About Visual Leap
Our Mission is to make learning easier. We build confident, independent thinkers by working with students and teachers to break down barriers to learning and unlock intellectual potential.
Our methods are rooted in cognitive learning theories. This research foundation informs our multi-sensory learning approach that marries the strengths of visual-spatial and audio-sequential thinking to fully engage the whole mind in learning.
Jesse Berg founded Visual Leap, LLC in 2007. The inspiration came from Jesse’s classroom teaching experiences. Children’s dramatic success using visual-spatial learning methods to learn compelled Jesse to write his book and share these ideas with a broader audience in new ways.
“These visual learning strategies are a genuinely revolutionary step forward for writing and thinking skills across the academic spectrum.”Michael Weingrad, PhD, professor, Portland State University
The mission of Visual Leap is to make learning easier. Our methods break down obstacles to learning and free the mind to achieve. Our goal is to help people to organize ideas, harness creativity and communicate effectively with methods that match how people naturally think and learn.
For innovative, independent, creative people for whom classroom instruction may not have always worked – this may be the most important skill you can develop. Our future rides on our ability as a society to to innovate and create. The mission of Visual Leap is to make that journey easier.
Human beings think visually. People make visual observations and naturally seek patterns to understand the world. This is hard wired into how we think. It is a skill that was necessary for survival. Visual learning led to tool building and agriculture. Almost every human innovation is rooted in visual observation, recognition of patterns and problem solving.
Why is scholastic achievement so often rooted in memory and recall?
We can foster critical thinking through visual analysis!
At Visual Leap, we take learning back to its roots. We created a set of strategies designed to let people take a multi-sensory approach to intellectual tasks such as writing, note taking, planning projects and organizing ideas. Our approach harnesses how people naturally think and learn.
We have developed a method of visual learning that we call the Webstorm℠. It is a unique way to organize ideas graphically that frees learners to capture thoughts as they naturally occur and yet organize them effectively for learning. Webstorming offers a visual way to evaluate ideas and fit them together cohesively. This “non-linear” approach gives learners a fundamentally different way to creatively develop and organize ideas. The end result is a cohesive visualization of an idea that is ideal for writing, studying and other academic tasks.
The Webstorm℠ is rooted in the tradition of graphic organizers. It evolved from mind mapping, concept mapping and semantic webbing. Research supports that graphic organizers improve memory, organization, critical thinking and planning. Our research indicates that Webstorming improves reading comprehension and writing.
Webstorming is intuitive and easy-to-learn. It is a life-time learning strategy that benefits people of all ages. The more complex the task or idea, the more useful this approach can be. Our programs position it as a learning strategy to be used independently and reliably as a core tool in a learning toolkit that remains beneficial throughout one’s scholastic and professional life.
Visual Leap programs often use software and technology that accelerates the process. Pencil and paper and a conceptual understanding, however, are all one ever needs to implement our methods effectively.
Learning is a messy. It is a non-linear process that is full of fits and starts. The Webstorm℠ method allows learners to play with their ideas like puzzle pieces and find patterns in information. This visual, interactive approach to thinking lets the learner develop an organization and structure of an idea that they can see.
In our method, learners benefit from bouncing between ideas. Skipping from topic to topic – in whatever order feels right – is not a distraction. This is an important point because associative and divergent thinking are often discouraged in school and considered “off-task.”
Webstorming, in contrast, leverages these natural cognitive processes into a highly efficient and productive way to think. We call this “visual inquiry” because Webstorming lets learners see how their ideas fit together and make decisions about how to construct their ideas based on what they see developing. For this reason, visual thinking is the embodiment higher order thinking.
This “non-linear” approach to thinking feels different. It is fun, active and engaging without being overwhelming. It is the opposite of traditional teaching and learning, where students are expected to proceed through a procedure in order, from A-Z. Students are often asked to remember and practice rules and facts. In this common model, learning rarely transcends lower order thinking.
