Jul 26, 2006

Visual Literacy and Multimedia Literacy Quotes - Odds and Ends PART ONE

While gathering resources and reviewing literature over the past few years, I've come across a wide range of people who have an interest in visual and multimedia literacy. I thought I'd share some odds and ends that I found helpful to me as I went along my journey.

One book that has reinforced my thinking is "In the Mind's Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People with Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties, Computer Images, and the Ironies of Creativity", by Thomas G. West. The following quote is from a book review:

"Dr. West argues that major advances in computer information visualization technologies promise to transform education and the workplace— and to increase greatly the value in that transformed world of “visual thinkers with verbal and memory problems who have had to develop methods to sift, sample, and select” in order to understand patterns in complex systems in business, the sciences and other fields." - James Cullin

The following quote is from an article written by Gary Bertoline, the director of Purdue's Envision Center for Data Perceptualization:

“Communicating visually is becoming the norm rather than the exception in technological societies… This renaissance in graphics is coupled with the emerging re-thinking of the role of visualization in basic human intelligence. Converging technologies, a renaissance in graphics, and better understanding of the role of visualization in human cognition are the catalyst for an emerging discipline called visual science.” -Gary R. Bertoline, 1998. Visual Science: An Emerging Discipline Journal for Geometry and Graphics, V 2. 181-187 Purdue University

David Staley, the author of Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past, also argues about the importance of visual communication, particularly in his field of history, which has traditionally been taught through reading and discussion:

“…the best visualizations are images that allow one to see, think about and understand multidimensional levels of information that would not have been apparent had it not been so spatially organized.” –Stayley, D. (2002) "Visualization-ism: An art history" Interface: The journal for education, community and values.

Robert E. Mayer
is a psychologist who has spent over the past decade studying multimedia learning. This is a quote from his book, “Multimedia Learning”, written in 2001:

“For hundreds of years, verbal messages – such as lectures and printed lessons – have been the primarily means of explaining ideas to learners….Recent advances in graphics technology have prompted new efforts to understand the potential of multimedia as a means of promoting human understanding – a potential that I call the promise of multimedia learning. “ -Mayer, R.E. 2001. Multimedia Learning New York: Cambridge University Press

As educators, how do we encourage all kinds of learners, especially those who have minds that aren’t considered to be within the mainstream in our mostly word dominant, traditional schools?

Temple Grandin, with much support and personal effort, overcame many barriers related to her symptoms of autism to earn a Ph.D. in animal science. She is known for her books and presentations related to her field of study as well as to autism. In her book, "Thinking in Picture and Other Reports from my Life with Autism", written in 1995, Grandin wrote,

“I think in pictures. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head” She discussed how difficult it was for other people to understand her way of thinking"

Grandin, T. 1995. Thinking in pictures and other reports from my life with autism. New York, Doubleday p. 19


In the decade or so since Grandin wrote this book, there has been a significant increase in the number of students diagnosed as autism spectrum disorders. These young people often require a variety of specialized instructional strategies and support for skill development in areas such as communication and social skills.

We know that the majority of people with autism spectrum disorders are visual learners. We also know that many people who struggle in school are likely to be visual learners/thinkers. Because they learn differently, they are often viewed as having a potential learning disability or attention disorder. The emphasis on "reading to learn" in many classrooms often means that many students are not provided the opportunity to learn subject matter content through other means while they are at school.

Mel Levine, a physician who works with young people with learning and attention difficulties, addresses this issue in his book, written 2002, , "A Mind at a Time" , with a companion website:

“Too many kids struggle and fail needlessly simply because the way in which they learn is incompatible with the way they’re being taught. Schools are filled with kids who give up on themselves, are convinced they’re "losers," and conclude they’re just dumb. It’s painful—for the student, teacher, and parent who may be unaware that the "wiring" of that child’s brain simply is not in synch with the demands and expectations of the situations at hand.” -Mel Levine

“What takes place when a teacher’s ways of teaching clash with a learner’s way of learning? Chaos, discord, accusation, and anger often ensue…In facing these conflicts, should we be trying to rewire the child or instead should we modify the environment and alter our expectations? Or should we do both?” -Levine, M. 2002. A mind at a time. Simon & Schuster, pp.260

If you are a parent of a student who is considered "difficult to teach", you probably have a good understanding of what this post is about.

Some of the content of this post is from a transcript of a podcast that I started for one of my class assignments. A few of the following quotes and comments are from my notes for a paper I wrote in 2004 - "Thinking, Learning, and Communicating through Multimedia: Views from a School Psychologist", which can be found in A sense of place: The global and the local in mobile communication Nyiri, K. (ed.) (2005). Vienna: Passagen Verlag. If you look at the book's table of contents, you'll note that the various authors come from fields ranging from physics to philosophy. Technology has impacted many fields of study in significant ways!


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