We learn through words and we learn through images. For much more about those two methods of accessing, integrating, and remembering information, read Opening the Mind's Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How To See and The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. (And treat yourself to a brand new interview of the author or the latter
book here; as one friend said after reading the interview, "Wow, just wow.")
Despite what we know about the extraordinary value of using images to communicate, most professionals still lean heavily on words. Fortunately that reliance is shifting a bit in the medical profession; now it is time for the legal profession to begin that shift, too. In this new century, those lawyers and mediators who do not use images to communicate will be only partially literate. They also will be deficient in their ability to fully communicate with clients, juries, staff, and opposing counsel. We are learning more and more about why and how word-centric communication is abridged and often wanting.
Dr. Patricia Edwards is a professor of teacher education at Michigan State and past president of the International Reading Association. During her first annual statement to the organization, entitled "Reconceptualizing Literacy," she talked about what she saw as critical issues for literacy in the 21st-century.
Perhaps one of the first steps for expanding our views of literacy learning would be to start with visual literacy. Visual literacy stems from the notion of images and symbols that can be read. Meaning is communicated through image more readily than print which makes visual literacy a powerful teaching tool. Instructional approaches that make use of visual and digital media will better prepare students for their futures and rapidly changing world . . .
Therefore we must expand our notion of literacy beyond reading and writing printed text to include interpreting visual and digital texts . . . Teachers will help students empower themselves with the necessary tools to thrive in increasingly media-varied environments.
The definition of literacy as decoding print is outdated, and our new definitions must account for not only changing demographics but also the challenge of a technologically evolving landscape. If students are to successfully meet the social, political, and economic demands of their futures, they must be able to adapt and reinvent the ways that they read and write the world.
Excerpt of her talk from The Age of the Image.
As our culture changes, so does our definition of literacy. I believe lawyers and other conflict professionals, to fully serve their clients in this century, must "reinvent the ways that they read and write the world."
Next month, you may listen to lawyer Susanne Hoogwater present a non-fee teleseminar on the use of visual communication in the legal arena; click for information on how to join in.
For more resources, click to read many of my previous posts on using images to improve communication.
Quote from Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn:
The signs are everywhere—if you can read them. The primary literacy of the 21st century will be visual: pictures, graphics, images of every kind. Engineering, architecture, computer trades, health care professions, [I will add law,] even jobs as pedestrian as cooking fries at McDonald's (now done with sophisticated robotics) all require visual literacy. It's no longer enough to read and write. Our students must learn to process both words and pictures. They must be able to move gracefully and fluently between text and images, between literal and figurative worlds.Quote from Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too:
We are a two-handed, two-footed, bilateral, bicameral, multifaceted species. In the future, visual skills of every kind, from drawing to visioning, will need to be primed, to stand equal with all our other skills. It makes no more sense to ignore its development than it would to tie one hand, or one foot. We need the full flow of all our human skills to deal with a future so challenging and so complex that we can hardly imagine it.