“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
What we Do
Our methods are simple. We approach learning visually. Our goal is to give learners a new way to puzzle with idea or concept until they grasp it.
Our intuitive methods help learners engage their whole mind to develop a visual representation of an idea – often as a diagram, semantic web or visual model. Through our book and workshops educators gain ways to use these methods and students, and students easily learn how to use them independently.
Natural areas to apply these strategies include writing, reading comprehension, analysis and mathematics.
The multi-sensory nature of our approaches decreases the cognitive load required for individuals to think critically. This increases their capacity to work with ideas. We call our method Visual Thinking, It works by engaging visual, spatial, strategic and emotional areas of the mind in the process of learning. Scientifically based research demonstrates that these techniques improve memory, organization, critical thinking and planning.
Visual thinking works for many academic and professional projects. The more complex the task or idea, the more useful this approach can be. Visual thinking is a strategy that benefits people of all ages.
According to studies conducted by the Institute for the Advancement of Research in Education, visual learning techniques improve:
- Test scores
- Writing Proficiency
- Long-term Retention
- Reading Comprehension
- Thinking and Learning Skills
Visual thinking is intuitive. After capturing and refining ideas with simple visual thinking software, one can export and seamlessly work with diagram files in programs like Power Point, Word, Adobe PhotoShop, and even into complete web sites.
Visual thinking is easy to learn. The strategy is transferable to many tasks, and the opportunities to use these tools and strategies are limitless.
Visual Thinking Improves Productivity
Visual thinking provides individuals with a hands-on strategy to self-start projects and assignments. It facilitates self-monitoring of one’s progress and helps one stay on task and complete projects. Visual thinking decreases procrastination and increases independent problem solving.
At its essence, visual thinking increases productivity because is separates the cognitive “thinking” task of developing the content of a project or report, presentation from the mechanical – but time consuming – “doing” task of delivering the idea in its final form. This is true with any deliverable, whether it is a written report, PowerPoint presentation, or web site. This key separation of “thinking” and “doing” allows one to work more efficiently on both parts of a project.
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. By diagramming ideas – as opposed to writing ideas down in sentence form – individuals can actually see the strength, weakness, order and gaps in their hypothesis, argument or content. 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.
Benefits to Teachers and Trainers
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.
How Visual Thinking Works
The question of how visual techniques work to enhance thinking, learning, and problem solving has been studied in academic psychological studies and explored by popular psychologists. Findings include:
- Maps and diagrams tap into the spatial and relational capabilities of the brain to create meaning.
- The mind establishes relationships between the elements of a diagram based more on color, shape, and spacing than from text alone.
- Maps are not tied to a linear structure, so they more accurately reflect the mirror the structure of the brain, which is a mass of interconnected neurons, not a linear processor of commands in which information goes in one direction.
- Maps clarify content by removing unnecessary words that can be misleading or unnecessary.
About Visual-Spatial Learners
Understanding of visual-spatial learning is ongoing as the roles and complex interplay between both brain hemispheres continues to be revealed. We all use both hemispheres of our brains, so oversimplified statements about “left-brain” and “right-brain” need to be tempered. However, the specialized roles of both hemispheres do lead to insights about thinking and learning. The left hemisphere tends to be driven, goal-oriented, sequential and analytical. The right hemisphere tends to perceive the big picture, experience “A-ha” moments, think in pictures and daydream. Right-hemisphere oriented learners tend to be motivated by emotion and relationships.
Some of the most compelling writing on this subject has been done by Linda Silverman, Director of the Gifted Development Center in Colorado. According to her research on giftedness and learning styles:
- 33% of learners self identify as strongly visual-spatial learners.
- 25% of learners self identify as as strongly auditory-sequential learners.
