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Visual Learning 101

Visual Learning 101

Welcome to our What Type Of Learner Am I? series! With each post, we’ll explore one of the eight different learning styles, so you can better support these folks in your life or explore new ways to learn.

You’ve likely experienced this throughout your own education; some people learn better through lectures, some by getting their hands dirty and applying concepts directly. Everyone seems to have a different way to retain and grow information—and once you know your preferred learning style, you can take on the world while learning new skills.

There’s no right or wrong way to learn. Based on psychologist Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, there are eight learners—visual (spatial), aural (auditory-musical), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal), solitary (intrapersonal), and naturalistic—and once you discover the preferred learning style for you and those around you, you’ll be able to apply this everywhere: in conversations with family or friends, at work, or for your side hustle. And you’ll be able to teach and mentor based on an individual’s unique learning style.

I wanted to start this series with a post that's very near and dear to my heart, because it involves my personal experience, which led me to both understand how I can best learn, and eventually, work with a visual literacy organization I'm ultrapassionate about.

When I was in graduate school, I found myself having trouble with the amount of reading I had to do. I felt I couldn't keep up for some reason...and then I got the diagnosis that forever changed the way I learned.

I found out I was dyslexic. I didn't know I had dyslexia until I was in graduate school, despite being a special education teacher! With my strong visual memory, I was always able to make up for my learning difficulties (the ones I didn't even know I had!) until I was in graduate school, when the reading pace became too much.

If only I had known I was a visual learner, I could have known how to adapt the learning process to meet my needs. Since my diagnosis, I've discovered all of the wonderful ways visual literacy is changing the world. To celebrate my fellow visual learners, we’re going to dive into the topic of visual (spatial) learning.

Visual learners don’t retain information as well when it’s spoken aloud or immediately put into practice; they have to see images during the learning process. That means drawing out charts or using visual concepts. A visual learner would theoretically respond well to a slideshow, movie scene, or TikTok.

Like me, individuals with dyslexia and auditory processing disorders are often visual learners. Most are even right-brain dominant, so they're inherently creative and visual. These individuals think in pictures, and using imagery-based teaching techniques can help them better absorb information.

Now, how do you spot a visual learner? First off, they’re great at visualization. I know I have a strong visual memory, and I can truly think in pictures. They prefer to plan this way and map out processes and outcomes. Visual learners also typically enjoy artistic pursuits, where they can map their thoughts out on the page through drawing, painting, or doodling. They’re very focused and can observe the most minute of details. They also may need more time to process all the information they’re learning.

To engage a visual learner in your life, color code your presentations or notes to give them those necessary visual cues. Chart out your information on a whiteboard. Use annotation tools when presenting on a screen. Or place your visual learners near the front of the classroom so they can take in all the information they see more readily. All these strategies will help visual learners to thrive.

If a visual learner needs extra support, there are many resources that can help. Like the International Visual Literary Association (IVLA)an interdisciplinary organization of professionals working toward a fuller understanding of the way we derive meaning from what we see and the way we interact with our visual environment. Discovering IVLA changed my life!

In 2008, I became an IVLA member, and I began serving on the board in 2011, eventually becoming President. Just a few years later in 2018, I embarked on a career highlight as the Keynote Speaker at Nagoya University of the Arts representing IVLA along with Grasshopper Goods and my work at National Louis University! 

I have become extremely dedicated to visual literacy work. Photographic images and art can have an immense impact on learners and their depth of understanding. My personal passion for visual literacy and art gives meaning to Grasshopper Goods and all of the values this business represents.

I use visual images to construct understandings and context, and visual literacy has become a cornerstone of who I am. Visual learners are creative, imaginative individuals, and with nurturing and care, you can ensure you're providing information in a way that resonates with them fully. And as our world becomes more and more technological, our references and understandings about images are critical.


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