Visual Literacy

Theo Kuechel, Jeff Beaudry and Sarah Ritz-Swain | View as single page |

How does visual literacy relate to other literacies?

Visual literacy is analogous to the traditional literacy of reading and writing, with grammar syntax and tone and meaning (See Figure 1). Traditional forms of literacy include reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and Sinatra (1986) suggested expanding the model to include viewing (observing and experiencing), visual representation, and digital, media technology (See Figure 3).  Sinatra (1986) presented a model of literacy development that included four interactive phases:  phase 1 - visual literacy, phase 2 - oral literacy, phase 3 - written literacy, and phase 4 – visual representation and communication. Digital  literacy is a rapidly evolving mode of learning involving interaction with computer hardware, software, and information technologies. Visual literacy is the interaction of all literacies. 

Figure 3: Visual Literacy (Sinatra, 1986)

It is a priori that most of us will interact with visual media at least as much, if not more, through digital formats than with analogue media. The digital interfaces we use to access communicate and share information are highly visual, they are evolving a common and shared visual metaphor. Social media is highly dependent on visual cues, including avatars and icons to signify emotional responses. Images can be recorded and captured instantly using mobile devices, it might be film of a scientific experiment, a teacher’s notes, or a class wiki all updated in real time. Such data can then be instantly shared, converted or repurposed annotated to create a new resource.

The Internet has enabled the most flexible and seamless way of accessing and creating and sharing visual material. It is changing the dynamics of learning.

The following references are part of the evidence base for this resource.

Adesope, O., and Nesbit, J. (2009). A systematic review of research on collaborative learning and concept mapping. Handbook of Research on Collaborative Learning and Concept Mapping. Torres, P. and Marriott, R. (Eds.). Hershey, PA: IGI Publications.

Belshaw. D., (2013) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacy v.07,   

Andersen. M.,  Wagner, J., and Warner. B., (2002) Visual Literacy The Internet & Education,