I have often joked that my favorite week in school was the “using visual aids” week. When you go to college to be a teacher, using visual aids is one of the topics covered. I learned all about using visual aids in classrooms. Yeah, don’t laugh.
I use my eyeballs a lot and I like to touch things. So when a topic is being addressed I like to be able to touch it, or at least see it. Thank goodness for PowerPoint right? Does all that visual aid stuff for you right? Some colorful bulleted lists and maybe a picture or two and you got some kinda killer visual aids. Well, not really. Ask any student.
Some courses lean more towards easily accessible visual aids. Science courses for example. There are all kinds of cool things you can bring to class for science. Bones you find in your back yard, pretty flowers, or moldy bread. And the classrooms themselves are full of things to play with and touch. To smell and to get hurt using. Other courses, like psychology or advanced business courses may be more challenging. None the less, you can have fancy visual aids to help articulate and detail examples from the field of work you are studying in any course. It just takes some imagination.
I don’t teach English anymore. But when I did, I used serious visual aids sometimes. We usually call them “field trips.” To me, they were just another visual aid that helped students better understand the multidimensional topics we covered. I had them draw the rock they saw in Bryce Canyon. I had them read about conservation in Yosemite. I used some big visual aids in my classrooms.
Now I do “teacher training” and I really can’t use the phrase “visual aids.” Sounds like I am talking about middle school right? But not really. I employ fancy colors, big pieces of paper, and sometimes old t-shirts to really bring a point home. Yeah, keep laughing.
We make big handouts four our faculty. pic.twitter.com/7JW43HmdJ7
— Todd Conaway (@Todd_Conaway) September 21, 2016
Sometimes, I use websites. But not store bought websites. My own websites. The difference there is like bringing store bought cookies to a party versus bring warm homemade cookies. You’re not laughing now, are you? And website are an interesting form of handout that can be shared many times over. Of course a website has limitations like anything digital. No smell. No texture. You can’t throw a website across the room or dance with it.
These visual aids can be employed in a variety of ways. You can use them in one on one conversations or in small groups. You could use them as rewards, or as ways to recognize outstanding performance. They could be online or held in a hand. They can be big or small. Fluffy or prickly. Smelly or cold.
What about visual aids in online classes? Well, you might just use the out-of-doors as a visual aid to help describe something.
What I enjoy the most is that time holding something that represents an actual artifact from the content being discussed. Then giving it to students to look at, to touch and feel. A tangible element to add dimension to the conversation. I know, I can think of a lot of examples for science or botany or anatomy. Even some for physics and math. But what about English? What about those times in psychology where you do role playing? Do you bring in hats and big horned rim glasses to help with the visual elements?
I have more questions about visual aids. Like is a guest speaker a visual aid? Is a field trip a visual aid? Is Skyping someone into the room a visual aid? Is asking another faculty’s class to come share some time with your class a visual aid?
Do visual aids make any difference? Learning is about making connections. Connections between ideas and things known and newly discovered. And these things are not just words in a bulleted list, they are often things that exist and can be touched. And that touching can be part of making connections more concrete. Because we remember what our senses encounter. And we sense the world with more than our eyeballs.