Visual thinking also feels different because it engages multiple senses and multiple parts of the brain in the learning process. Our system lets learners use image, color, shape, spacial relationships, text, and even sound to develop and organize ideas. These characteristics support key tenets of Dual Code theory, which states that students learn better when ideas are represented in multiple modalities, such as text and image. Engaging the strengths of convergent and divergent and divergent thinking allow both left-hemispheric dominant and right-hemispheric dominant thinking to occur.
Layered on top of this, visual learning engages the Recognition networks, the Strategic networks, and the Affective networks, which is the core theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a prevailing pedagogical model developed by CAST (Center for Applied Specialized Technology.) Engaging more regions in the brain in the learning process works for many reasons, and one important reason is that engaging the whole mind decreases the cognitive load required to maintain an idea in working memory.
The Webstorm℠ method allows a learner to follow many paths to lead towards a cohesive, organized idea. When paths lead to a dead end, however, it simply presents a new opportunity to use visual inquiry to step back and re-evaluate thinking. Our method help users to get ideas out of their head, think through them, and put them into a workable format. This natural approach to critical thinking builds the cognitive skills people need to persevere through academic challenges and excel in school and life.
Summary: Visual Learning
Visual thinking engages the whole mind.
(Joseph D. Novak & Alberto J. Cañas “The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them.” Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, January 2006.)
Step 1: Get your ideas out of your head
Step 2: Find patterns in your ideas and organize them logically.
Step 3: See your idea become organized and cohesive.
Learning is easier when it activates multiple brain regions.
“Sight, Hearing, Braile Thinking. Colored Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans of Areas of the Human Brain Activated by Different tasks,” Welcome Dept. of Cognitive Neurology/Science Photo Library. (http://www.sciencephoto.com/)
Benefits to Learners
Visual thinking provides students with strategies to work with concepts in a self-directed and hands-on way that allows them to “see” their ideas develop. This process shaves many hours from the writing process because one begins to write or create a presentation only when the ideas are refined and well developed.
Students see how ideas are connected and realize how information can be grouped and organized.
Organize and analyze
Students can use diagrams in ways that are easy to understand and reveal relationships and patterns.
Integrate new knowledge
Students better remember information when it’s represented visually and verbally.
Linking verbal and visual information helps learners make connections and recall details.
With training in visual thinking, students learn to brainstorm, plan, outline, organize research, synthesize information, write, present, evaluate, comprehend and communicate more effectively.
Benefits to Educators
Educators benefit from visual thinking because visual thinking methods allow them to organize and frame information in easy to understand contexts. Assignments and instruction conducted with visual approaches add levels of differentiation to teaching and learning.
Information delivered with visual learning techniques decreases reliance on text and lecture, and increase the understanding of relationships between ideas.
From pre-writing exercises for children learning to write to multi-faceted projects for older students writing essays and creating presentations, visual thinking strategies make complex tasks easier and more manageable.
Jesse Berg, MSIT, M.Ed. is the founder of Visual Leap. His career in education began as a Spanish teacher. In the classroom, he experienced the power of technology to help students take ownership and make discoveries about their own learning.
As his career progessed, Berg discovered a vast and untapped potential of mapping and webbing ideas visually to help students organize and develop ideas. This journey was personal because the methods he developed unlocked his own potential as learning became much easier.
Berg left the classroom in 2007 to found Visual Leap, which grew from these experiences. The mission of Visual Leap is to improve teaching and learning through visual thinking strategies that make complex cognitive tasks, like reading, writing, note taking and critical thinking, easier to do.
In his new book of the same name, Berg explains these strategies in detail so that teachers, students and curious people anywhere can begin to use them and make them their own.
The goal of the book and Berg’s mission is to help learners to harness their creativity, gain deeper understanding of whatever they are striving for, and reach their full intellectual potential.
Bergâ€™s experience consulting for public, private, suburban, urban, parochial, and charter schools around the country, and as a teacher and instructional coach, informs his high-energy, hands-on approach to professional learning in instructional technology that focuses on co-learning, collaboration, and practicality.