Sunday, October 18, 2009

Teaching Visually in the Classroom

Learning comes in many ways, book learning, lecture learning, research learning, we even call life experience a form of learning, but one thing most of us share is that we are visual learners. The notion of “one picture is worth a thousand words” can really apply in our classrooms. We can see this on the faces of our students if we apply using visuals in conjunction with our lectures. Perhaps this was engrained in all of us at a very early age when the first books that were introduced to us were picture books. We know the our brain is more active when we view pictures which in turn stimulates more thinking about what we are learning especially if it’s used with an auditory stimulus such as the human voice.
The student today grew up in a visual, digital, technical era. Television has advanced in high definition with screens the width of two inches with sound that surpass some of best home sound systems. Most students today weren’t around when TV was in black and white and many don’t remember when you had to bring your film in to have it developed to have pictures made up. If we are always looking for ways to enhance teaching we need to embrace bringing into our classrooms the tools that our students feel comfortable with and can relate to. Using photosharing in the classroom can be one of those tools.
It’s important our students learn how to express themselves and express the ideas of others with competent writing skills, but perhaps encouraging students to express themselves though media presentations in addition to their writing could enhance not only the presentation, but perhaps promote additional enthusiasm and creativity from our students.
As an example, I teach psychology courses and one of the subjects I teach is Developmental Psychology. As part of our class projects, students need to present their own Life Story in terms of their own stages of development. When I first started giving this assignment out, the papers I received, although many of them very good, didn’t seem to have the intimacy of the writer, they lacked the person behind the story, I then began assigning the same paper, but encouraged students to use pictures, videos, any kind of visuals they choose to help them tell there stories and they needed to do so in front of the class as a oral presentation. That semester I discovered more things about my students then ever before and other students learn more about their fellow students as well. The presentations were creative, entertaining, sometimes humorous, but above a student’s honest portrayal of themselves and even a sense of pride in themselves telling their story.
Picturesharing is common today. We document daily activities and moments with our cell phones and then send them off to friends and relatives. It has become another way of communicating and networking. It would seem that if teaching could be enhanced with the use of utilizing more pictures or any other kind of visuals in the classroom in conjunction with our lectures, assignments, student’s projects, etc, then learning would be enhanced as well. So the challenge for us who are teachers is to start thinking out of the box in how we deliver our lectures, assign our assignments and to think more visually about the subjects we teach.

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