Visual Literacy

Flash Goddess (her preferred term, I believe) Mindy McAdams has been pondering how to teach visual literacy at the University of Florida. Those of us teaching in a word-heavy journalism program wrestle with this a lot – how do you break 14 years worth of training that says “we communicate with words” when, in fact, we communicate in lots of different ways? (She follows this up with a visual literacy in multimedia post, too.)

Go read the entries, and I’ll post the comment I made below …

I was talking with a friend about an internship opening at a paper he’d just left. (It was a good leave – he liked the paper but it was time for him to move on.)

He had become the lead multimedia guy mostly because his boss would give him a project and tell him to “figure it out.”

In my short time in academia, one of the things I keep running into is a fear of failure. Students do not want to experiment, to try something, because they believe the consequences of getting it wrong are absolute when, in fact, the consequences of not experimenting are absolute failure.

When it comes to “skills” classes (as opposed to .. well … I don’t know what), we need to find ways of encouraging students to play, to experiment. To make themselves uncomfortable and ensure there’s no punishment for trying something new.

Students won’t sketch because they’re taught form an early age that there is only one right answer to every question. We need to teach them to Fail Faster, then let it go and move on.

Mark E. Johnson

1 Response

  1. Nice comment, Mark! Thanks!

    “Fail faster” — can I have that on a T-shirt? Or maybe: “Fail early, fail often!”

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