Visuals are materials that usually contain words and pictures that are used to support or enhance instruction. Visuals are of two types: non-projected or projected. The difference is that projected visuals are those that are displayed using a screen while non-projected visuals include charts, posters, and models that may displayed on walls. Regardless of whether they are projected or not, visuals should be designed carefully.
Just like print materials, it is important to know what message you want to convey, to consider the setting and the available resources in preparing them, and to be clear with the purpose of using them (Lamb, 2005). Of course, you must know your audience’s experiential and intellectual knowledge (Smaldino, et. al., 2004).
I remember this one scene in The Big Bang Theory where the characters played Pictionary. Sheldon, one of the lead characters who played a physicist in the show, kept on drawing complicated stick figures to depict such words like a chocolate chip cookie and nail polish. Bottom line? It is all about keeping things simple.
Selecting visuals to put in presentations is just like choosing your words when writing a composition. No matter how wonderful the words may sound, if your readers do not understand them, then you will not be able to communicate your message effectively. The same is true when designing visuals. It is true that a picture paints a thousand words and when we choose visuals haphazardly, students may interpret them the wrong way. This is why, aside from taking caution and careful planning in designing visual aids, we should also teach our students how to look at images and “read” them.
Design principles in creating visuals focus on simplicity, unity, emphasis, and balance (Smaldino, Russell, Heinich, and Molenda, 2004). The choice of font type, size, and color as well as use of contrast is important. Reading through the resources that outlined the importance of alignment, and spaces between letters and lines of text, I felt that I was on the right track, at least where non-projected visuals are concerned. Whenever I design my bulletin boards and my classrooms, I always try to achieve a unified look. Using themes are a great help in doing this.
We have LCD projectors and screens in the classrooms and I usually conduct my lessons using PowerPoint presentations. I do leave plenty of white space in my slides but I still have to make them simpler. Lamb, in his book Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today’s Classrooms (2005), again emphasized on keeping things simple by using pictures instead of words as a visual guide during lectures. I find this reminder challenging because I need words as cues while I go around the classroom as I deliver instruction. The only time that I make use of just pictures in my slides is when I give morning reflections to students which I read off from a piece of paper. I guess you could say that when it comes to projected visuals, I am still a work in progress.
Lamb, A. (2005). Designing and developing resources: Projected materials (Chap 9). In Building treehouses for learning: Technology in today’s classrooms. Available at http://eduscapes.com/treehouses/TL9projected.pdf
Smaldino, S. E., Russell, J.D., Heinich, R., and Molenda, M. (2004). Visual principles (Chap 4). In Instructional technology and media for learning (8th ed), 79-105. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. Available at https://navelmangelep.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/instructional-technology-and-media-for-learning-8th-ed.pdf