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Sunni Brown

Author, Chief Infodoodler, sunnibrown.com

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Why is visual literacy discouraged in most cultures & WHAT CAN WE DO to change that?

This LIVE CONVERSATION will open at 1PM ET/ 10AM PT on Monday, October 31th! Join me!

Visual literacy, if described as the ability to communicate via doodling, drawing, and sketching or described as the ability to display complex information in visual language formats, is often a literacy missing in adults despite it being a universal and natural inclination in children. Why does it disappear? And more importantly, what can we do to alter this course?

**ADMIN UPDATE: Sunni Brown has asked to extend her Conversation for two weeks. She will be jumping in to catch up with responses over the next two weeks. Happy posting everyone!

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  • Oct 31 2011: We should bring back the arts in our elementary schools. Prop 13 did a lot to extinguish the Arts in public schools. Now, drawing, painting, coloring and the like are only experienced as 'Holiday" activities or something to kill time, instead of being a SUBJECT. I am an elementary school tutor and I've worked in classrooms since 2000. I was astonished that so few children felt at ease with crayons in the classroom, much less markers, colored pencils or chalk! Outside, like on the playground, they couldn't get enough!
    Also, there are styles of learning, of which doodling is a part. Many children 'learn' through this activity and when it isn't exercised, the child can find learning difficult. When my one of my children had to go to an Alternative School (a polite term for a campus where the school district puts 'last ditch effort' students), I witnessed an incredible out pour of visual arts talent from these students, from tribal art to digital to 'tagging' art!! Breathtaking and beautiful works of art was done by these students who didn't fit into the mainstream.
    I also remember a beautiful little 3rd grade girl, long blonde hair and impish smile, who had to hum to herself and often get behind her chair to spin or do a little dance and sitting down again, during workbook time. This was her way of 'working through' a new concept or a problem being presented in the workbook. She was an excellent student all-round, but the teacher recognized this learning style and rarely interrupted the student's process.
    I know my last comment was off subject, but it was such a blatant example to me of how learning styles, like visual learners, get so ignored so that our education system can remain unchanged and 'mainstream'.
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      Oct 31 2011: Your last comment isn't off target at all - all of us are complex learners and the act of moving around is, in itself, a method to trigger thought, just like doodling. Our lack of appreciation for these instinctive techniques to improve problem-solving and creativity is one of the things the Doodle Revolution is working to change. We should celebrate the ability of all learners to rely on, move toward and enhance their natural method of absorbing, processing and recalling information. Even if that requires doing a little spin. :)
    • Oct 31 2011: Remember, art doesn't make money therefore it is not viewed as beneficial to future millionaires.
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        Oct 31 2011: Art actually makes millions of dollars and is still a legitimate investment along with real estate and stocks. Go to a high end gallery some time and look at the price tags.
        • Oct 31 2011: I think you can look at art as the production of an "art object", in which case I agree that only the top 1% might make a substantial living from it. But if you consider art and design as a critical thought process, a way of working things out, then it becomes an extremely valuable tool and would be beneficial to anyone building a bridge or finding a cure. In short it allows one to work in a highly abstract way which is a necessary part of problem solving.
        • Oct 31 2011: I agree with Eleanor. I think the discussion above got pretty far off the point. Visual literacy is not just about creating art. Teaching people to think graphically touches all manner of disciplines. Look at Steve Jobs. He was so successful at computer design because he was a visual thinker. In fact, there are business books out today arguing the design is going to be THE MOST important difference between businesses that succeed and those fail in the coming years...

          Mixing up visual thinking with making art objects (regardless of whether it's a high priced museum piece or macaroni glued to a paper plate) is like thinking that the only reason anyone should learn to read is so they can write a romance novel.
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      Nov 9 2011: Remember the mainstream is a stream, small and narrow. A bit larger than a creek, but not even close to the size of a river. All of the rivers lead down stream to large seas and giant oceans. I find it difficult to imagine an ocean liner finding its way into a sea, going up stream through a river, and finally dropping everyone off at the mainstream.

      Multiple intelligences embrace eight different ways people have strengths in learning. It's been explored and researched at the university level and found to be real. An ocean of intelligence is wholly ignored to try and shape minds to float in only the main stream. I can envision a variety of sea ferrying ships strewn along the sides of a river bank like and ocean had dried up. Only a small stream remains with a few people in kayaks and canoes paddling about. So few win in this scenario even though everyone could have participated and succeeded in their own way.

      Even if every congress person strives to be president there can only be one at a time. There is no way each of them could ever be president in their lifetime. Fifty seats are in the senate and there have been forty-four presidents so far in over two hundred years. If the mainstream focus is so narrow, what do the rest of us do with our lives?

      Building on peoples strengths is essential for personal fulfillment. The variety is our power as people. With several billion of us here, pursuing our individual strengths is valuable. The depth and breadth can reach even further than ever before. The pursuit of big ideas, which has been at the forefront of art education for over a decade, will hopefully develop into a cohesive way to teach, learn, and explore all subjects in school.

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