Visual Literacy – #AusELT Twitter chat 6th May 2018

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This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the transcript

Infographic, kinetic typography, screenager, binge-watch, emoji, meme, vine, augmented reality

John Hughes* lists these additions to our lexical repertoire to highlight the impact of visual communications on our lives and the renewed attention to the use of images in life (and work. Or work-life. Or life-work.) in the introduction to his article Visual Literacy in the English Language Classroom

What is it?

It seems no-one can agree on one definition. The International Visual Literacy Association has apparently spent the last 40+ years working on this, which seems bewildering until you remember the number of different disciplines and perspectives involved. They do quote Debes** as saying

“Visual Literacy refers to a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences. The development of these competencies is fundamental to normal human learning. When developed, they enable a visually literate person to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols, natural or man-made, that he*** encounters in his environment. Through the creative use of these competencies, he is able to communicate with others. Through the appreciative use of these competencies, he is able to comprehend and enjoy the masterworks of visual communication.”

However, it seems everyone agrees that VL is fundamental to learning and living these days, whether understanding and evaluating increasingly multi-sensory / multi-modal experiences and messages, creating and communicating using these, or just plain enjoying them.

For the purposes of this Twitter chat, we’ll be focusing on from still images – photos, sketches, cartoons etc as well as emojis and memes – as well as graphs and charts, infographics and concept maps and graphic organisers, through to moving images from videos to GIFs, and if we can, VR and AR.

So please join in and share your experience, resources and questions. It’s a one-hour injection of ideas and inspiration.

Some of the questions we’ll be using to explore Visual Literacy (VL) are:

  • How do you define ‘visual literacy’ in ELT? What is a ‘visual text’?
  • Is VL reflected in your curriculum? How? / How could it be?
  • What kind of visual imagery do you and your students use / need to use, and why?
  • How do we / can we develop students’ VL skills? How can VL tasks be integrated with language development / practice and with other skills in ELT – analytical ~, critical thinking ~ – as well as with intercultural awareness and CLIL?
  • How does your own VL impact on your choices of and use of visual imagery for your own materials and presentations? What are some of the principles you apply when selecting / creating them?
  • What are your recommended sources for visual imagery? What are some of the tools and software you use to manipulate, create, or edit these? What about annotating, tagging, and other metadata skills?
  • What are your strategies to raise students’ and your colleagues’ awareness of provenance of visual sources, copyright IP and licensing (eg Creative Commons)?

* You may recognise the name John Hughes from the National Geographic Learning titles he’s authored. Here’s a link to an interview with him: Interview: John Hughes on Visual Literacy in the Language Classroom

** Debes, J.L. (1969). The loom of visual literacy. Audiovisual Instruction, 74(8), 25-27, quoted in

*** !!!

This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the transcript.


This post prepared by @Clare_M_ELT

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