Visual Literacy in Higher Education Term Paper

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..now requires understanding and manipulating the processes used to create messages in the modern world" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22) in fact the student is expected to be able to decode the information from various types of media. However the equally important point is also made that this expanding definition of what literacy comprises does not "...diminish the importance of traditional reading and writing skills; rather, it recognizes the increasing importance of information and communication technology" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22).

This is an important caveat to the enthusiastic embrace of modern technology and visual aspects of modern teaching. In other words, while visual literacy has become more important and while this aspect is closely linked to the use of modern technological tools such as computer, yet the basics of teaching and education should not be forgotten. Of equal importance however is the view that; "Today's students live in a world where more and more information is communicated through a video screen. The habits of mind fostered through media interactions really do need to be understood by everybody" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22).

The impact on higher education and employment

The above discussion has already suggested the importance that visual literacy has for the age in which we live and particularly for higher education. As was briefly noted, the student who emerges into society from schools has to be 'marketable." In other words he or she must have the necessary requirements that will enable that individual to find a position and employment in the world. The literature clearly points out that visual literacy has become a prerequisite to employment in many disciplines and fields. In particular the medical and nursing fields are reliant on visual literacy to cope with the modern medical and health care environment.

Another facet of this issue that is explored in the literature is the view that in the modern world much of the resource material and data that is necessary in all disciples is contained in forms which require good visual literary to access and understand. For example,"... our age requires that students learn to read all media... For where are the primary source materials of all the disciplines if not prismatized throughout the media? (Levison, 1994, p.3) Therefore the understanding of visual media leads to the ability to decode a computer interface in order to access the data.

This aspect is also emphasizes by important theorists like Howard Gardner who states that; "The very notion of literacy is being altered.... To function in hypermedia, to read and design Web pages and embark on computer-based projects, one must orchestrate a fresh amalgam of graphic, linguistic, and auditory literacies. " (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22)

Adding to the consensus on this topic is Hoffman (2000) who contends that;

visual literacy is a requirement for clear thinking in the 21st Century. In most education systems, visual literacy is taught only to art students, or to those who want to become photographers or video producers. but, in our visual age we all could benefit by better understanding visuals, especially those that appear in the media. (Hoffmann, 2000, p. 219)

Other studies state that using visual techniques can help students not only to focus on their lessons but also retain information and improve their psychomotor skills. (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22)

Therefore in terms of education and the preparation of the student for the world, the teacher and tutor at high school has to take these developments into account. Once the importance of visual literacy is understood this necessities an exchange not only in the way that teachers structure their lessons but, even more importantly, leads to changes in the curricula that incorporate this understanding of the importance of visual literacy.

There is also a prevalent view in the literature that visual education in schools has been neglected and on many levels is "...barely touched upon -- if they are covered at all" (Oring, 2000, p. 58). Research also emphasizes the reasons for the inclusion of visual literacy in the curriculum. For example, "...Visual language creates a doorway to understanding and perception that cannot be experienced through verbal communication. We become aware of our surroundings and see things and their relationships to other things in a new way. (Oring, 2000, p. 58)

Curriculum development

As the above discussion suggests, the literature has tended towards an acknowledgment of the importance of visual literacy in education. This entails the questions of curriculum developed. Adams and Hamm (2000) state that the debate that has ensued about the "old" and " new" forms of literacy in the curriculum is extremely important. They describe this debate as, "The struggle is between worthy opponents contending for a larger share of the pedagogical picture" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22). This relates to the central questions of the structure and development of the modern educational curriculum; for example, whether more time should be allocated to the visual and media aspects of learning and literacy.

Educationists are of the opinion that that visual literacy will be more important than ever in the future. (Adams & Hamm, 2000) This view refers to the extended definition of visual literacy in the literature. Visual literacy is; '...the ability to comprehend and create visuals in a variety of moving and static media in order to communicate effectively. This involves components of writing, reading, comprehension, visual interpretation, critical evaluation, and production" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22). Taken in this context many studies find that the adjustment and reassessment of school curricula is becoming essential.

However the develop of new curricula in terms of visual literacy also presents a number or practical problems. Foremost among these is the close connection between visual learning and technology. This means that schools and teaching institutions have to acquire not only costly modern equipment but also train staff to use these facilities correctly. Many educators see these problems as secondary to the importance of the primary education goals that require visual literacy to be taught. (Adams & Hamm, 2000) This has led educators to state that the curriculum must be reformulated to include visual literacy as a central aspect in any particular curriculum. At the same time care should also be taken to determine the way that this technology is used. "The curriculum should drive the way technology is used" (Adams & Hamm, 2000, p. 22).

Other suggestions in the literature regarding the development of curricula posit even more adventurous approaches. An example of this is the virtual curriculum. This involves the use of advances in internet technology such as email and networked Web pages. Garton (1997) state that; "It is argued that the activities of schools on the Internet have the potential to create a new virtual curriculum, bypassing education authorities, and making possible school participation in global multimedia activities" (Garton, 1997, p.209). Furthermore these new forms of literacy also mean new literacy practices; which in turn reflect on the development of more appropriate curricula.

Garton and other have also noted that the omission of online literacies and multi-literacies from recent curriculum initiatives is short - sighted. This reluctance to embrace literacy skills is based on the fact that technical devices such as computers are often seen as nothing more than tools to facilitate older patterns of learning. Furthermore, "It is also tempting for education systems to ignore the implications of online literacy when confronted with the huge burden of curriculum change already going on in schools, and the high cost of new technology" (Garton, 1997, p.209). However it should also be realized that visual literacy and its incorporation into the curriculum is not something that can be easily ignored. "...curriculum renewal incorporating information technology across the curriculum is vital to the language and literacy enterprise in schools" (Garton, 1997, p.209).

5. Conclusion

There is an ongoing debate in the education arena about the impact and importance of both visual literacy and technology in the high school and other educational levels. On the one hand there are those who advocate visual literacy and who are positive about the outcomes of including this form of literacy in disciplines like nursing education. Others are however concerned that the inclusion of visual literacy will mean that the curriculum will become overly "tecnnologized" and that the older forms and modes of teaching and learning will be lost. (Garton, 1997, p.209)

The correct path forward lies between these two extremes. However what is certain from the literature is that visual literacy is something that is becoming increasingly important. This is evidenced by the fact that students are being exposed to media and visual literacy on a daily basis. As one pundit states; "First, remember that the students now entering the hallowed halls of higher education are digital natives who grew up in a multimedia world and are most comfortable with technology"

Skiba). In this light the incorporation of visual literacy to some extent in all educational curricula has become…[continue]

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