A move to visual thinking can greatly benefit both students and teachers.

Moving from textual thinking to visual thinking

Instead of forcing visual thinkers into textual thinking, we need to see the world differently and develop critical thinking skills

We need to start seeing the world in different ways if we hope to make effective use of the tools of the digital age. However, our educational institutions are still locked into profoundly text-based paradigms that have limited our capacity to use and teach visual and multidimensional problem-solving skills. I see the effects of this in my students and in my colleagues. Our industrial education model is designed to teach visual thinkers to think textually. It is baked deeply into the system and starts from an early age. It profoundly limits the way we perceive the world to artificially linear tracks.

Textual thinking leads us into dead ends in everything from web design to complex problem solving to deciphering our very democracy. The world is a far more complex place than it ever was. In less than a century our challenges have escalated from the local to the national to the global at a staggering rate. Our conceptual ability to cope with these challenges has not kept pace.

Related content: 5 ways to make thinking visible

What passes for visual storytelling today in education often takes the form of technologies like PowerPoint and its derivatives. These actually make the problem worse because they oversimplify linear, textual narrative modalities, usually without grasping visual opportunities.

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