During the past ten years governments and education departments across the world have invested significant sums of money in a range of whole-class visual display technologies such as data projectors, interactive whiteboards and visualisers (Cuthell, 2005a; 2008). There have been many reasons for their adoption: the technologies have been seen as a way of meeting government targets for ICT implementation, for providing access to the latest educational resources or as a way of transforming and modernising the outcomes of educational systems (Cuthell, 2005a). The high capital cost of these technologies has meant that individual teachers and schools have rarely been able to specify or select the tools for themselves. One result of this has been that the technologies, and the changes that they produce, are often seen by teachers to be externally imposed on them and their classrooms (Cuthell, 2006). Staff development is often limited to a brief instructional session that focuses on basic ‘mastery of the controls’, rather than an exploration of how the tools can be integrated into teaching and learning (Moss et al, 2007).

However, expectations of these technologies are artificially high, and researchers are often pressured to produce findings that justify the high capital investment. Assumptions that the introduction of a new technology will per se achieve pedagogical change and an improvement in learning outcomes are difficult to substantiate through research, and research findings are often lost by politicians and misrepresented in the media (Kennewell, 2006). Many surveys produce results that are limited by respondents being given neither enough information, intellectual space nor time to make a useful judgement or evaluation of visual display technologies and visual learning (Smith et al, 2007).

This online multi-modal resource relates to the policy, theory and practice of all aspects of Visual Learning and brings together academic studies from international research; policy and best practice disseminated through Becta and other government agencies; case studies focused on classroom best practice and innovative technologies from industry. This is freely available online and forms a growing knowledge base for academics, students, schools and teachers. The project also provides video evidence that links to other work-based learning projects.The case studies focus on classroom best practice and the integration of innovative technologies from industry. An important element is the ways in which teachers use the technologies and affordances of their personal learning networks – wikis, FlashMeeting, Twitter, MirandaMods and unConferences – both to advance their techniques and strategies and obtain feedback from critical friends.‘Seeing the Meaning’ is a freely available online knowledge base for academics, students, schools and teachers. The project links to other work-based learning projects, and identifies:

  • a range of pedagogical strategies to support and reinforce Visual Learning;
  • the ways in which it can be integrated across age-related curricula;
  • models for deployment across institutions;
  • the integration of Visual Learning into assessment practice;
  • the role of work-based learning to support the integration of visual learning technologies into existing and developing pedagogical practice;
  • learner perceptions of the impact of visual learning on personal learning and progress;
  • the use of personal learning networks as a forum for development and dissemination.

Key issues of visual learning, its technologies and its pedagogies are illustrated, both in the video case studies and the practitioner commentaries. They explore and develop the relationship between technology, theory, pedagogy and learning; the relationship between work, learning and professional practice and the relationship between pedagogy, assessment and visual learning.