Do You See What I See? Developing Visual Literacy Skills

Visual literacy is the ability to both read and write visual information. In an increasingly visual rich society, visual literacy has become more important than ever. Both the ISTE and the ALA recognize the importance of visual literacy for lifelong learning.

Along with information literacy, librarians should be focusing on teaching students visual literacy skills as well. That’s because visual literacy and information literacy are intricately connected. Visual literacy requires information literacy skills.

How can we help develop students’ visual literacy skills? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Visual essays. The visual essay is an alternative to the traditional essay. Using a traditional thesis statement, students can create an essay using pictures and images instead of just words. Those images can persuade, inform, or tell a story. In many ways, this is more difficult than the traditional essay. The research aspect of developing a visual essay requires a higher level of information literacy skills. The images that the student finds becomes the essay itself, so the student must carefully and thoughtfully find and select images that support the thesis statement.The visual essay assignment provides a great opportunity for librarians to incorporate both visual and information literacy instruction. Click here for an example of a visual essay.
  • Visual search engines. Visual research is more than just finding images. Visual search engines can also help students to better identify and understand their information needs. Here are some visual search engines you may not have heard of:
  • Infographics. I’ve written about infographics before as a tool that combines information and visual literacy.There are plenty of infographic tools out there. And infographics make great additions to visual essays. Here are a few more infographic tools:
  • Digital collages. Collages are visual stories. And it’s never been easier to create collages digitally. Here are a few collage maker tools:

Visual literacy is increasingly becoming an important skill for lifelong learning. Today’s students will be expected to be visually literate as they enter the workforce. Visual literacy is highly dependent upon information literacy, and visual literacy activities provide librarians with the opportunity to teach both visual and information literacy skills. Add digital tools into the mix, and you’ll also be developing digital literacy skills.


7 thoughts on “Do You See What I See? Developing Visual Literacy Skills

  1. Oooh! I love the idea of a visual essay!!! I also think librarians could use more brushing up on our own visual literacy skills. When we create non-video tutorial content, we tend to be very wordy, when we could probably express a lot of what we want to teach via infographics and other visual tools.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Meredith! Not only too-wordy tutorials, but also PowerPoint presentations. I had a special name for my wordy colleagues – PowerPoint Rangers! Seriously, I think it has something to do with the profession of librarianship. Librarians tend to provide as much information as possible, sometimes too much information. Less is definitely more when it comes to teaching and learning.

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