Visual Literacy Volume

I took a quick look at the Spring edition of “New Directions for Teaching and Learning”, a Wiley journal, today.  The theme for the  Spring 2015 volume is “Looking and Learning: Visual Literacy across the Disciplines”.

The full table of contents is accessible online at:

The summary paper in the volume, which pulls together a set of effective practices,  is an open publication and very much worth reading!

Little, D. (2015), Teaching Visual Literacy across the Curriculum: Suggestions and Strategies. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2015: 87–90. doi:10.1002/tl.20125

I really liked Anthony Crider’s paper:

Crider, A. (2015), Teaching Visual Literacy in the Astronomy Classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2015: 7–18. doi:10.1002/tl.20118 (need subscription to view).

He does a good job of connecting visual literacy to  information literacy and gives a shout-out to the Association of Colleges and Research Libraries (ACRL) work.  He identifies three types of visuals – images, diagrams and plots – that also are important in geology.  I’d want to add maps to that for geology purposes.

Overall, the idea that we have an expert’s blind spot when it comes to images resonates really strongly with me. The amount of information that is contained in our visuals can be overwhelming to a novice learner.  For example, We can easily overlook the levels of understanding it might take to interpret a stratigraphic diagram:

  • the relationship between rock type and origin/environment
  • the sequence/ordering of units (time and missing time)
  • the nature of the boundaries between rock types

All of these things have geological meaning; if we are using text alone, we can look up words to find their meaning.  To understand a diagram, we have to process multiple pieces of information when we look at a diagram and that takes time to master.

Looks like I have some work to do before teaching again next spring….

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