When I was in fifth grade, a stranger entered our classroom and handed each of us a piece of paper. There were only rows of circles on it. We were given 10 minutes to draw as many things as we could using as many circles as we could.
While the students around me happily started drawing suns, happy faces, regular faces, and cartoon faces, I sat for a few minutes, pencil in hand, drawing nothing. I was looking at the entire page, trying to figure out how I could combine all of those circles into one large drawing. I couldn't, so I settled for circle combinations instead.
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I drew a bicycle and a pair of eyeglasses. I strung several balloons together to form a grouping. I created a caterpillar with little legs coming out of each segment wearing shoes and a head with antennae on one end. When the ten minutes were up, I realized I hadn't used nearly as many circles as those around me, and I wondered if I'd “failed” the test.
I was called from class a few weeks later, and the same stranger greeted me in the office. He had more “tests” for me because he said I had shown such creativity with the circle exercise. He explained that he was a college student studying “visual thinkers,” and that he mistakenly thought I was one of them. He also told me that I was probably not getting as good grades as some of my classmates because most teachers do not teach for visual learners.
That was the first time anyone tried to explain why I had trouble learning. Later on, it prompted me to investigate the definition of a visual thinker, and I discovered that I fit the bill quite well! So, here is a list of seven things that all of us visual thinkers will understand, but most others will probably not.
1. We plan our projects and tasks in a unique manner
While others make lists and create great Excel files that speak to the tasks to be completed, we need a big flow chart that divides up the entire project in a visual representation. We become frustrated and less productive when others use project management tools that rely on lists and files.
If this describes you, get another tool. Casual is one that I recommend. This is cloud-based software that allows you to create a large mind map of an entire project. With one large visual flow chart, you can see everything at once and track the details of task completion. It's as if this piece of software was written with our names on it when it was created!
2. We have a vast imagination
When we see a cloud formation, we immediately envision a variety of scenarios involving that shape. While others are preoccupied with their to-do lists, we are perceived as unfocused, as daydreamers.
In reality, we are seeing old images and imagining new ones, so please “do not disturb”! And if you ask us to come up with solutions, you should leave us alone because our visualizations might just come up with the best one.
We excel at group math modeling and optimization projects, and if you ask us to help decorate a room for a party, we can “see” the finished product in our “mind's eye” pretty quickly.
3. Instead of writing notes, we draw them
When we are listening to a lecture, we draw what we hear rather than writing it down. Our handwriting isn't always that great, but we can draw pictures, charts, and other images to help us remember what was said.
When we need to give someone directions, we must draw them; when we need to explain something, we must use a picture to do so. While others in school are creating outlines for their essays and papers, we are creating graphic organizers that make sense to us.
We will not make a list if we need to remember to pick up items at the store; instead, we will draw pictures of the items. Because we have a mental image of the store, we know exactly where to go to make “quick work” of that shopping trip. We also do not memorize word spellings phonetically. We can tell if a word is correctly spelled by looking at it.
4. We have the ability to invent
Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were both academic failures who were labeled as mentally deficient. However, they “saw” things that others did not and changed our lives forever as a result. While not all of us visual thinkers are as inventive as that, we do come up with some pretty good ideas.
Assume someone was eating hamburgers in a restaurant many years ago. He had to shake the ketchup bottle upside down to get the ketchup to the spout when he turned it upside down to slather it on his burger. He described his vision for a new bottle design, which included a wide cap that could balance the bottle upside down, ensuring that the ketchup was always at the spout when the bottle was opened. He even suggested it in a letter to one of the companies.
A few years later, the first ketchup bottle appeared, exactly as he had imagined it, soon to be followed by several other items – mustard, jelly, mayonnaise, and so on. Although the final product was created by someone at the ketchup company, this wonderful little convenience was born in that restaurant.
5. We don't understand tables, but we adore diagrams
We are in “heaven” if an instructor draws a benzene ring in chemistry class or if we can play with Punnett squares in biology class. But give us data in a table or ask us to write a prose explanation of how a bill becomes a law, and we'll go crazy! Give us a picture, let us absorb and process it in our brains, and we will “have” it permanently etched in our memory. We will be able to recall that image of the legislative process for years to come.
6. We remember things in the form of images
We deal with pictures, while others write or speak about their first pets, a significant event in their lives, or someone who has influenced them. As we recall events from our lives, they become movies in our heads.
Some extreme visual learners, in fact, have such vivid mental “movies” that they can recall even the smallest details about a scene. Recently, a television series called “Unforgettable” became a huge success. The main character was a woman with such a strong visual memory that she helped a team of detectives solve crimes. She went to each crime scene and concentrated on the “big picture,” but she could recall every detail of the location later on if necessary.
7. We are professional packers
Why? Because, while everyone else is attempting to cram things into a suitcase with varying degrees of success, we have visualized that suitcase and everything that must go inside it. We've rearranged and rearranged the items in our heads until we've found the perfect pattern of placement. Then we just follow our pattern, everything fits perfectly, and we're ready to go!
In our thinking processes, we visual thinkers are imaginative, creative, and divergent. While we may frustrate others and ourselves at times, we are frequently the most valuable member of a team!
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