"Use a picture. It's worth a thousand words."
Or in other words when we look at an image it provides a direct route to long term memory. When an image comes to mind, a concept becomes clear, thus improving understanding. Human brains in fact are an image processor rather than a word processor. Think how a logo is a visual cue to a brand. Starbucks for example, simplified their logo by removing the Starbucks name leaving only the image of the mermaid. The Nike tick is another example. Images can be used to stimulate, recall, and reinforce and addresses learning barriers a student might have.
Uses of images in teaching and learning
As discussed in the previous section, images can be used for a number of reasons. In this section, we will discuss suggestions of practical uses of images within teaching and learning, although it is not a comprehensive list.
The list does not differentiate between types of image eg photographic, vector, chart or graph. So in looking at the examples below, some thought has to be given to the subject area and pedagogy: the appropriate use of the images within teaching and learning materials and the appropriate 'type' of image to represent the concept.
- To illustrate concepts and to show examples of what you are talking about during a lecture when you can't visit the real thing (eg building site practices; 3D model of Roman villa) or see the item (eg chemical model)
- To inspire discussion of a topic, looking at multiple aspects and contexts (eg general history, social history, industrial history)
- To enforce and extend language and common terms of the object being discussed, using subject-specific terminology (eg archaeological items from excavations)
- To categorise within a subject discipline and potentially build reference collections for student project work and research
- To teach diagnosis and treatment (eg medical, dental and veterinary images)
- To lead onto extension exercise tasks, eg research and source other images of that topic (e.g. Neo-Classical architectural style - key buildings and features, key architects)
- To stimulate students writing a story/poem about that image - enhancing creative and language skills
- To encourage team work and foster collaboration and the sharing of a learning experience (eg group-based project work)
- To encourage students to become independent learners (eg through the use of distance learning and VLE materials)
- To encourage critical thinking skills (eg describing a photograph from many different viewpoints)
- To illustrate case studies (eg where text may prove to be slightly ambiguous an image can define points)
- To enhance visual communication skills (eg decoding the message from a photograph)
- To help identify emotions and mood (eg from documentary evidence)
- To document an event and analyse practice (eg taking images via a digital camera of a student show to provide documentation and analysis, field work)
- To assess students' knowledge, understanding and observational skills (eg Art History, Medicine)
- As a prompt to get students to research all aspects of a topic (eg mineral: mineral form, what type of rock formation found in, mineral assaying techniques, mining operations, industrial processing techniques and uses of that mineral)