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The Iconic Turn in Education


Edited By András Benedek and Kristof Nyiri

Some twenty years after the term iconic turn has been coined, and with a deluge of digital images, videos and animations surrounding, indeed invading, the learning environment, it appears that educational science, and the everyday practice of education, still very much labour under the impact of the past dominance of alphabetic literacy. But while educators clearly need to retain a measure of conservatism, maintain an acute sense for the logic of the written text and preserve the ability to handle extended hardcopy documents, they have to rise to the task, also, of exploiting the potentials of online networked communication, the constant presence of images, both static and moving, and the continuous interplay of words and images.


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Preface: András Benedek


Preface András Benedek When in the chapter “Vision in Education” of his fundamental book Visual Think- ing Rudolf Arnheim comes to speak of the topic of so-called “visual aids”, he sides emphatically with the sobering charge that such aids are mostly consid- ered, as the expression implies, “as purely subsidiary to the seemingly all-impor- tant verbal communication, the traditional spoken or written representations. Usually visual aids are just that – illustrations: for the words are considered the primary mode of communication.” The mere display, Arnheim goes on to point out, of photographs, drawings, models, or even the live exhibition, of the objects and connections to be studied, does not by itself guarantee a “thoughtful grasp of the subject”; merely the use of visual aids does just not provide “a sufficiently favourable condition for visual thinking”. The educator, as Arnheim puts it, should not be content with paying lip service to “the doctrine of visual aids”; it is “not enough to turn on the movie projector, more or less diffidently, to pro- vide a few minutes of entertainment in the dark”; what is needed is to acquire, and develop, a capacity to be able to discern the difference “between a picture that makes its point and one that does not”. Visual thinking, as Arnheim memor- ably formulates the challenge, calls “for the ability to see visual shapes as im- ages of the patterns of forces that underlie our existence – the functioning of minds, of bodies or machines, the structure of societies...

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