RIOT: Visual Literacy Discussion

Beatty, N. A. (2013) Cognitive Visual Literacy: From Theories and Competencies to Pedagogy. Art Documentation, 32(1), 33-42.

This article reviews the ACRL standards and demonstrates ways to integrate visual literacy instruction into the classroom. The author also reviews cognitive theories associated with visual literacy.

First the author makes the case for why visual literacy is essential to being literate in the 21st century. Images are everywhere and we interact with them on a daily basis both in our professional and personal lives. Creating and posting images is a regular activity for most of us. The author argues that librarians can include visual literacy instruction into information literacy instruction. And I would argue when it is appropriate or when it makes sense. She argues that cognitive theories such as Dual Coding Theory, Cognitive Load Theory and Multimedia Learning Theory can help teach visual literacy to students.

Here are brief explanations of the theories:
Dual Coding Theory: humans have a visual memory and a verbal memory.
Cognitive Load Theory: when new information is presented it is best to tie it with existing information already in the long term memory.
Multimedia Learning Theory: Using words to describe images. Is this a challenge?

The Visual Literacy Standards definition: “a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use and create images and visual media.”

The author mentions the following visual literacy standards and performance indicators in the paper though this is not a complete list of performance indicators. I have provided examples for application from either the author or myself:

Standard 1. The visually literate student determines the nature and extent of the visual material needed.
1. The visually literate student defines and articulates a need for an image
2. The visually literate student identifies a variety of images sources, materials and types (ex. Help students find images, show them more effective ways to find images and introduce tools)

Standard 2. The visually literate student finds and accesses needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently. (ex. Ask students to find images on a particular topic)

Standard 3. The visually literate student interprets and analyzes the meanings of images and visual media.
1. The visually literate student can identify information relevant to an image’s meaning.
2. The visually literate student situates an image in its cultural, social and historical contexts.
3. The visually literate student should be able to identify the physical, technical and design components of an image. (ex. Analog or born digital; original or reproduction; altered or manipulated)
4. The visually literate student validates interpretation and analysis of images through discourse with others. (ex. this could be done in a seminar style class)

Standard 4. The visually literate student evaluates images and their sources (ex. Comparing images of an iconic work like the Mona Lisa)

Standard 5. The visually literate student uses images effectively for different purposes. (ex. Performance indicator 2: using technology effectively. Using new digital media lab and programming available)

Standard 6. The visually literate student designs and creates meaningful images and visual media. (ex. Performance indicator 3: using a variety of tools and technologies to produce images and visual media. Again leveraging the digital media lab offerings)

Standard 7. The visually literate student understands many of the ethical, legal, social and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and accesses and uses visual materials ethically. (ex. Comparing the same image and metadata/citation from two different sources)

The author talks about finding an image in an art history class but do you teach classes where the students clearly needs to find images?

Are you familiar with the ACRL Visual Literacy standards? Do you incorporate Visual Literacy into library instruction?

Do you think it is important to discuss visual literacy with students outside of the visual disciplines? Or do you think visual literacy is interdisciplinary?

Do you show students how to find images and how to use particular tools to find images?

Do you teach students how to cite images analogous to citing textual sources?

How can we create opportunities in the new Digital Media Labs for teaching Visual Literacy?

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