Clive Thompson writes a worthwhile article in the October 2010 issue of Wired magazine, "Think Visual." His thesis, based at least in part on Dan Roam's book, The Back of the Napkin, is that the best way to solve complicated problems might be to draw them. Roam argues, as Thompson says, "that our culture relies too heavily on words. Our school systems--and political systems--are designed to promote people who are verbal and eloquent. And text tends to encourage us to describe our problems as narratives or linear lists of facts. But dynamic, complicated problems--like global warming and economic reform--often can't be boiled down to simple narratives. They're systems; they have many little parts affecting one another. In those situations, drawing a picture can clarify what's going on" (66).
As Thompson writes, however, "Unfortunately, picture-drawing is considered childish, which is partly why visual thinking has taken a backseat to verbal agility. But that may be changing, because the Internet has boosted the utility of imagery." He cites the example of Roam, who "drew a series of witty napkin pictures" to describe the recent health care debate. "Within a few weeks, nearly 300,000 people had viewed the images; many emailed Roam thanking him for finally explaining the reform" (66). You can view a video with Dan Roam here, where talks about rethinking PowerPoint.
How might schools incorporate this level of visualization in extant curricula? At what point might we stop considering picture-drawing childish and consider it as a go-to resource? Such an approach would underscore the importance of learning styles, something which continues to make many folks uncomfortable and even suspicious.