About a month ago after completing her Masters program in Educational Practice, Canadian educator E Gregory wrote a powerful reflection on what she’d learned a result of her graduate studies. Among her thoughts were the following sentences, reflecting on the importance of visual literacy and communication skills with images:

I learned that, in my humble opinion, to be literate in Canada today, to be literate in the world today, must include the ability to read and communicate with, and through, images. It’s not enough anymore to simply see literacy as reading and writing; overall literacy must include visuals as one of the forms of communication. I finally achieved an understanding of what this ‘visual literacy’ means and learned the beginnings of how to include it into my practice. See works by Elliot Eisner and David Jakes.

'New Directions in Library Instruction' photo (c) 2010, HVX Silverstar - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I agree wholeheartedly. In “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing,” I attempt to “make the case” for blended learning in part by discussing the power of visual media and the importance of helping students make the shift from simply media CONSUMERS to media PRODUCERS. I had a conversation with a friend this weekend, who is a dad of young children, who had never really considered this idea before. He knows he wants his kids to become critical thinkers, but he hadn’t thought much about how they might need to learn MEDIA CREATION skills to do this effectively. Like many people, he’s aware of how the landscape of communication has changed in the business world, but isn’t “connecting the dots” about how these changes MUST change the ways we formally educate our children in our schools and more informally educate them at home.

John Seely Brown, co-author of A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, shared the closing keynote at the 2010 NMC Summer Conference. John and his co-author, Douglas Thomas, make a strong case for cultivating a new range of skills of adaptability and content CREATION. At the 5:24 point of his NMC keynote, John stated:

…learning has a lot more to do with creating the new than learning the old…

John argues in our current era of constant flux and change, we MUST encourage students to become content creators as well as CURIOUS learners. In one of the more straightforward sound bytes in a conference keynote, he states simply:

…how do we afford curiosity? Because basically if you’re not curious, you’re screwed in a world of constant flux.

John encourages us to look at iPads, laptops, and other digital devices “not as communication devices” but rather as “curiosity amplifiers.” I love that idea. Applying this to the thoughts E Gregory shared in her Masters program reflection, I think we need to focus on more CONTENT CREATION with images and other media in our classrooms not only because it can be engaging and more active/hands-on, but also because of the powerful ways it can AMPLIFY as well as ARCHIVE our thinking, our ideas, our curiosity, and our discoveries. Media literacy isn’t just “for the computer lab.” It’s not just “for the geeks.” It’s for everyone, and embracing a more robust use of images in our teaching and in the learning assignments we provide to our students is an important step in the right direction. We need to be “playing with media” more and sharing examples of student media creations regularly!

Take a look at the full video of John’s keynote. It runs just over 50 minutes.

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2 Responses to Visual Literacy, Talking with Images and Curiosity Amplifiers

  1. I totally agree… http://goo.gl/St550  These are images that 7th and 8th graders of mine produced using Picnik. The assignment was a 6-word memoir (word choice). We searched creative commons, uploaded our photos, and added the text we created from mini-lessons on Word Choice. Talk about visual literacy…WOW!

  2. […] Recently on the blog I’ve been following, a Canadian educator by the name of E. Gregory wrote a reflective paper about the results of her graduate studies. In her report she concluded that to be literate in the world we live in today we must obtain the “ability to read and communicate through images”.  She explained that “overall literacy must include visuals as one of the forms of communication”. I have to say that I agree with her analysis; visuals are an important component to conveying information but also in the way we take it in.  We want to be critical thinkers and I feel one of the major contributors to literacy are visual aids. I also feel one of the most effective ways to convey a point or idea to an audience is through the use of visual images; these images (as the site brought out) can work not just visual aids but “curiosity amplifiers”. The site where I found the article is http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/09/18/visual-literacy-talking-with-images-and-curiosity-amplif… […]

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