Bandwidth and the Brain
Recently, I read a blogpost by David Jakes, and it was a quote he took from Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Stanford University, that helped me construct an understanding of the power a visual has to us as human beings biologically:
“The auditory nerve transmits sound to the brain and is composed of about 30,000 fibers. Contrast that with the optic nerve which sends visual signals to the brain through 1,000,000 fibers (Burmark 2002).“
Now, that means our eyes have a vast network and a quick network to get the visual message across. As our brains and the human body strives to be very efficient, our eyes (in my eyes) are the gateways for survival. Our eyes are efficient at translating images into messages. We are quick to recognize a mean or angry face (bad person instinct), a squiggle on the floor (snake?), or something coming towards us (flying debris) etc…because it helps us to survive.
The eyes are quick interpreters (think super-duper-sonic speed fast!) for us to help understand the world at hand, so it only makes sense that visual literacy is part of our everyday learning. Students are able to learn content with their eyes, efficiently. So yes, incorporating visuals (multi-media of course!) to support student learning is important to support content, not to teach content.
Content is content, and thinking is thinking, so if visuals help our students be better learners…great, I’m sold. (but we always knew this right?) We are still learning the neuroscience of how we learn best so that we teach better, but one this is clear–visuals aid learning—it is simple biology.
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