Uses for Images
Images can be used in many different ways, ranging from documenting a process through to providing an interesting ‘resting point’ within a dense page of text. The most effective way to use images will depend on the intended effect, for example advertisers and magazine/newspaper editors use striking images to grab our attention for long enough to interest us in reading the associated text, whereas a car maintenance manual uses images to help people follow the written instructions.
A recent trend on the internet, but a old one in more traditional media, is the use of infographics to simplify complex topics and make them more digestible. Free online tools are available to help create infographics and the results can be very effective.
Benefits of Using Images
The old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is true in that a well-chosen image can get across a complex idea much more easily than explaining it verbally. For example, among many other things, images can:
- show cross-sections of a living brain and reveal some of its inner workings
- help explain how a rotary engine works
- illustrate buildings, locations and events
- show rare and extinct creatures
- highlight historically significant fashions, people and technology
It would be quite challenging to provide a description of any of the above examples that would provide the same richness of detail and accurately convey the relevant information. However, images can be very useful as a place for the eyes to pause while the brain processes large amounts of information – the images on this post are an example of this. A growing trend for presentations is to use bold images with a minimum of text. This method helps maintain the audience’s attention by frequently providing something interesting to look at and allows them to quickly return their focus to the speaker, rather than reading from the slides.
Images are particularly important for ‘visual learners’, who are more effective at learning when provided with images to support any written information. However, it is important to ensure that you will not disadvantage students, such as those with visual impairments, by only providing information as images.
How to Get Started
The easiest way to get started is to take some photos and use them in your teaching materials. Most people have a device that can take adequate photos, ranging from a phone to a dedicated camera, and these can easily be used to produce images for use in your work.
However, if you work in a field where it is difficult to make your own images, or just don’t have confidence in your ability to make something usable, a good place to start looking for images that you can reuse is at the Creative Commons website. Another option to help you gather some useful images could be to get your students to help you by sending you images that they have created.