- 45% rely on both hemispheres
- 30% leaning towards VSL
- 15% leaning towards ASL
Visual thinking strategies give visual learners the tools to express and develop their ideas in ways that conform to the ways that they naturally think. The diagram below compares right hemisphere visual-spatial thinkers with left brain dominant auditory-sequential thinkers.
|Thinks primarily in words||Thinks primarily in pictures|
|Has auditory strengths||Has visual strengths|
|Relates well to time||Relates well to space|
|Is a step-by-step learner||Is a whole-part learner|
|Learns by trial and error||Learns concepts all at once|
|Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult material||Learns complex concepts easily; struggles with easy skills|
|Is an analytical thinker||Is a good synthesizer|
|Attends well to details||Sees the big picture; may miss details|
|Does well at arithmetic||Reads maps well|
|Learns phonics easily||Is better at math reasoning than computation|
|Can sound out spelling words||Learns whole words easily|
|Can write quickly and neatly||Must visualize words to spell them|
|Is well-organized||Prefers keyboarding to writing|
|Can show steps of work easily||Creates unique methods of organization|
|Excels at rote memorization||Arrives at correct solutions intuitively|
|Has good auditory short-term memory||Learns best by seeing relationships|
|May need some repetition to reinforce learning||Has good long-term visual memory|
|Learns well from instruction||Learns concepts permanently; is turned off by drill and repetition|
|Learns in spite of emotional reactions||Develops own methods of problem solving|
|Is comfortable with one right answer||Is very sensitive to teachers’ attitudes|
|Develops fairly evenly||Generates unusual solutions to problems|
|Usually maintains high grades||Develops quite asynchronously|
|Develops fairly evenly||May have very uneven grades|
|Enjoys algebra and chemistry||Enjoys geometry and physics|
|Learns languages in class||Masters other languages through immersion|
|Is academically talented||Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted|
|Is an early bloomer||Is a late bloomer|
My name is Jesse Berg. Thank you for visiting my web site. I founded Visual Leap in 2007 after many years of teaching first Spanish, then Technology. As a Spanish teacher, I learned how technology can transform student learning. This led me to instructional technology and a new position in which I taught computers and served as Technology Coordinator at a K-8 school.
In this role, my classroom became a laboratory where I began to fully explore the power of visual thinking, especially as it relates to mind mapping, semantic webbing and non-linear thinking. Since about 2000 I have been fascinated by how our two brain hemispheres integrate to construct knowledge and how both have different strengths and roles to play in learning.
I founded Visual Leap with the mission of developing “visual thinking” methods that harness the natural power of our brains’ powerful neural networks and dual hemispheres for learning. My reason for this is quite personal. For me, learning has always been hard, and as I have toiled over the years, I thought there had to be a better, easier way.
At Philadelphia University, where I was earning a Masters in Instructional Technology, I came to the concept of using the act of diagramming ideas to understand. This stands in contrast to merely using existing diagrams to understand topics. When I first explored creating ideas visually I felt like a key to my mind had been unlocked.
Based on my years as a teacher and instructional coach, and as a curious person and lifelong learner, I am convinced that visual thinking strategies – such as diagramming and mapping ideas – are a key to harnessing one’s creativity and reaching one’s intellectual potential. When students learn how to use their innate visual thinking abilities in diverse situations throughout their educational and professional lives, they will truly be prepared to find opportunities, solve complex problems and lead in the 21st Century. My goal is to put these skills and tools into the hands of teachers, who will use them in the classroom.
Since the day I discovered “visual thinking,” my goal has been to develop and distill that experience into a method of replicable steps that teachers, professionals and learners of any age can use independently to get out in front of their ideas and help them reach their goals. My latest step in this journey is to put these ideas on paper in my new book Visual Leap: A Step-by-Step Guide to Visual Learning for Teachers and Students.
Visual Leap offers teacher workshops that help teachers become engaged co-learners with their students. We emphasize the effective use of instructional technology and creative, visual approaches to learning that teachers can immediately put into practice.
Our job-embedded coaching services are some of the most transformative professional learning experiences we share with teachers. Through our coaching services, ongoing relationships are built that transform classrooms and schools.
Blended Professional Learning combines the impact of face-to-face workshops, the relevancy of job-embedded coaching, the practicality of online resources and the methodology of the Visual Leap book. This is one our most popular whole school solutions.
Visual Leap consulting services include technology assessments, professional development program design and implementation and graphic facilitation to visualize strategic planning and other complex processes.
Based on his book Visual Leap: A Step by Step Guide to Visual Learning for Teachers and Students, Jesse Berg provides engaging and inspiring keynote addresses. These talks connect his passion for learning with a clear vision of how teachers can help all types of students can reach their potential.