Visual literacy plays key role in education

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:00am

The media world is becoming more visual.

We send electronic cards and animation clips as Christmas greetings. Newspapers are expanding their use of pictures and graphics to present the news. Video CDs are becoming more popular along with Japanese drama series which are distributed widely through this medium.

As communication becomes more visual, the importance of visual literacy in education will also increase.

Visual literacy is the ability to acquire knowledge through images, develop visual awareness and communicate through visuals.

Visual thinking is the ability to organise mental images in terms of shape, colours, textures and compositions. What emotions do these elements arouse? Do the colours convey a cold or warm feeling? What moods do the colours communicate? Are the textures rough or smooth? Is the composition of pictures symmetrical, dynamic or balanced? All these are visual elements that one can manipulate to communicate certain messages.

For example, how would you describe the Macau handover in visual terms? Perhaps as a string of images such as military processions, raising of the flags, fireworks, waving crowds and speeches? If the medium is the message as some communication theorists claim, what messages were contained in the event? Finally, visual communication is the ability to use the range of visual elements to express ideas.

If novels express internal feelings through words, visual narratives are expressions of internal feelings through external visual appearances and actions.

One could try to start creating a visual diary with pictures and and objects.

One could keep a visual record of one's family history through a collection of artifacts. What are the important objects that represent different areas of a family's experience and heritage? A pictorial story can be more powerful than a verbal one. We tend to remember things better through visuals.

One can start to develop visual sensitivity through visual awareness, thinking and communication.

It might open up a world of discovery and an effective means to express one's inner emotions.

Media education is a discipline run by youth organisation Breakthrough in which students learn how to use and criticise the media through the teaching of media awareness, media analysis and media creation. This column will present interesting aspects of the subject with examples from daily life