Why Do Adults Forget About Visualization?

By: Laurence

An Interview with Dr. Brian Friedlander

I (Laurence) was recently able to chat with Dr. Brian Friedlander about his views on visualization, education, and SmartDraw. Dr. Friedlander is a school psychologist with expertise in the area of assistive technology. He has a passion for using all kinds of technology in his professional work and is very interested in the use of mind mapping, visual learning, project management and Web 2.0 technologies. Dr. Friedlander readily applies these technologies in the graduate courses that he teaches at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. Dr. Friedlander consults to many school districts in N.J. and is available for workshops, training and presentations. His blog can be found at http://assistivetek.blogspot.com

1. How do you see your role as a psychologist and educator?

I have been in the field of school psychology for over 20 years and am now a full-time assistant professor at the College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ where I coordinate the Graduate Program in Special Education and teach graduate courses in assistive technology. From my vantage point, I am now able to work with my graduate students whom themselves are all practicing teachers and help them develop their technology skills so that they can have greater impact in their own instruction in the classroom. I hope that in my role as professor that I am able to model for them how technology can be utilized and integrated into the classroom. More importantly I try to model how different technologies and approaches can be used so that I can reach all of my students with varied learning styles.

2. Does visualization (graphic organizers, mind maps, etc.) have an impact on K-12 academic performance? If so, what kind?

One of the overriding theories that I teach to my students is that of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL posits that it is important to keep the following principles in mind when designing and instructing: multiple mean of representation, multiple mean of expression, and multiple mean of engagement. From my perspective it is essential that teachers look to software applications that allow them to represent concepts and ideas in multiple ways. This is where programs like SmartDraw 2008 come into play. With SmartDraw 2008 robust set of templates and tools teachers can have at their disposal a rich toolkit to be able to create visual materials to help their students better understand various concepts and principles.

I have been a firm believer that students sitting into today’s classroom respond very favorably to graphics and learn best when teachers can provide the necessary visual scaffolding. It is clear from the research that when teachers use graphic organizers and concept maps that it has a significant impact on learning and achievement that takes place in the classroom. There are many ways that teachers in the classroom can use graphic organizers and mind maps to help students learn. Both graphic organizers and mind amps can be used for brainstorming, prewriting, advance organizers, presentation tool, note taking as well as for study guides. Mind maps and graphic organizers help students by seeing the relationships between ideas and as well as having them use both sides of their brain to process the information which in my mind helps with retention of information.

3. What similarities/differences do you see between the use of visualization in the K-12 set and the college-aged or adult business segment?

That is a rather interesting question. It is interesting from my perspective in that while many students are taught how to use graphic organizers or mind maps in K-12 they do not generally see the value when they enter college. There seems to be a real disconnect and it is not until some of the same students enter the business world that they may begin to see others effectively use mind mapping to solve a host of problems. I myself am and avid mind mapper and use the tool throughout the day to help me work more effectively. I use mind mapping tools for designing my graduate courses, for project management, creating to-do lists, and for developing proposals. Having the information visually on the screen allows me to see the whole picture in a way that is both manageable and fluid. I am easily able to move ideas around on the screen and can work with my ideas without feeling that it is set in stone. Mind mapping tools gives me the freedom to work with ideas in a way that other tools do not.

4. What area of visualization do you see having the biggest impact on the day-to-day life of someone in business?

Students sitting in today’s classrooms need to develop their visualization skills more than ever so that they can understand the volume of data that they will be expected to process and comprehend. Those students that can use visualization tools to communicate ideas and use them in new and innovative ways will be a distinct advantage. We have only just begun to see how digital maps, GIS, and other visualization technologies are impacting every aspect of our life. As we generate more and more data it will become essential to use visualization (graphing) tools to help us make sense out of the data so that we can make informed decisions.

5. We spoke about the disconnect between children and adults from both sides (kids don’t understand the usefulness of what they’re learning and adults don’t use what they’ve learned as children). Why do you think that is?

I think that changing a behavior or going about doing something in a different way can be difficult for some. Similarly, many children who learn how to use these tools in k-12 may not be able to generalize how they can be used, once they leave these environments. Once they are out of the k-12 environment the tool becomes decontextualized and they don’t see any reason to use it. I for one feel that if more students saw adults in their environments using these tools in their day to day work, that they too would not only see their value but would begin to actually use the tools more themselves. It was a real eye opener for me, who has been using mind maps and graphic organizers to find out there is a whole world out there that is using these tools to solve a host of different business problems. It is very exciting to be part of these communities and to find out how others are using mind maps and other visualization tools to solve real world problems. I think that we really need to show students that the business world values these tools and that these are lifelong tools that can be used to solve a variety of problems.

Source: SmartDraw Blog