The History of Visual Learning

History of Visual LearningWe live in the information age, and it is exactly what it sounds like: an age inundated with information. Information access, sharing, and storing all depend on intricate systems of the written word. Everything from elementary school math to masters work in art history depends on its storage. The information cannot survive if it is not preserved, and we preserve it via writing it down and archiving it.

Though this system is necessary, as there has yet to be a more efficient way to handle the massive amounts of knowledgethe world has amassed, this system is flawed.  It forgoes the visual for the verbal, and the truth is that language, and information communication, just didn’t start out this way.

Aristotle stated that “without image, thinking is impossible.” What he meant is that we are programmed in such a way that thinking, and memory, and access of our knowledge, depends on a system of mental images. Language began as a very visual thing; it developed to communicate information that was immediately visible in the world of the communicators. Written language began as simple pictures, images were used to represent concepts. Over time, letters replaced images and communication lost its visual aspect.

Today, children are expected to learn to function in a world of massive information. And as communication is now largely verbal, education is largely verbal. Naturally, this is an ineffective way to learn. Our minds still operate on a system of mental images, and this is why visual learning is so important. Luckily, educators are beginning to recognize the value and necessity of being sensitive to visual learning styles.
How it Works

Visual learning is important simply because it helps amass information. It also serves as afoundation for verbal learning. A student with a strong visual learning background will be better able to learn verbally.

This is because visual learning comes naturally before verbal learning in brain development, and so serves as a foundation on which to base verbal learning techniques. A child sees and understands what he sees before he is able to communicate it with words. Without the visual experience, language could not follow (in the case of blind children, visceral sound and touch experience serves as the “visual” experience on which to base verbal learning; the point is that verbal learning needs a palpable experience from which to grow).

Visual learning is what it sounds like- the inclusion of images and visual experience in the act of learning. However, goes beyond simply showing pictures alongside a lecture. For example, visual learning in mathematics would involve the students actually working through a problem, rather than simply watching the teacher do it or listening to him explain it. This method is called visual learning because it relies on a system of visual interaction, it is a graphic that the student manipulates himself (pen and paper), rather than a written or spoken explanation.

Another example involves teaching a dance step. Rather than the teacher verbally describing the placement and movement of the body, he shows the students. This is further enhanced when the students do the move themselves.

It is no coincidence that descriptions of visual learning involve a very active process. This is because visualizing something is not simply the passive viewing of it. Forming a mental image often means involvement in the representation, and the assimilation of it into a concrete and recallable gem of information.

Visual Learning Today

Visual Learning ImageVisual learning has been validated as a very valuable learning style and as a useful learning tool. There is a great deal of research on the effectiveness of visual learning of different subjects as well on the variations within visual learning itself.

For example, visual graphics assist in learning. It has been discovered that within these visual graphics,colored graphics increased the retaining of knowledge as opposed to black and white graphics. Color-coding notes has long been a useful trick of the good student.

As visual learning techniques gain recognition, the active incorporation of visual learning into the classroom is increasing. This is providential for education and as more is understood about visual learning, more can be gained from it.

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