As discussed earlier this week, one of the 7 Da Vincian principles put forward by Michael Gelb in his book, “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci” is the principle of Sensazione or the refinement and development of sensory intelligence, especially sight as a way of enlivening experience.Recently, I was working with medical students and my colleague was discussing how different visual and auditory learners were in terms of the ways in which they approached the classroom, whether they took notes and even how they paraphrased what someone was saying. In this digital age, what kinds of learners exist and where does learning occur? How can we provide them with the necessary literacy tools to make sense of the sheer volume of information coming at them?
We recently had the opportunity to pose such questions to Dr Rhonda Robinson, a renowned educator and trainer of teachers and an international expert in visual literacy (look for her podcast coming to this blog next week!). In the realm of the mash-up where any image can be modified using photo shop, Dr Robinson has spent years encouraging children, young adults and graduate students to consider the ways in which images are produced, interpreted and consumed. Whether cutting up comic strips from newspapers as she did with middle school students or using Creativity Express to encourage the artists within her masters level graduate students, Dr Robinson has been a strong advocate for improving visual literacy, media literacy and now also digital literacy.
So what is visual literacy? The term “Visual Literacy” was first coined in 1969 by John Debes, one of the most important figures in the history of International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA). Debes’ offered (1969b, 27) the following definition of the term:
“Visual Literacy refers to a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences. The development of these competencies is fundamental to normal human learning. When developed, they enable a visually literate person to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols, natural or man-made, that he encounters in his environment. Through the creative use of these competencies, he is able to communicate with others. Through the appreciative use of these competencies, he is able to comprehend and enjoy the masterworks of visual communication.”
In an environment where “learning occurs everywhere” because of our access to technologies such as the television and the Internet, it would seem that improving Sensazione by paying attention to the images presented to us on a daily basis, asking questions about how they got to be the way they are, de-constructing them to see the alternative ways they could be put together and appreciating the perspectives different ‘readers’ of these images bring to bear might open up some interesting conversations about the world around us. It can be as simple as clipping out a newspaper cartoon or two and having your children rearrange them; or taking a variety of images and creating a collage; even buying a disposable camera and allowing children to take pictures of their daily lives (I did this once and it was so enlightening) a la Born into Brothels, a film sponsored by the organization Kids with Cameras. And just in case you think it is only children who appreciate such activities, click here to expand your own Sensazione (you have to love the way that word sounds – what image comes to mind?)!
With thanks to Mzelle Biscotte for their wonderful work!