Visual Literacy Resources & Toolkit

Background

Surrounded by ubiquitous technology and visual media, the 21st century society has evolved to become highly visual. With the prevalence of the internet and social media, images and pictures have nearly replaced written text. The current generation of college student—Generation Z—has never known life before the internet (Bleed, 2005). As our society has evolved to integrate technology into our daily lives, so has the global job market. Companies are increasingly searching for job candidates who are highly visual and technologically competent. Kress and van Leeuwen stated “visual literacy will begin to be a matter of survival in the workplace” (as cited in O’Connor & Rourke, 2010, p. 2). In order for colleges to prepare Generation Z learners for the demands of the evolving job market, they must incorporate visual literacy skills into the curriculum. The visually literate learner can define and articulate the need for an image, and can identify a variety of image sources, materials, and types (Burgess, Bussert, Hattwig, & Medaille, 2013). Visual literacy skills include the ability to recognize an image, understand its meaning, analyze and evaluate the image, and assess its significance both personally and socially (Challons-Lipton & Emanuel, 2013). However, visual literacy is a skill that is often neglected in the educational backgrounds of current faculty, and is typically not addressed in faculty professional development. Despite the prevalence of visual media in 21st century society, visual literacy is often considered trivial and nonacademic (Bleed, 2005).  This creates a problem in which colleges are not preparing Generation Z learners to possess the visual literacy competencies necessary to succeed in the evolving job market. Metros and Woolsey stated that college students often lack the education to understand, interpret, and create today’s information-age visuals (as cited in Hsin-Te  & Lohr, 2010, p. 186).

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