Visual Literacy: Now You See It– What Does It Mean?

Hello all:
I’m continuing with some details about my working definition of digital literacy.  (See The last posts were about metacognition and information literacy. Today’s post is about visual literacy.

Visual literacy for me is obtaining meaning from and correctly relating images to each other so that they enhance your understanding of the world around you.

Dr. Todd Finley in his Edutopia blog post* gives a terrific and short definition for visual literacy. He writes that visual literacy should help students “think through, think about, and think with pictures”.

As we see and interpret images long before we understand the written language, the opportunity to teach youngsters to comprehend the direct and the implied message of images starts right away! The challenge for we digital immigrants to teach visual literacy to digital natives with all that technology exposes us to is sometimes daunting.

Yet the sooner we start, the sooner we will see success!
Share your thoughts!

* (View his post to see specific strategies he gives for teaching visual literacy.)


Visual Literacy: Where Do I Start?

To be visually literate  means that you get understanding  from the images around you.*

The images ** can come through:

  • Advertisements
  • Cartoons
  • Charts and tables
  • Collage
  • Comic books
  • Diagrams
  • Dioramas
  • DVDs
  • Graphic Novels
  • Graphs
  • Icons
  • Magazines
  • Maps
  • Photos
  • Pictograms
  • Political cartoons
  • Signs
  • Slide shows
  • Storyboards
  • Symbols
  • Timelines
  • Videos
  • Websites
    Today, of course, these images can be seen on your tablet, cell phone, and computer. While you are viewing these images stop and ask yourself questions. A few to start with are:
  • What am I suppose to learn from this image?
  • What was the reason the creator/author put this image in document, in this manner?
    Is the image placed where it is for entertainment or educational reasons?
Dr. Todd Finley** of East Carolina University adds to the visual literacy conversation by suggesting you ask about what’s going on in the picture and what makes you come to that conclusion?

I even strongly caution again that you really think to verify the concepts of what the images suggest through other websites and what’s in print. Better yet, wait a few days or weeks before reaching a conclusion. If the images were posted or printed to get you excited, the real story will be revealed soon enough.

Do share your thoughts. There is much that can be added here!

* See

** Dr. Finley’s questions and credit for the images’ list i is from