Visual Literacy: Libraries and Learning

HOTW is  moving to Mondays, don’t worry it will be back!

Figure 1: Visual Literacy Array based on ACRL's Visual Literacy Standards by D. Hattwig, K. Bussert, and A. Medaille. Copyright 2013 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This image first appeared in PORTAL: LIBRARIES AND THE ACADEMY, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2013, p. 75.

Figure 1: Visual Literacy Array based on ACRL’s Visual Literacy Standards by D. Hattwig, K. Bussert, and A. Medaille. Copyright 2013 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This image first appeared in PORTAL: LIBRARIES AND THE ACADEMY, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2013, p. 75.

As Open Access week comes to a close, I’d like to encourage a bit of Friday fun focused on the issue of access to information and the skills needed to “find, retrieve, analyze and use this information”, information literacy.   Under the branch of information literacy are subfields based on the type of information, including media and visual information.  My doctoral research focused on media literacy, which is a vibrant area of investigation in education because of the exponential increase in non-traditional text and materials being used in teaching and learning environments.  The series advisors for the MacArthur Foundation funded digital media and learning essays in Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media explain that “media literacy involves not only ways of understanding, interpreting and critiquing media, but also the means for creative and social expression, online search and navigation, and a host of new technical skills” (Ito, Davidson, Jenkins, Lee, Eisenberg, and Weiss, 2007, p. viii).  Media literacy as a social practice enables young people to “embrace multimodal forms, combining, and remixing visual images and video clips, words, sounds and songs, dance and gesture, and costume…[and use] their bodies as canvases in communication and self expression” (Burke & Hammett, 2009, p. 1).

The most recent edition of Keeping Up With…, an online current awareness publication from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) featuring concise briefs on trends in academic librarianship and higher education, focused on the issue of visual literacy.  ACRL defines visual literacy as a

set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. (Visual Literacy Definition)

Like media literacy, visual literacy skills can be cultivated by informationists.  The January 2013 article Visual Literacy Standards in Higher Education: New Opportunities for Libraries and Student Learning  provide an outline for visual literacy outcomes and present opportunities for libraries to expand their role in student learning through standards-based teaching and assessment.

Informationists can, and should, take up the role of ensuring their users have the necessary visual literacy skills to ensure complete engagement with the information that surrounds them.

References

Burke, A. & Hammett, R.F. (2009) Introduction: rethinking assessment from the perspectives of new literacies.  In A. Burke & R.F. Hammett (Eds.), Assessing  new literacies: Perspectives from the classroom (pp. 1-13). New York, NY:  Peter Lang.

Ito, M., Davidson, C., Jenkins, H., Lee, C., Eisenberg, M., & Weiss, J. (2007) Foreword. In A. Everett (Ed.), Learning race and ethnicity: Youth and digital media (pp. vi-ix). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

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