Getting Students to Think Visually

I hear all the time from teachers that “I’m visual!” A lot of us would benefit from visual supports in our learning, whether it’s a video to introduce a concept, a chart or diagram, or images that reinforce text we are reading in a book.

I often hear that “I’m visual!” call from teachers who then say in the next sentence they need the steps of how to do something (on the computer) written-out, in sequential order. And that’s where I shake my head thinking, “Oh, you’ve got it all wrong!”

For the record, visual learning means without text. Sure, looking at words and reading sentences is visual, but that’s not what we mean when we are talking about visual learners. Second, I don’t believe in teaching the computer–a highly organized system–in rote steps for each application. While more painful at first for some, you are far better off learning the “system” than individual steps since the system is a set of rules and behaviors that carry-through, application to application (in well-designed systems).

It reminds me a lot of how I learned math in school. We knew to do a certain number of steps for one type of problem, and then for another, we had those steps. Half the instruction was determining what type of problem we had so we knew what steps to take. The test was often far easier, when all the problems were identified.

Visuals, math, and more are mentioned in a recent article worth your time from Edutopia magazine. In Teaching With Visuals, you’ll meet a young, creative teacher who is challenging students with different types of assignments–ones without rote rules to follow.