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Keys to using Visual Thinking in the classroom

Keys to using Visual Thinking in the classroom
Keys to using Visual Thinking in the classroom

Technique or a tool used to organize and represent thoughts through drawings. According to studies carried out, it is the “methodology” least used by teachers. However, Visual Thinking in the classroom can be very easy to implement and bring many benefits.

What is Visual Thinking?

We can define Visual Thinking (VT) or “visual thinking” as a tool that consists of turning over and manipulating ideas through simple and easily recognizable drawings, creating connections between them by means of mental maps. The goal is to better understand ideas, identify problems, discover solutions, simulate processes and also generate new ideas

While it is a very fashionable concept today, it has always been used. It is, in fact, something innate to the human condition. Since ancient times, man has made visual representations to tell stories, express ideas or solve problems. The clearest example is that of the cave paintings: in addition to being the oldest artistic manifestation that we have news of, thanks to these paintings the men of prehistory were able to organize everything from community tasks to hunting. It is a very useful tool that gives results because 80% of our brain is designed to assimilate and process images, so it takes less effort than reading a text. In this way, when you see an idea through your eyes, and not just your mind, you are expanding your capacity for understanding and synthesis, unleashing shared processes of thought, dialogue, design and action.

What are its advantages?

  • The images are fast. This means that the quickest way to clear up complexity is not discussion or data analysis but drawing. Our visual mind consumes more than half of the brain’s neurons and processes information thousands of times faster than speaking.
  • Visual alignment. The best way to share an idea is to get it out. According to Roam “drawing for clarity is not art; drawing is a good clarified thought”. This is so because by drawing we are understanding, organizing, internalizing, interpreting and personalizing learning.
  • The images are “empathetic.” When we expose what happens to us and share our perspective through drawings, we enable in the other a process of listening and empathy.
  • As other benefits of this tool we can add:
  • Memorization Information we see is more easily retained than information transmitted solely through speech.
  • It assumes a leading and active role for the student. In addition, it can be used at any educational level.
  • Keep the focus. Many times, it is difficult to capture the attention of students for long periods of time. Especially today, that our attention is very fleeting due to the habits we develop with digital technology. By working in groups on these visual dynamics, they keep students in the present and promote concentration.
  • Soft skills. In addition to improving memory and concentration, it also contributes to creative and emotional development and promotes reflection on the student’s own learning.
  • It combines with everything. The VT can be perfectly combined with different learning methodologies. Thus, it can be a fundamental part of Project Learning, Gamification, Flipped Classroom or Cooperative Learning.

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How to apply Visual Thinking in the classroom?

  • To start implementing the VT in the classroom, you need some basic elements such as pencils, paper, markers or sketch notes. There are many applications and web resources that can help us develop visual thinking, however experts recommend carrying out Visual Thinking on physical materials rather than digital ones.
  • Use the blackboard. Taking advantage of one of the most common elements in the classroom, you can introduce a difficult topic to explain with words by drawing. You can start by drawing some ideas on the board and trying to get the students to establish a relationship between them and the topic.
  • Visual notes. It is a very practical method that is used to synthesize any type of speech, explanation or reading. It is a graphic representation of ideas in which different elements are used: arrows, symbols, frames, pictures, among others. It is ideal for improving students’ comprehension and concentration skills and greatly encourages creativity.
  • In the classroom, a mural can be made with the help of the students. Each one can contribute an idea about the subject, relying on texts, images or graphics, the idea is that they can synthesize the information with the help of this technique.
  • There are several very simple practices that can be carried out in the classroom:
  • Check-in and check-out: with this exercise you can check how the students in your class feel before starting with a topic and at the end of it. They are asked how they feel about the topic learned or the activity and they must express it with an emoticon. At the end of the day, the week or the quarter you can see the evolution through the drawings. Ideal for promoting group participation
  • Feedback board. It is also used to see the evolution of the group with respect to a topic or activity. Post-it notes are given to all students and their opinion is asked, what they learned or did not understand at the end of a given topic. Then, the post-its are grouped by similarity and conclusions are drawn about it.
  • Visual presentation of the topic. One or two students are selected and while the teacher is explaining the topic, the chosen students must gradually translate what is being explained into very simple drawings or concept maps. This encourages participation and also keeps the focus of the students.

Criticisms of Visual Thinking

This tool has been the object of criticism, above all, referring to the fact that not everyone has the gift of drawing, while it may take to put a simple concept on paper or exclude the textual part.

In relation to the gift of drawing, most of the examples that we can see are sketches of basic and simple lines. In addition, this type of drawing usually uses dates, geometric shapes and different types of fonts. And with respect to the time invested in drawing, it must be taken into account that it involves the internalization, understanding, interpretation and organization of ideas or knowledge that we make our own.