Today, we have some very special guests: the team of bikablo® macht Schule (literally translates as bikablo goes school) is visiting the Neuland headquarters. And since this is a rare occasion, we just couldn’t resist to grill them about their project, particularly if it’s such an interesting topic. In a nutshell, Sandra, Silvia, Christian, Frank and Karl are visiting schools to show teachers and students how to use visualization for teaching and studying. But the experts can explain it way better, so enjoy the interview we prepared for you! 🙂

Your project sounds very interesting. Tell us more about it!

Frank: As pedagogs we’ve set ourselves the aim to promote visualization as a method to teach and learn in schools. Education and studying can be so much fun when you do it in a more individual, communicative, emotional, and sustainable way. By rendering this process visible, complex topics become clearer and more comprehensible which makes it easier for you to communicate them and deepen your knowledge. Progressive teaching is all about designing learning processes holistically (with head, heart, hand) and individually. This is now finally possible (and absolutely necessary in times of digital transition).

Silvia: Our training offers a tool that helps adults and teenagers screen, organize, prioritize and hierarchize the vast amount of information we receive every day, such as texts and YouTube videos.

And how did you come up with this idea?

Frank: Being a former art teacher I’ve always been convinced of visual learning. Images and education are very close subjects. My former and best teacher during my apprenticeship, Karina, definitely set an example for this pictorial thinking in art lessons and school in general. As a media consultant I really wanted to explain abstract, digital topics in an analog way. Of course, this decision led back to the experts of visual thinking: back to Karina.

Sandra and Silvia: And this is how Karl and the both of us came into the picture. After participating in a visualization training, we too began integrating visual thinking in our work at schools and seminars.

That sounds very exciting. What would you say, what’s your vision behind all this?

Sandra: I mean, the statement “A resource-poor country like Germany needs unconventional thinkers” (from the German book “Visual Summary im Unterricht”) pretty much covers it. In order to understand complex topics more easily, children and adults have to learn how to combine information, symbolize it, and use images instead of just listing facts and think “in tables”.

Frank: I agree with J. A. Comenius and his persuation and hope to improve the world through pedagogical work. In times of the Thirty Years’ War, he invented the first school book that was made for children, the Orbis Pictus. This book covers everything about the orders and functions of the world in images. Being convinced of the power of visualization we want to contribute to the educational system. In our project, we extend Comenius’ idea of the Orbis Pictus to a systemic method to make the process of learning and understanding visible and communicable: The students draw their own understanding of the world to communicate it.

Karl: “In the beginning was the word …” – this is how the first chapter of the Gospel of John starts. – But is it true? Isn’t it much more likely that the perception of things and images came before the word? The dominance of words as main language in our culture and school system makes us forget the vivid part. As philosophy teacher I often see big question marks lighting up above my students’ heads when they’ve read a philosophical text. Here, visualization can help. We have to give the visual perception back to the abstract concepts and terms. Words generate imaginings, imaginings are systematized through terms. Both aspects are important and lead to understandings and misunderstandings becoming visual – specifically, my wish is to include visualization in the schedule even earlier that all subjects and age groups can benefit from it.

You’ve already made a connection between visualization and teaching/learning. What’s your main argument how teachers and students can benefit from this?

Frank: Teachers and students benefit as learning processes become visible, communicable, tangible and comprehensible. Sketchnotes, organizer, mappings, charts, etc. give learners a new attitude towards acceptance, being understood, and purposeful learning together in groups.

Karl: A good visualization can often lead to an understanding or misunderstanding being more visible than a text. And it’s a vivid reference we can all swap ideas on. This is a huge chance, particularly when it comes to the interpretation of complex texts and issues.

This definitely sounds helpful. And how do teachers and students usually react to this?

Sandra: Silvia and I have already developed and implemented completely different trainings for students. They train reading comprehension, for instance. The students’ reactions are very positive: By extracting information from texts, symbolizing them and starting a dialogue – which means creating a complex visualization or visual summary – younger people can more easily understand these texts in depth. This way, the content of a text can be anchored and remembered.

