[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Visual Communication & Teaching Techniques

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Within the last couple of days, I have come across different sets of people and websites that are turning the dial on the visual communication techniques. One of them is using it to teach the world – from basic mathematics to biology to evolution theory. Another is using it to visually communicate powerful ideas from the concept of time to capitalism.

Met Sal Khan from Khan Academy. He has created thousands of video lessons, each around 10 minutes. You really have to visit his website to get a sense for breadth of the content he has created, pretty much all by himself, with just a computer and of course, lots of passion and dedication. His story was recently profiled in CNN Money and it appears he is slowly gaining the global media attention he needs to take this to mainstream. I found his interview in WorldChanging.com even more insightful than the CNN article. I always admire folks with such tenacity, and each one of them virtually knock my head reminding me one more time everyone can make a difference in the world if they we our mind to action. Although he has made tremendous progress with content and format innovation, distribution remains a challenge. It would be great for e.g. for an NGOs such as Pratham to partner with Khan in taking these lessons to schools across India (where there is at least a computer). Another idea is to forge a distribution partnership with forward-thinking publishers such as New Horizon Media. Of course, this needs to be done across many countries to get the best outcome for this laudable effort.

And then I stumbled upon a few videos made by some of creative folks at Cognitive Media based in UK. Based on notes taken during speeches, these guys created some great graphics and videos that’s more effective to synthesize, understand and absorb, cognitively, than if you hear the speeches (or read) without any visual component. You have to checkout a couple to see if these are as effective as I think they are. Perhaps, I am one of those people who is easily inspired, but nevertheless, their work of art, creativity and innovation has touched me.

I particular liked the two videos. The first one is an insightful one related to how money is really not a motivator when it comes to jobs that required cognitive skills (mostly knowledge work).

This other video talks about the geography of time and how younger generation are digitally wired, losing the social skills needed to interact as humans in the real world. At one point in the video, he says most kids don’t wear a watch these days – is it?

I saw a lot of similarities in the way Khan teaches and the Cognitive Media guys communicate. Both augment their audio with visuals – though Khan’s visuals are more down to earth and more-like-mine than UK boys who are professional artists.