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Practical Workshop for Developing Visual Literacy - Step by Step

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

I want to share the stages of a workshop I conducted at a Center for Teachers' professional development with my colleague Sigal Naamani.

The participants were 20 principals and heads of education departments from Nigeria, India, Croatia, and more, who came to learn about Israeli schools and teachers.

The 'Ofri Center' in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized this learning exposition.

The purpose of the workshop was to advance pedagogy insights on

the use of visual representation for learning and communication.

If you are curious - scroll to the bottom of the page - to watch a video capturing some insights following this workshop.

Mentors can implement visual literacy workshops in teacher PD courses to influence k-12 classrooms.

All it takes is three sets of graphic representation cards.

1. Photocards (here we used photos of people expressing different emotions)

2. Cards of illustrations on the same subjects of the photographs

3. Cards of various signs

The workshop is composed of several stages

At each stage, I will describe the instruction I gave, then attach a video.

Of the teachers and principals who attended the workshop perform the task.

Guidance -Step One:

We scattered the cards on the floor.

We asked the participants to split into pairs and choose one photo.

A pair must hold two opposite visual messages.

After a short time, couples were having photographs of opposite meanings.

Participants were required to avoid talking to each other.

The purpose of the activity was to promote opportunity and find ways to communicate non-verbally based solely on visual messages.

and then

We divided the participants into groups of 4 participants.

We asked them to select only one pair of cards and discuss couples building two different stories on the same two cards.

The purpose of the activity was to learn from experience and reach this understanding:

The interpretation of photographs is highly subjective.

From any two photographs, one can construct a completely different story.

The stories -step one:

(See two videos of different stories about the same pair of photos)

Guidance - Step Two:

We scattered illustration cards on the floor and asked participants to work in pairs

and adjust the photo card to an illustration card.

Most participants could not read the text in Hebrew. Accordingly, the task allowed them to ignore the interpretation of the text altogether.

The aim was to reflect and discuss the different interpretations participants gave to the photos and illustrations*.

Insights were as follows-

Illustration, like photography, allows for different and subjective interpretations.

However, compared with photography, illustration reduces information.

Therefore, an informed choice of illustration for learning

should be carefully designed and include detailed learning task instructions.

The paired cards - Step Two:

* During card matching, there were several photographs and illustrations

that had no match despite all attempts.

The conclusion was that the photographs or illustrations have multiple interpretations by the participants.

Guidance - Step three:

We scattered illustration cards showing different road signs on the floor, and we asked the participants to build overall multimedia representation **

The photo + illustration + road sign or an abstract symbol appears on a blank card.

** Multimedia representation = two or more representations that use a different symbolic language combined in one representation.

For example - text and photography, road signs and illustration, map + text + photography, and more.

Background to this task-

Constructing or drawing a representation is one of the essential visual literacy skills.

A sign is a very abstract symbolic representation (more symbolic than an illustration),

And - it has a specific meaning worldwide.

Its interpretation is uniform even if the cultures are different.

Drawing such an abstract symbol is an easy task to perform,

and anyone can accomplish it (no drawing or illustration knowledge is required).

The cognitive challenge is to design a symbol that matches the desired message.

Multimedia illustraions - Step three:

Some multimedia displays include ready-made signs

And some are schematic representations that participants drew themselves.

The test: Was the multimedia message designed clear enough for everyone who reads it?

In this group - the participants come from entirely different cultures and countries.
Designing a clear multimedia display for this group requires the designer to convey information to multicultural readers.

Through the practical experience of the participants-

designing a multimedia message and asking to give an interpretation -

Has the message been understood as intended?

Feedback from their peers is vital for building insights and learning.

Some of the participants think that the exercise is appropriate for their classrooms-

watch this video:

Final step: Summary of the workshop


I asked the participants to provide a personal mind map

to reflect their learning.

(Learning also included a visit to an Israeli school in the city of Bat Yam

and a workshop on ten fundamental principles to design constructive learning environments).

The summary task - a mind map describing what participants learned-

watch this video:

I thank the group of participants

and my friend Sigal Naamani

for a successful workshop.

I enjoyed the workshop and learned.

Good luck, 21st-century teachers!

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