I have been doing some research around a concept called the ‘Picture Superiority Effect, and connecting the information I have collected to the current movement, around making online and PowerPoint presentations more interesting and engaging.

It is clear that differences are needed for online learning when compared to face to face, but there are some key factors that make perfect sense and are worth serious consideration for any form of presentation.

As the image above shows, it is much easier to see and digest information when we have a visual representation, which is a technique I have used a lot in my face to face teaching with things like the fraction wall (posted a couple of weeks ago) and the Bar Model of teaching ratio, something I will cover in the future. 

There are some key points to support the effectiveness of using images and pictures that are worth considering:

  • The image needs to be relevant to the text
  • Simple images are better than complex ones
  • Charts and graphs count as images
  • The images should grab attention, so colour and motion are useful
  • Objects that people remember most include; people, interiors, foregrounds and human-scale objects
  • Objects that people remember less well include; exteriors, wide-angle vistas, backgrounds and natural scenes.

Out of interest, I showed someone a PowerPoint that I have updated to include more imagery. The result was really surprising, I quickly flashed a few slides from each presentation and the immediate response was the colour difference and a direct connection with some of the images on the updated version, compared to nothing from the original text-heavy presentation. 

What has also surprised me is how much I have enjoyed creating a presentation that is more visually appealing, even though it contains pretty much the same information as before.

So I guess it follows that if I find it more interesting then my audience is bound to as well! A no brainer I guess.

Of course, you need to be careful that the images you use are not owned by someone else, but there are lots of places you can find free images, or just create your own! 

So why does this approach work as well as it does, well the research says that it is down to the way our brains work. When we see words, we need to decode each letter to form the word and work out the meaning, so there is quite a lot of work going on.

And, the ‘word’ is then stored in our memory. But when we see a picture, we naturally attach a word to the image, so we have both in our memory, which is why the science says we remember more.

When we think about how we learnt to read, then there is loads of imagery to help us build our vocabulary. 

A while ago, I heard a story, I can’t remember where, about a little girl who was learning to read and she had learnt ‘cat’, which she matched with the image of their cat at home. 

 

On her way home from school she went past a building site where she saw a huge machine which said ‘CAT’ on the side, this confused her, because the truck didn’t match the image she held of her cat, at home.

 

Images are powerful things, just ask the Dale Carnegie training team about their memory technique.

They deliver an amazing process for remembering things, all attached to simple words and images.

I learnt the technique when I trained with them over 20 years ago, and I can remember it to this day! 

It has also been proven that we have become so used to looking at screens, such as the TV, our level of concentration is greater and we retain more.

It, therefore, follows that if I was to deliver a training session live to one group, and the same session was recorded and shown to a different group, the recorded session group would retain more information.

Which I guess strengthens the case even more for online delivery.

So, in closing, so do I believe that imagery is a key factor when presenting information, absolutely! 

I also believe that online/ virtual learning will become a much more integral and important part of learning in the post 16 sectors, it makes sense on so many levels.

But, it is vital that the training is engaging, as well as relevant and informative. I have certainly started to rethink the way I prepare and present information.

Christine Edwards QTLS, Creating Excellence

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