A Conference on Visual Learning (featuring Scott McCloud!)

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I have a healthy interest in the use of visual thinking techniques in higher education. I’m heading to a conference at Carleton College this fall on that very topic. I’ve included below an announcement about the conference and my (accepted) proposal for a session.

Join us for Visual Learning: Transforming the Liberal Arts at Carleton College, a three day conference highlighting successful experiments and assignments in visual teaching and learning across the curriculum.  Enjoy visionary lectures, engage in speculative conversations, participate in hands-on workshops, consider faculty-staff partnerships, investigate exhibitions, and delight in multi-arts performances.

Between sessions, explore Carleton College’s new Weitz Center for Creativity.  Designed out of a renovated 1910 school, this model of adaptive re-use architecture is  dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration and houses the Perlman Teaching Museum, the IdeaLab, The Class of 1960 Interactive Classroom, and numerous other innovative spaces, including our unique White Spaces. Our conference will kick off on Friday night with keynote speaker Scott McCloud. Check out the program to see the incredible range of sessions running on Saturday and Sunday. We have 24 sessions led by 65 presenters from 28 institutions and 16 disciplines.

Register here by July 15th!

And here’s information on the session I’ll be leading at the conference:

Teaching with VETs: Visual Engagement Techniques

Experts develop “knowledge organizations,” complex mental models that represent connections among information, concepts, and examples in a given field (Ambrose et al., 2010). Students, as novices in a field, have less complex knowledge organizations, making it difficult to solve problems and think critically. Students can use visual tools to help themselves construct better mental models and share their knowledge organizations with others in order to receive feedback on their learning (Nilson, 2010a). Thus, in the tradition of CATs (classroom assessment techniques [Angelo & Cross, 1993]) and CoLTs (collaborative learning techniques [Barkley, 2005]), we present VETs: visual engagement techniques. (When your CATs and CoLTs are feeling a little sick, it’s time to call a VET.)

When using a VET, students are asked to arrange information spatially according to a particular visual heuristic. The construction of a visible organization of information is intended to help students develop and refine their (invisible) mental knowledge organizations. While students can participate in these VETs individually, having students work in small groups to create shared, collaborative, visual representations of their knowledge can add a useful social, interactive layer to these activities.

Participants in this workshop will learn about several VETs that have application in a wide variety of teaching contexts, including VETs designed to help students map relationships among ideas (such as coordinate axes, concept maps, debate maps, and timelines) and those that map relationships among data (such as bubble charts, word trees, and infographics). Workshop participants will work in small groups to brainstorm ways they might use VETs in their teaching, and they will “share out” with the large group through doodles and sketches of their ideas. Participants will also debate the merits of high-tech (digital) and low-tech (analog) implementations of VETs.

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