Monday, February 11, 2008

The Electrifying Sign Language of Images

"Criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language of images." -Camille Paglia

As a visual learner, I've always valued the clarity and immediacy of images. Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 Rule makes great sense to me:
“A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”
Today I attended a workshop conducted by a very knowledgeable retired school superintendent. The audience, composed of administrators, teachers, and librarians, was pre-disposed to like this gentleman. The information he shared with us was valuable and timely. He used an overhead projector to share text, statements, and quotations. We were given a set of questions to answer, but there was little interaction, except for a few polite questions. Everyone learned a lot, but it seemed like a very long day and participants did not linger after filling out mandatory evaluation sheets.

It didn't have to be that way. A key topic the presenter discussed was having high school students complete culminating projects as a graduation requirement. One anecdote was about a boy who decided to build a boat. The story was interesting, but a vital element was missing: photographs of the student, the process, the finished vessel.

Another senior learned how to skydive. He took lessons at a local airfield, kept a detailed journal, and perform an actual jump in front of the project judges. Again, this was the perfect opportunity for a picture or even a video clip, but all we got were words.

Inspired by the "design evangelism" of Dan Meyer and Scott McLeod, English teacher Damian Bariexca transformed an informative but text heavy slideshow on medieval anti-Semitism into a stunning visual representation that is sure to draw students' attention.

French photographer Robert Doisneau said that
"Nowadays people's visual imagination is so much more sophisticated, so much more developed, particularly in young people, that now you can make an image which just slightly suggests something, they can make of it what they will."
and author/producer Peter Russell adds
"Information is recorded in vast interconnecting networks. Each idea or image has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of associations and is connected to numerous other points in the mental network."
By providing images to spark connections, we can extend and deepen understanding. We can create memorable pictures that linger in the mind long after a presentation is over.

“For such an advanced civilization as ours to be without images that are adequate to it is as serious a defect as being without memory.” -Werner Herzog

"medal for meddling" by gilesbooth
"kit parts" by dwstucke
"interior coated with epoxy" by dwstucke
"Skydiving 006" by wonderjunkie

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