“In Other Words” – Why is Teaching with Images so Effective? (Part 2)

Over a period of five days, I plan to blog about the research and history behind the idea of teaching with pictures. It’s actually quite fascinating, and sets up our release of three Habitudes® resources this month. First, we took a brief look at history and how the human race engaged various cultures with images. Yesterday, we examined four ways that visuals stimulate learning. Below we finish this list, in part three.

5. Images engage our right brain and our emotions.

In his book “A Whole New Mind”, bestselling author Daniel Pink reminds us of our need for more right-brained communication. The left hemisphere is didactic: it’s about numbers, equations and facts. It’s calculated and definitive. The right-hemisphere is about creativity. It’s innovative and dynamic. It gravitates toward images, which grip and educate the other portions of our mind. Certainly both hemispheres are necessary and work best in tandem with each other, but more and more, our world is driven by right-brain thought. This is a big concern considering what’s happening today in public schools. With a poor economy, budget cuts have occurred nationwide and the first courses that tend to be eliminated are right-brain ones like art, music, and drama. Educators and mentors of the next generation must find creative ways to engage the right-brain if we really want to connect with them.


6. Pictures make us want to express and respond.

It’s been said so often, it has become a cliché: a picture is worth a thousand words. But the fact is, the statement is true. Images engage people and elicit response. It’s why art galleries foster conversation as viewers gaze at the pictures. Visual literacy is the ability to encode (create a visual language) and decode (understand a visual language). Unwittingly, this begins to happen when people invest time with imagery. Jensen reveals that our eyes can register and process 36,000 visual messages per hour. Visuals are so engaging they make people want to talk. Call me the master of the obvious, but in a classroom, I believe this equals student engagement.

7. Visuals tell stories in our imagination.

A simple picture can spark a new thought each time you look at it. Why? Pictures tell stories. The philosophers of our day are musicians and filmmakers, who paint pictures in our minds and inspire imaginations. They both use a screen. What’s more, since 40% of all nerve fibers connected to our brain are linked to the retina, it’s clear that what we see is intricately connected to how we think, feel, and learn. Film director Martin Scorsese said, “If one wants to reach younger people at an earlier age to shape their minds in a critical way, you really need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed visually.”

8. Pictures enable us to store volumes of information in our memories.

I know undergraduate students who memorize for their final examinations using images and diagrams. They create them. A single picture can contain vast amounts of data, which enables long-term memory. Visuals actually help us file information. In 2000, Hyerle informed us that 90% of the information that is retained in the brain is visual. It appears obvious that images and visual aids should be the standard format for memorization and learning.

9. Images are the oldest form of curriculum and the preferred method for learning today.

Research by Peter Houts, PhD, states that people in contemporary society prefer pictographs to words for instruction. This is likely true for every generation young or old but certainly for today’s emerging generation. Furthermore, his research showed that students who are twice as exceptional as others (“2e”) are usually visual learners. So from the cave walls and pyramids of the ancient world, to the classrooms of today, young people prefer to learn from images. Some of the best communicators in history taught using the power of the metaphor and image—from Jesus and his parables, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous speech about dreams during the Civil Rights movement. The cycle of history seems complete.

Tomorrow, I plan to post the fourth part of this series—and whet your appetite to engage students with images, stories and conversations.


Join the party in celebrating the 10th Anniversary of….

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes

We are releasing 3 Habitudes resources this month!


“In Other Words” - Why is Teaching with Images so Effective? (Part 2)