By Anica Oaks
Employing just the right visual teaching tools can make a critical difference between science teachers bringing their material brilliantly to life before their students’ eyes and watching them grow frustrated and overwhelmed by the difficult concepts. Reluctant or struggling learnings may need to process information through a different channel for the lessons to stick. After all, around 65 percent of the population is comprised of visual learners. When you consider that humans visually process about 90 percent of all information in any given environment visually, that makes sense. The knowledge you present may not always inherently electrify the classroom all by itself, but recognizing and playing to your students’ strengths can keep them engaged.
Chuckle and roll your eyes if you want, but these ubiquitous visual gags are naturally sticky ideas ideal for making any notion easy to instantly recall. Try setting up a moderated classroom subreddit. Encourage students to use any of the countless online meme generators available now to creatively repurpose existing templates toward what you teach. Next, let them comment, upvote and reply with their own memes to each thread. It may sound ridiculous and even shallow to elder generations, but this is a downright devious way to sneak learning into the same motif kids choose to riff on sports, anime, video games, and life’s generally ridiculous minutiae.
Depending on your school’s scheduling philosophy, you likely have roughly an hour to 90 minutes for your students to digest your planned lesson. Any scientific discipline has its dry-but-essential subject matter rife with weedy swamps of complex concepts, formulas, and key memorization. When you drop this stuff into a visually appealing infographic, you distill intimidating blocks of data into a digestible layout that anyone can understand at a glance. Depending on exactly how you plan to present it, animation and eye-catching graphics alongside charts, maps, and embedded videos will make the information leap even more vividly into the eyes and minds of visually oriented learners. You might be amazed at just how user-friendly and intuitive many template generators are nowadays, too.
3D Print Models and Virtual Reality
True, the surest path into many students’ minds may pass through the eyes. Still, so many scientific disciplines confront the most foundational physical laws governing the universe. It also just so happens that many visual adept pupils are also highly receptive to tactile input. A 3D-printed replica of an elemental particle, internal organ, or mineral fragment may shed light on and familiarize students with key characteristics and concepts no simple diagram or photograph could present with as quite as much immersive, up-close detail.
This approach to hands-on explanation also dramatically improves information retention by reducing cognitive loads, but if 3D printing is somehow out of the question, virtual reality simulations can create highly interactive spatial environments emulating numerous real or fictitious scenarios in which students can learn meaningfully and call upon knowledge practically in an unforgettable fashion.
At its best, scientific discovery and innovation is rarely the product of a single mind’s labor. More often, it entails a synergy of intellects collaborating for the good of expanding human knowledge. With that reality in mind, consider opening a collaborative online platform for your students. These dedicated spaces provide tools and shared feeds where your pupils can brainstorm, pose questions, discuss charts, and house multimedia assets. You can participate too by uploading your own images, text, documents, sketches, videos and links against a visually appealing backdrop of your choosing. Forums and discussion boards are wonderfully simple, but this is a means of encouraging teamwork in which students can teach one another in styles that suit them individually.
No two students’ optimal learning processes are any more likely to match exactly than randomly chosen strands of DNA. However, evidence would certainly suggest there may be something unexpectedly thought-provoking about the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” Teaching tools such as a stream table or infographic breaking down the elemental makeup of the human body will almost assuredly not detract from anyone else’s learning. In fact, it will likely reach unique students not as engaged by traditional lectures while reinforcing scientific concepts others may already grasp in a unique light. Everyone wins.