Technology and the Visual Learner

I am a visual learner.  Once a friend jokingly asked me, "Do you see numbers in your head?" when I explained I could mentally visualize math computation.  He clearly wasn't a visual thinker!  I do see numbers, faces, images, whole book pages, locations, maps, directions, places, and words. I am a visual learner and, yes, visual learners see things in their heads. Visual learners can be supported with a variety of technology tools.

When I consider differentiating by learning style, I consider two things . . .

  1. My teaching
  2. Student learning

My Teaching:  First, I consider what I need to teach and how best to share information or organize a learning experience.  To help me support visual learners (and other learning styles), I use the strategy teach around the wheel.  Teaching around the wheel refers to using multiple modalities throughout your lesson in an effort to present content using students' preferred modality.  Students develop a deeper understanding of important concepts when information is present using a variety of modalities.

When planning lessons, I generally consider my class using three broad learning style categories: visual-auditory-kinestetic.  These three categories support a variety of learners and help me vary my instruction while not bogging me down.  Some lessons I broaden my categories and utilize multiple intelligence data for my class.  Technology offers teachers a wealth of resources to differentiate for visual (and other) learners! Many of the tools below can help a teacher teach around the wheel.

Student Learning: When differentiating what students do during a lesson, teachers can vary the content, process or product according to their students learning styles.  For example, teachers might offer their students a variety of tools to share their new learning.  Some students may choose visual formats (photo essay or comic strip) while auditory learners may prefer a podcast or Photostory.  Kinestetic learners often enjoy creating videos.  Technology supports many learning styles and can be helpful when considering your visual learners. 

Using Web 2.0 for Visual Learners: There are many web 2.0 tools that teachers can use to challenge and support visual learners. This list isn't exhaustive, but it does contain some of my favorite tools:

  • Youtube . . .  Video sharing sites provide teachers with educational video clips that can help visual learners grasp complex concepts. For example, I recently had a group reading a Scholastic Storyworks article on the Hindenburg.  The article is written from the point of view of a survivor.  Prior to reading this article, I shared a short clip of the disaster. This helped them gain a deeper understanding of this historical event.  Educational video content is widely available on the internet. You only want to show part of a video?  No problem!  Try TubeChop . . . this easy site allows you to trim a Youtube clip to include just the segments you want.

  •  Glogster  . . . Glogs are interactive, multimedia posters.  Glogster is a great place for a visual learner to share their new learning or the results of research. With a little practice and some peer coaching, all students quickly get the hang of how it works.  An added benefit I've noticed is with kids that have fine motor issues.  They often struggle with neatness when creating posters with markers and crayons.  This is not an issue with a glog.  Glogs print well in color and are easily displayed on bulletin boards or can be embedded on blog or wiki pages.  

  • Google Earth . . . Visual learners benefit from mapping out important locations and seeing (street view, images) historical settings, locations in a book, and places they are learning about.  Google Earth can help students visual landforms (i.e. river deltas), view changes on Earth and even visit the moon!  Consider trying a Google Lit Trip with your next read aloud or literature group.  

  • Spezify . . . This visual search engine uses images to share search results.  Visual learners may find visual search engines easier when researching information online.  Search Cube is another option for visual search engines.

  • GoAnimate  . . . Creating animated videos is a great way for visual learners to create projects.  The video below shows how easy it is to use GoAnimate to create a book review.

  • Bitstrips for Education  . . . This is a very easy to use comic strip creator.  Students create a comic strip character to represent themselves and then create comics using their characters and their classmates! One of my students created a great three-panel strip on bullying.  This is a fee-based tool worth looking at if you have the funding.  However, there are many free comic creators available too.  You may want to try Make Beliefs Comix or ReadWriteThink's Comic Creator for free and easy to use options.

  • . . . Creating graphic organizers and timelines are easy with! Visual learners appreciate the concise visual representations.  This tool can be used by teachers to share information visually or by students to represent their learning. 

  • Prezi . . . This tool replaces tired Powerpoint presentations.  Update your lessons by presenting information using Prezi! Check out a prezi I recently used to clarify misconceptions about polar regions.   Teachers (and students) can create dynamic presentations with Prezi. 

    • Microsoft Movie Maker . . . Many visual learners think in "movies" and are very successful creating movies for projects or to demonstrate what they've learned. If you're a Mac user, try using iMovie. This is not a web 2.0 tool, but is a free download.

    • Photostory 3 . . . . This is a quick and easy way for visual learners to share their new learning.  Students upload images, add text, narration and background music to easily create videos.  Visual learners enjoy creating documentaries and creating digital "books" of their stories. This is not a web 2.0 tool, but is a free download.

    DIw/Tech in a Nutshell:  Students are more successful learning new skills and concepts when teachers differentiate the content, process and product according to their students' learning styles.  Many free web 2.0 tools support greater student learning and independence when used to differentiate for visual learners.

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