We are an increasingly visual society. Everything nowadays is presented to us on an electronic screen, whether a 6-inch screen tablet or smart phone, or a 60-inch plasma television. Humans are not necessarily the best at visual stimuli, but it definitely makes a difference in our learning. Have you ever tried to learn how to put together a model plane without an instruction manual? Have you ever tried to cook something blind-folded? We can all imagine that both of these tasks would be very difficult without a visual aid.
In education today, visual aids can make the difference between teaching any given subject correctly or not. In my own experience, visual teaching is almost as effective as hands-on training. A good PowerPoint training deck with screenshots, arrows, graphics, text bubbles, and all those fancy transitions can make an executive presentation look like child’s play. (I’ll have many posts on writing good PowerPoint presentations later.) Simply put, nothing can be taught best without the use of a visual aid. There are many ways to add visual aids to a topic, but they key is to make them concise, not too flashy, and effective.
How do we make visual aids more effective without using flashy stuff? Well, the key to this is to be clear to your audience, and know what it is that they need to hear. For example, you might have a worksheet with some tips or a cheat sheet on a business process for your training. Make sure your topics covered are in bullet-form, clearly spelled out. I would avoid using full sentences in this case, since you want to be quick to the point. It should say something like “Click Field 1, enter name and address, press Enter”, rather than “First, click on the first field (Field 1), type in your first name, last name, address, and postal info. Then click on Enter to submit.” The former would be good for a quick reference, while the second might be good for a more detailed work instruction document. For classroom-style trainings, a handout, graphic on the whiteboard, or step-by-step processes in your slide show is best.
Visual aids in learning need to be just that… an aid. It should be complimentary of what you are trying to teach. It should provide a quick hint, reminder, or graphic that reinforces your point, then gets out of the way. You could stand there talking about the picture all hour, but that wouldn’t get much done. The point of a visual aid is to assist the teacher to cover a topic quickly, and assists the learner in retaining that topic with additional sensory images to commit to memory.
Next up, auditory learning and speaking. Stay tuned!