Monthly Archives: October 2014

Visualization for Learning

As I explore the potentials of media production for learning, I am brought again and again to the idea of visualization as a learning strategy. What exactly is it about making our own representations (visual or other nonlinguistic modes) that helps us to better understand the content we are exploring?

Visual notetaking

“Drawing in Class: Visual Notetaking” Rachel Smith TEDx

I know that some describe this process as one of Dual Coding (Clark and Paivio, 1991), in that creating representations in both linguistic and nonlinguistic modes requires us to process the information using distinct yet interconnected “codes.”  Others describe the process of visualization in terms of multimodality (Gunther & Kress, 2001) and transmediation (Suhor, 1984), which both posit more sophisticated understandings of information when translation across multiple modes. Visual note-taker, Rachel Smith, describes her process of visual notetaking as focused listening.  (Check out her TEDx talk featured above “Drawing in Class“). Whatever the case, I see, feel, and at times even hear, the difference and depth of learning that occurs when learners are asked to visualize what they know.

In sharing this finding with teacher candidates who want to know what they can do tomorrow to promote learning in their content areas, I find that there is little out there exploring digital composition as form of content learning beyond anecdotal descriptions of increased motivation. While motivation is integral to learning, I’m curious to know more about how the messy work of multimodal composition contributes to deeper learning and comprehension.

Below are a list of resources that start exploring the question on just the levels of drawing and sketching as vehicles for deeper learning.  I hope to add to this understanding with resources that discuss more involved forms of visualization and representation such as media production and sound design.


  • Albright (2002) – Engaging adolescent readers with picture book read-alouds in the content areas
  • Bruce (2011) – Reframing the Text: Using Storyboards to Engage Students in Reading
  • Hasset & Schieble (2007) – Finding Space and Time for the Visual in K-12 Literacy Instruction
  • Hibbing (2002) – Using Visual Images to Improve Comprehension for Struggling Reader
  • Schmidt (2013) – Sketch as Response and Assessment: From Misunderstanding to Better Judgement

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