Visual Literacy in Higher Education Term Paper

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Visual Literacy in Higher Education

The contemporary learning and experiential environment is highly visual. Students are exposed to Web sites, television and a plethora of other sources of image and visual data. This increase in the pervasiveness of the visual aspect in our daily lives has also changed the meaning of being literate. As Ron Bleed states in an article entitled Visual Literacy in Higher Education, "The Literacy of the 21st century will increasingly rely not only on text and words but also on digital images and sounds" (Bleed R. 2005).

This view of the importance of visual literacy in contemporary higher education is expressed by a wide range of articles, studies and reports. Furthermore, this trend also has important consequences. Not only does it impact on the teaching methods and the way that material is presented in the classroom and in higher education in general, but it also has a profound influence on the development of learning skills in students and on the development of appropriate and effective curricula. These are points that will be stressed in this overview of the available literature on this trend.

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The above perspective also applies to the nursing and healthcare areas of education. These are areas where visual education can be very effective in relation to aspects healthcare training. This paper will discuss the literature in terms of the following general headings; the meaning of visual education and its importance and the way that it affects and impacts on higher education in terms of teaching styles, material and its outcomes. Lastly the issue of the way that visual literacy affects the developments and creation of school curriculum will also be explored.

The meaning and importance of visual education.

Term Paper on Visual Literacy in Higher Education Assignment

In the first instance, visual education is technology bound in that it is highly dependent on technology for its effective usage. This has both positive and negation implications. Therefore, the studies of media in education and visual literacy have many areas that intersect and are related in various ways. What is of significance and a point that is reiterated in many studies, is that "...new technologies are changing what it means to be literate" (Bleed R. 2005). As Bleed point out; "In the 21st century, the ability to interpret and create visual, digital and audio media is a form of literacy as basic as reading and writing text" (Bleed R. 2005). In other words the presence of visual technology and literacy is seen by many as not an option in higher education, but rather as a necessity.

This view is reiterated for example, in an article by Wilhelm (2005), which states that "...the use of images is becoming more pervasive in modern culture, and schools must adapt their curricula and instructional practices accordingly." (Wilhelm, 2005, p.24) Related to this is the view expressed by Wilhelm and others that visual literacy is also becoming more important from a curricular standpoint "...as society relies to a greater degree on images and visual communication strategies" (Wilhelm, 2005, p.24). The question of the importance of visual education in the development of various curricula is related to the fact that modern educationists realize that for students to be 'marketable' in contemporary society, visual literacy skills are an essential prerequisite. (Wilhelm, 2005, p.24)

However, a further point that is made in the literature by Bleed and others is that despite this view most educational institutions still focus mainly on textual means of communication in their cultural and teaching processes and curricula.

There are many definitions of the term visual education and visual literacy in the literature. One of the most succinct of these is the following definition from Smolin and Lawless (2003). In their view visual literacy is defined as, "...the ability to understand and produce visual messages" (p. 570). Wileman (1993) defines visual literacy as, "the ability to 'read,' interpret, and understand information presented in pictorial or graphic images" (p. 114). Another aspect that has to betaken into consideration is visual thinking, which is associated with visual literacy. This is described as, "the ability to turn information of all types into pictures, graphics, or forms that help communicate the information" (Wileman 1993, p. 114).

Commentators also emphasize that in the understanding of being literate in the modern technological age; "... students must learn to make meaning not only out of text but also out of the vast amount of visual information conveyed to them through images" (Smolin & Lawless, 2003, p.570). This study by Smolin and Lawless (2003) elaborates on this point as follows; a visually literate individual can "...examine, extract meaning and interpret the visual actions, objects, and symbols that he/she encounters in the environment"... Being visually literate also enables a child to use these abilities to communicate with others" (Smolin & Lawless, 2003, p.570). Therefore visual literacy is described as a mode of understanding and expression that it becoming more accepted and important within the educative and teaching environment.

A study which discusses the importance of visual education and visual literacy in higher education from a more practical point-of-view is Video Imagery and Children's Acquisition of Televised Geographic Information: Affecting More Than Visual Content, in the Journal of Instructional Psychology, by Pinon (1999). This study found that in the acquisition of geographic data and knowledge, "Imagery provides an economical framework for simultaneously representing all aspects of perceptual/spatial information (e.g., an intact image of a map) and for integrating the relations between the visual and verbal information" (p. 226). The study also found that students who made use of visual images, such as icons and labels, amongst others, were able to recall more information than those using text only.

Importantly, the study found that the use of visual elements and imagery also facilitated various types of learning; for example information related to state shapes. Pinon points out that, imagery aided their ability to recognize and point to state locations on the map as well as identify individual state contours.... Two weeks following instruction, imagery continued to produce an advantage for the older children when asked to match state contours with their names...imagery served as a referent for shape retrieval. (Pinon, 1999, p. 226)

There are numerous other examples in the literature that support the view that visual imagery and literacy are important and useful elements in the learning process. An article entitled Ohio Teacher Brings Teaching, Learning to Life with the Addition of a Visual Presenter, serves to illustrate the difference between text-based modes and visual forms of education. The article notes that sophisticated technology has joined with the blackboard and chalk in the modern learning environment. This technology which emphasizes visual aspects of learning is, according to the article,"... bringing lessons to life for students from elementary to graduate levels" ("Ohio Teacher Brings Teaching, Learning to Life with the Addition of a Visual Presenter," 2004).

Pinon (1999) also points out that the visual and multimedia format in education "...captures children's interest and are more easily understood, allowing the learner to focus on higher-level processes such as identifying problem-solving steps..." (Pinon, 1999, p. 226). This insight is important as it suggests one of the ways that visual education functions; namely to aid in problem-solving. This aspect is also stressed in an article by Levison (1994), who contends that the use of visual imagery in older students facilitates the solving of highly abstract problems. Furthermore, visual education allowed for the,"... image-formation that underlies great science" (Levison, 1994, p.3).

There are also studies which directly refer to the impact that visual education and literacy has on the nursing profession. In an enlightening article by Diane J. Skiba, entitled, Nursing Education 2.0: YouTube, the author explores the latest online developments in terms of their implications for visual learning in nursing education. She notes that online networking sites like YouTube cannot be ingoted by nursing educators. The visual aspect is become essential in terms of the training of nurses and the Internet can be used to "transform nursing education" (Skiba). Similarly, an article on nursing from Humboldt State University Library indicates that; "As information is created at an ever-increasing rate in a bewildering variety of formats, the competencies required in professions are transformed" (NURSING INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS). This means in essence that the "information pertaining to the nursing profession is said to double every 5 years" (NURSING INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS). Consequently the use of visual literacy skills is becoming more important and necessary in nursing education and training. (NURSING INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS)

These views are also supported by research at Brigham Young University (BYU) which has found that basic visual literacy instruction is needed in disciplines outside of the arts. (Christopherson J.) This study of various university disciplines and departments, including nursing, found that," Statistical analysis of the data revealed visual literacy to be somewhat important across all the disciplines and identified an intermediated level of proficiency as needed by students in all five of the colleges" (Christopherson J.)

In summary, these and numerous other studies stress the important point made by Adams… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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