Guest post by Nicole E. Brown and Kaila Bussert, co-authors of Visual Literacy for Libraries: A Practical, Standards-Based Guide
Celebrate Global Media and Information Literacy Week by strengthening your visual literacy skill set. Try this step-by-step exercise, adapted from the “Begin to Interpret and Analyze an Image” “Coffee Break!” activity in our book, Visual Literacy for Libraries.
Begin by setting aside a few minutes at your desk. You’ll need: the device you’re reading this on, a writing implement, a piece of paper, and a cup of coffee (optional, but recommended).
Step 1: Choose a visual to analyze.
- Option A: Explore the World Digital Library (WDL) and select an image. This free multilingual source for primary materials is one of our top picks for finding images, so we encourage you to use it. If you’re pressed for time, you can use the coffee house image featured in this post.
- Option B: Explore The Guardian’s Data Blog and select a data visualisation from one of the topical articles. Visual literacy skills apply to the world of data, too! If you’re short on time, choose one of the visualisations in the “Caffeine compared: from coke and coffee to aspirin and chocolate” post.
Step 2: Take a few minutes to examine the image or visualisation closely and record your answers to the following questions: 1) What do I see? 2) What is going on? 3) Why do I think this image or visualisation was created?
Step 3: Reflect on your answers to the three questions and identify one thing you’d like to know more about.
Now, consider how you might incorporate an exercise like this into your information literacy teaching practice. Imagine leading a group of students through this process with an image related to course content. Can you see how observing an image and recording details about it can prime learners to ask questions? This type of work with images invites students into the question-driven research process. Our book walks you through activities like this, and many more. We share ready-to-go activities and strategies to deepen your visual literacy skills and make your instruction more engaging.
Thanks for taking a coffee break with us! Please use the comments to share how you’re using visual literacy to advance media and information literacy.
Nicole E. Brown is Head of Instruction Services at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kaila Bussert is Foundational Experiences Librarian at California Polytechnic State University.