I was intrigued by some of the angles that Brumberger (2007) took in regards to how teachers can better teach students how to think visually, namely the prohibition (at least, at first) of using computers and rearranging classrooms into more “student centered rather than technology centered or teacher centered (p. 397). Neither of these would have necessarily struck me as crucial to enabling a student’s ability to think visually and think outside of the familiarity of verbal thinking. In fact, I feel like many people might argue with Brumberger that recent technologies like the computer have even aided in our ability to design and to think visually. But I actually favor Brumberger’s position—I think creativity is, like a muscle, something that has to be used in order to make it stronger and to increase its functionality, and I think the creativity-muscle is challenged when there is less assistance from things like technology and teachers. So, it would seem, a more student-centered, technology-prohibited classroom might actually increase visual creativity, as Brumberger suggests. I know I fall into the category of non-visual thinkers. If I were assigned a visual project in which it was highly encouraged to use fewer words and more graphics/colors/images, I know I would freeze in my tracks, waiting to be prodded with more guidance, needing more direction as to what exactly the teacher expects (or wants).
I do think there is an importance to what Brumberger and Lauer and Sanchez are all arguing—that learning to think verbally and visually (or visuospatially) can only enhance a student’s ability to create meaning within a text, that the two—verbal and visual—should not be thought of as binaries. It seems like, for example, many students’ use of slideware for the purpose of presenting to an audience would be far more advanced, meaningful, and captivating if, from the get go, we were taught how to convey meaning, like Dick Hardt, through words and images and colors and white space and page design and typography. There’s a lot to be said for pictorial representation—for showing, not telling, as I was so often reminded to do in my creative writing days. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? But the issue Lauer and Sanchez tackle is interesting—what if we aren’t all capable of thinking visually? What if some are just naturally more gifted in visuospatial awareness than others? I think we have to be wary of relying on classroom projects such as those Lauer and Sanchez suggest on page 209: “These activities are decidedly nonprofessional writing activities and therefore may strike some as an impractical use of time, but they are not impractical if they help low-spatial thinkers to develop options other than words to communicate persuasively.” I feel like projects that seem “impractical,” maybe particularly at the college level more so than high school, do risk becoming a waste of time because students don’t engage with the assignment or take it seriously because what’s the point? They only have to do well enough to get a decent grade, they may think—the project’s not going to go anywhere, be seen by anyone other than the teacher, be used for anything. But I think the poster assignments Lauer and Sanchez provide as examples (comparing high-spatially minded student work to low-spatially minded students) are a good example of in-class projects. Obviously, the resulting work illustrates exactly where improvements can be made to help many students think more visually.
Brumberger, E. R. (2007). “Making the strange familiar: A pedagogical exploration of visual thinking.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 21(4), 376–401. doi:10.1177/1050651907304021
Lauer, C. & Sanchez, C. A. (2011). “Visuospatial Thinking in the Professional Writing Classroom.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 25(2), 184–218. doi:10.1177/1050651910389149