Visual Thinking

A few years ago, my center brought in a graphic facilitator to lead a strategic planning session for our staff. Since then, I’ve been interested in the power of visual thinking, particularly in teaching and learning. Here are a few resources on this topic I’ve put together.

The Big Picture

Below are two Prezis I used in workshops on visual thinking in September 2012. The first, presented at the University of Iowa, provides an argument for the cognitive benefits of visual thinking, along with ideas and strategies for using visual thinking in the classroom. If you’re interested in creating more visual presentations for your students, I think you’ll find some useful tips here. See also this post for some “visual minute papers” the workshop participants produced.

(To navigate these Prezis, either click the forward button to move through them linearly, or use your mouse to pan and zoom freely about the canvas.)

The second, presented at Carleton College’s Visual Learning Conference, argues that visual thinking tools can be used to help students develop more complex and useful “knowledge organizations” (Ambrose et al., 2010) as they arrange information spatially according to particular heuristics. Several different “visual engagement techniques” are described in the Prezi. See also this post for some “visual minute papers” the workshop participants produced.

Further Resources

  • Visual Thinking Teaching Guide – If you like your introduction to visual thinking a bit more text-heavy, check out this teaching guide that my colleague Maria Ebner and I put together for my first workshop on visual thinking. The guide features a greater variety of visual thinking tools than the above Prezi, with more examples of each, too.
  • Learning Styles: Fact and Fiction – Here’s my summary of the 2010 Lilly Conference keynote by Linda Nilson exploring the research on learning styles. The upshot is that there’s not good research evidence for the so-called matching hypothesis, that matching one’s teaching mode to a given student’s “learning style” helps that student learn better. Instead, it’s best to use multiple teaching modes, particularly visual ones since everyone (except for those with visual impairments) is a visual learner.
  • A Few Favorite Blogs about Visual Thinking – I’m not the only one interested in this topic, of course. See this post for other great resources.
  • Carleton College hosted a conference on visual learning in September 2012. See my series of blog posts about the conference for some highlights: part one, part two, part three, and part four.

Visual Engagement Techniques

I’m starting to blog more about particular visual engagement techniques. Here’s a list of the techniques I’ve blogged about thus far.

I’ve also blogged about Prezi, although that’s more of a tool than a technique.