All this sounds so simple when you explain it. But how do you actually tackle something like this?

Silvia: First, our participants learn analog elements and techniques of visualization. The so-called target tasks can easily be applied to learning situations in their own lessons. After that, a complex task aims to automatically use the methods learned in a dialogue.

Frank: Thinking with your pen is so simple and easy to grasp that the participants automatically understand it while actively drawing together. That’s why we’ve included a self-explanatory parcours at this point that they walk through together while drawing and communicating with each other. The “visual vocabulary” they learn during this parcours is connected step by step. This way, the complexity is being communicated, understood together and expressed in simplified terms.

These complex concepts are then presented as digital products (photo poster, explanatory video) that allow us to decide what the viewer should focus on, for instance by zooming in while filming and explaining it acoustically. These digital formats are results of the educational, image-guided discussion that can be repeated and shared. Speaking with images, through images and about images makes communication and learnings visible, sustainable, and creates a pictorial, vivid experience.

Wow, thank you very much for providing an insight into your strategy. Another aspect we are interested in is the material you’re using. Why is good material so important for your project?

Frank: As art teacher I know that good material considerably simplifies the creative process and even creates an aesthetic, sensual experience. Have you ever tried to paint a picture with bad brush and poor quality colors on a piece of paper that’s way too smooth? … The same applies to visualization: In this case, we need pens with vibrant colors and high quality nibs that you can hold nicely in your hand and let you create a perfect stroke. This is why we use Neuland markers. And, in addition, they are sustainable because every marker is refillable.

This brings back childhood memories. This also reminds me of a typical sentence that you’ve probably heard many times: “I can’t draw”. How do you convince the shy students that they can?

Christian: In this case, I always say: “Perfect, so you have all the attributes you need! Because it’s not about art but the processes of thinking and communicating. Visualization is a cultural technique with simple rules that can be learned by everybody, just like reading and writing. As soon as you know a couple of rules you will be surprised of your own results – and, yes of course, it helps to practice.”

To prove this, the participants learn how to draw the UZMO lightbulb in 15 seconds. Usually, you don’t need more to convince them. From this moment on, they often don’t want to let go of the pen anymore.

Sandra: In our trainings, people don’t learn to paint but practice drawing. Every young adult used to be a child himself/herself and drew with his/her own hands: lines, dots, circles. We reactivate, practice and deepen exactly this.

This answer has a ring to it. Who can’t be motivated by this?
Can you already take stock of your project?

Frank: I have always enjoyed learning and teaching mutually – visualizing with the bikablo technique I learned from Karina and Martin spurs and supports the fun of learning together even more! This is why our team of bikablo macht Schule is so convinced to establish and cultivate this method and learning technique at schools. And with the positive feedback of our participants and the overwhelming support of bikablo and Neuland this passion comes naturally to us!

Karl: After the trainings, the responses of students and colleagues are usually pretty good. And the positive feedback encourages us even more. I hope that the acceptance from schools continues to increase and that more people see the potential of visualization techniques.

We hope so, too! Now, is there a special experience you want to share with us before we have to come to an end?

Sandra: Yes. Many. Something that immediately comes into my mind is Silvia and my first training at a school. One student was looking at his visualization and said to himself: “goosebumps”.

Frank: The fact that this method makes the process of learning actually easier for so many students is something very special to me and brings joy between people and error friendliness to a world that is often still anxiety-provoking and stressful. The good conversations, the shared motivation and vision … this binds us together and truly makes sense. We share luck, joy, vision and sense with you!

Silvia: Another special experience will also be our big project with Christian at a school for children with special needs in the South of Bavaria.

Sounds like you have many plans in your heads. Thank you very much for taking the time and visiting us. We wish you all the best for your future and the successful implementation of this great project.