top of page

Visual Literacy Is An Expression Of Thinking

In this lecture, Brian Kennedy lectures at TED and shows the connection between our vision and cognition - thinking.

He says that "visual literacy is the ability to build meaning from images."

Kennedy gave us a widespread definition of visual literacy.

The connection between what one sees and what one understands passes through interpretation.

Visual literacy is not a skill; this ability uses skills as its toolbox.

Visual literacy is a form of critical thinking that promotes a person's intellectual ability.

Brian says we started talking about visual literacy as early as 1969, but we "lost" this critical field because it was perceived as belonging to the arts and visual culture,

But today, we are facing a new era - the digital age.

What does all this mean, and how does it relate to visual literacy?

Our students are digital learners. They learn differently. But what does it mean?

What does it mean to be visually literate at an early age - before our digital age?
It is he who understands sign language before he understands the written word in print.
In the distant past-
If you look at the cave paintings - you do not see human figures there.
They looked out at the scenery and the animals.
If you look at the stained glass in the chapels of the Middle Ages, you see whole stories - in the paintings. The people could not read - they looked at the pictures and read the stories.
And today - we have cartoons, animation.

Today students expect to learn with visual representations - this is how they are used to experiencing the world - this is how they also know - through films, animations, pictures, diagrams, diagrams.

What is needed today is a connection between the text and the image.

Today, the literate person should read in combination information that comes in two channels - image and text.

According to the dual-channel assumption, our brain has two channels for processing information. One for visual/pictorial information and auditory/verbal data.

Visual literacy is essential for people as it allows them to communicate a universal language.

90% of the information we get from the world is visual.
Much of the interpretation of this information is culture-dependent.

30% of the brain is devoted to the processing of visual information.

We can process visual information 60 times faster than verbal information.

Brian wants to promote the perception that one has to observe and see things instead of rushing and missing out.

And yes - listen, not just hear and move on.

It is about paying attention to the information we perceive in the senses to process this information.

It is a slow-looking process




Interpret - build meaning from it.

Brian refers to the periodic table of elements in the visual language-

The periodic table of visual elements

Visual literacy promotes the ability to classify things and encourages discourse on the difference and similarities between things.

Images can well connect our senses and evoke emotion.

And thus promote our ability to remember and memorize the details so that we can later retrieve them - to recognize and adapt the remembered details to new information or a question.

Is not that what we want, as teachers?

Brian offers an observation test - asks the audience to close their eyes, and asks - what is the color of my tie? What is the number written on the race car on stage?

Then say - open your eyes - really open them!

Visual literacy is actually "opening the eyes" - paying more attention to what we experience through the sense of sight.

Try in class: Now, remember what appears on the whole board in your classroom.

What did a specific child wear yesterday?

Try asking the kids - while they are not in class - ask them what they can remember displayed on the walls?

And while they are in the classroom - ask what is in the hallway outside the classroom? In the school lobby?

You will discover very quickly what they recall from learning.

There is a connection between what children remember and what they have learned. They store long-term memory information (textual, visual, and more) they organized to use later when needed.

Understanding the connection between cognition, visual literacy, and teaching-learning is essential for us teachers.

Good luck, 21st-century teachers.

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page