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The inspiration for this guide comes from the 2019 article Visual Literacy in Practice: Use of Images in Students' Academic Work by Krystyna K. Matsuak, Chelsea Heinbach, Anna Harpers, and Michael Bovee. They wanted to examine how undergraduate and graduate students were using their visual literacy skills, if any, in their academic endeavors. They found, mainly due to lack of formal knowledge and overall traditional collegiate climate, the use of images in various projects was limiting or rarely considered. Overtime, our hope is that through this guide, students, faculty, and other education professionals will feel encouraged to incorporate visual literacy practices into their work, ultimately enhancing the learning experience.
Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.
In an interdisciplinary, higher education environment, a visually literate individual is able to:
Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
Evaluate images and their sources
Use images and visual media effectively
Design and create meaningful images and visual media
Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically