Friday, August 26, 2011

PL 48/11: Visual learning and teaching

Filed under: 1bib, graphics, LATINA, pictures — plinius @ 11:31 am

A. The lecture as a learning format

The traditional lecture consists of

  1. a group of students
  2. who listen
  3. and take notes
  4. a teacher who talks
  5. and who may write words
  6. and draw pictures
  7. on a blackboard
  8. in a lecture hall

Communication is

  1. one-to-many
  2. sp0ken
  3. with some written text (visual input)
  4. and some diagrams (graphics)

The format is adapted to information transfer:

  • from the head of the teacher
  • through the mouth of the teacher
  • into the ear of the student
  • through his/her hand
  • into the note book

If we are lucky, some of the information also remains in the head of the student.

The past

In a historical perspective,

  • the prepared lecture
  • the dedicated auditorium
  • the shared blackboard
  • the paper notebook

were important learning technologies.

The present

In our new digital environment, many other technologies are available. Other sensory channels can be used:

  • visual
  • auditive
  • kinesthetic

Let us take a look at the role of visual communication (pictures and graphics) in lectures (and other learning formats).

Three stages 

  1. Just talking
  2. Talking + slides (text only)
  3. Talking + slides (text + pictures + diagrams)

US examples


Slide presentations at a meeting:

These are (I think) rather typical of the presentations offered at conferences in 2011.


B. Practical experience

Big rather than small pictures

Contrast and interplay between text and picture

Second message

Good and “irrelevant” is better than relevant and dull

Faces are fascinating


Have fun

Watch the time

Work with pictures can easily take a lot of time.

  • Taking good pictures takes time.
  • Finding good pictures takes time.
  • Processing pictures takes a lot of time.

People who teach have to create new presentations all the time. People who blog regularly have to find new pictures all the time.

  • There are lots of guide books that will tell you how to create stunning pictures.
  • They don’t tell you how many hours you have to spend to get a single image just right.

Teachers and bloggers can seldom use days and days

  • to polish a single presentation
  • to fine-tune a single picture

Usually we have to be satisfied with visual work that is good enough, rather than outstanding.

People with experience should (I think) try to estimate how much time they need to prepare a presentation that is good-enough.

I have tried to calculate how many hours I need, on the average, to create a workable seven minute Pecha Kucha lecture with twenty slides, based on a familiar topic.   My guesstimate is four to five hours – or about fifteen minutes per slide.

C. Infographics

Wikipedia says:

  1. Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge.
  2. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly,such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education.
  3. Edward Tufte has written a series of highly regarded books on the subject of information graphics.


D. Finding and using pictures

A simple way of finding and reusing pictures – without breaking the law on copyright.

  1. Go to Google
  2. Search for “flickrcc”
  3. Go to flickrcc
  4. Enter a search term
  5. Look through (scan) a few pages of hits (thumbnails)

Select a picture you want to use

  1. Click on the thumbnail
  2. A larger version of the picture will appear
  3. Clicking on the link above the picture takes you to a much larger version, at flickr
  4. Copy the URL to this picture
  5. Right-click on the picture
  6. Select the size you want to download
  7. Download the picture to your PC

Open the document you want to illustrate.

  1. Include the downloaded picture in your document
  2. Add a link to the picture, using the URL to the original at flickr.
  3. The link shows that you attribute the picture to its owner.

This procedure can only be used for non-commercial purposes.

E. Exercise

Each participant will be assigned a particular month. Find a picture at flickrcc that can illustrate your month.

  1. January: Li Yu
  2. February: Fan Binge
  3. March: Jingru
  4. April: Chi Haoyang
  5. May: Heidi
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November: Tord
  12. December

Write a comment to this blog post (P 48/11) with the name of “your” month and a link to the picture (at flickr).

To illustrate, I have already done that for November.

If you have time …

Find a picture that you want to use for one of your own productions. Write a second comment to this blog post with a link to the new picture. Explain briefly (2-3 sentences) why you want to use this particular picture.

F. Resources






  1. November:

    Comment by plinius — Saturday, August 27, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  2. May:

    Comment by heidiko — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  3. I choose this picture to illustrate what is occupying me at the moment:

    The reason is that I am working with three very nice chinese students from the university in Haikou now, and last year I worked with them in China – where I bought my three chinese laternas.

    Comment by heidiko — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  4. February(Fan Binge)

    The reason I choose this picture is that it stands for the scenery in the February. The winter is past and the spring is coming soon. The grass is becoming green which is full of vitality.

    Comment by fanbinge — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  5. April. Chi haying

    Comment by Chi haoyang — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 9:01 am


    This photo is about January,I search via the flickrcc
    A bus bee,In my opinion ,whatever the flower or the backgroud is quite meaningful .
    It’s stoped time ,and I think it’s very beautiful.

    Comment by LIYU — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  7. Fan Binge :February
    Morning exercise
    The reason I choose this picture is that it stands for the scenery in the February. The winter is past and the spring is coming soon. The grass is be coming green which is full of vitality.

    Comment by fanbinge — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  8. Topic:China

    I choose the one about china painting ,and the chinese I Love You!

    Comment by LIYU — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  9. A Silent Evening in Kyoto Under the Cherry Blossoms


    The scene that I choose is the beautiful nature of April.The topic of this picture our colorful world.We can see the trees getting up strongly and flowers comes everywhere.

    Comment by Chi Haoyang — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 9:17 am

  10. From Jingru:

    Composition 5.01


    Comment by plinius — Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 10:31 am

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