Friday, November 20, 2015

#DigiWriMo: Visual Writing

The second week (yes - this is written in the third week) of digital writing month focused on the visual. In the Manitoba ELA Curriculum documents, the six language arts are described: Listening & Speaking, Reading & Writing, and Viewing & Representing. In my experience (as a teacher, principal, teacher educator) it is clear we value reading and writing above the others. No doubt all are dealt with in schools, perhaps more in some schools than in others, and in higher education it is clear that reading and writing dominate. The visual has always been important, but increasingly so in the digital world. The visual surrounds us and images can convey powerful ideas and emotions. I am currently reading the book Learning and the E-generation and in the chapter on visual literacy the author's state, "relying on traditional print as a means for literacy instruction can often restrict and marginalize learners." In my 'Using ICT in Education' course, we spend much time on using images and multimedia and explore ways to bring this powerful way of communicating into the classroom. We use digital images, infographics, video, and more - these ways of writing are not only important, but kids seem to love to create them as well.

I also value the visual in my own work and life. One of my personal interests is photography, I have taken part in photo of the day projects, and like to look at images on Instagram and Flickr to get ideas - and to see things from a different perspective. I also  enjoy taking my photos (or perhaps ones under a CC license) and create slides/posters - some are in my flickr stream. I share images on Instagram, Flickr, and Google photos. (Google photos is for my other interest - flight. Also see the Photo Project tab on this blog)

The power of visual writing was evident this past week. A colleague and I were working on revisions for a book chapter, one of the editor's comments was to include a visual timeline. We went to the chalkboard (yes, in the ed building we still have chalkboards in some rooms - and chalk actually helped us because the ease of shading ... but I digress) and began to sketch one out. As we did this and reflected on the work we were trying to illustrate, we had several insights into the research as our diagram became more complicated. To make this short - we now have a deeper understanding of the work we are doing - and an idea for a subsequent journal article. By sketching out various phases in the process, shading to illustrate certain ideas, seeing relationships that we did not think about before - these insights came clear and we had a great discussion.

Visual writing, by means of mind maps, were also important in my dissertation work. I found them invaluable to organize codes and themes in my data. They helped me see more data at a glance, see relationships, and generally make sense of the data. I started these by hand on large paper, then transferred them to MindMeister for ease of manipulation - and inclusion in the dissertation.

One of my posters (
So, back to DigiWriMo - the posts and items shared by participants have been great reading, I even managed to share a few 'eyes in the sky' photos' on the shared slideshow. The various forms of writing and sharing have been enlightening.


  1. This is a great post, Mike, and shows how the visual can inform the collaborative, and make visible some paths that might have been "silent" in written form

    1. Thank you, Kevin. As a math teacher in a previous career, I know the visual was also so important to help make certain concepts clearer.