.

They have to do something with that visual imagery and it has to be done the right way. Create. Remix. Mashup. Post to YouTube, TeacherTube, SchoolTube, DNATube or create your own “Tube” with StartYourTube.com . Use Google Earth to combine imagery with place. Use the content of Google Streetview in a Web page or wiki; blend this with other media and primary source content to create a mixed-media platform of resources that can be the raw material of learning. Additionally, use online content creation systems like JumpCut and, MogoPop to create messages for the distribution of content on the networks of the Web, and to make content transportable. Why is this necessary? Because…

Visuals, when combined with other multimedia, provide individuals with a competitive voice. One that can be heard. One that can be measured. One that says “here I am, and here’s what I think, here is what I have to contribute. Now what do you think?” Kids have meaningful things to say, so challenge them to produce visual content with purpose and with pride. Help kids understand that the world is more connected then ever, and that producing visual content like this becomes even more powerful in 2008 because…

Networks for sharing and collaboration extend that voice; that voice can contribute to a conversation as a contributing member of a community. 150,000 videos are uploaded to YouTube per day (Wesch 2008). Between 1 and 2 million photos are uploaded to Flickr each day (Flickr main page). Both platforms enable commenting, and YouTube encourages videos to be produced in response to others. Complete conversations around a single photograph occur in Flickr, an idea that is explored by Clay Shirkey in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing With Organizations. The potential for rich dialog can occur (as well as hateful dialog), so kids need to learn how to be a part of that, and in a positive way…

And then emphasize that in 2008:

Everyone can learn from each other, independent of time, space and place. (Ryan Bretag).

Citations:

Burmark, Lynell. Visual Literacy: Learn to See. See to Learn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2002.

Bretag, Ryan. Personal Communication. 2008.

Shirkey, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York, New York. The Penguin Group,

Wesch, Michael. “YouTube Statistics.” Digital Ethonography. 18 May 2008. Kansas State University. 7 May 2008 <http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=163>.

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