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Encouraging visual thinking

November 2, 2011

by Dayna McIsaac (Flickr)

On Sunday I returned from the POD conference in Atlanta. These POD people are not alien spores trying to take over the world, nor are they fruits (who knew peas were botanically not vegetables?). POD is the Professional and Organizational Development Network, a group of folks involved with faculty development, which is what I do at Notre Dame. POD held a combined meeting with a sister network from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the conference theme was creativity.

by Derek Bruff (Flickr)

Two of my favorite two sessions dealt with visualization. In “Getting Out of the Rubric Gridlock: New representations of learning.” Laurel Willingham-­McLain of Duquesne and Prudence Merton of Dartmouth challenged us to re-examine the sacred cows of assessment – like rubrics. Abstract images and other artwork inspired us to think of new ways to represent learning. I was particularly fascinated with the image in the photo. It shows a series of checkerboards, where not one has completely straight lines – none of them are “right,” so to speak. Some are close, others wildly distorted. As a group, they can provide inspiration for discussions about measurement, values, and more.

The other visualization session, titled “Everyone’s a Visual Learner,” was presented by Derek Bruff of Vanderbilt and José Vázquez of Illinois. They encouraged folks to incorporate visual thinking into their classes and provided strategies for doing so. One technique involved searching Flickr for images that illustrate an idea. I was happy to learn about the Compfight image search engine. I also learned that Poll Everywhere now allows you to create a word cloud from an open response question. For additional information, Derek posted about the workshop on his blog, where he also has a useful list of Blogs about Visual Thinking. Below is the Prezi used in this session.

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