Thursday, April 24, 2008

How can you find anything in this mess?

The visual-spatial learner is a set of contradictions. One moment they have no clue what you're talking about, and the next they've just come up with a completely novel way of doing something. The problem most people have with saying someone like this is smart is that you expect a smart person to be smart all the time. Instead, you have a person who seems brilliant at some moments but completely dense the next.

For instance, the following characteristics of the visual-spatial learner (according to Sword) are generally associated with people who have emotional difficulties and/or with learning disabilities:

* often fails at simple things
* is physically sensitive, often has acute hearing and intense reactions to loud noises
* has poor listening skills, often seems not to be listening
* has difficulty finishing tasks/school work
* has poor handwriting or difficulty keeping in the lines or grips the pen very hard and presses on the paper when writing
* has a poor sense of time
* is extremely sensitive to criticism
* is emotionally very sensitive
* has difficulty with spelling/times tables
* is distractible
* is very disorganised

On the other hand, these characteristics are the things that will make people wonder if they are, in fact, intelligent.

* likes complex ideas and tasks and does well on them
* loves Lego, puzzles, jigsaws, computer games, television, making things
* likes art and/or music
* can remember the way somewhere after going there only once
* has a vivid imagination and/or disturbing dreams

If a person is gifted, one assumes that they will think about the problem issues and find ways to solve them. That, of course, assumes that these issues are problems to the visual-spatial learner. Often, they are not as their focus is not how to organize things in a linear fashion, the way most people do, but how to organize them in space.

A good example is an outline. An auditory-sequential thinker will write an outline indicating their thoughts on a topic in some sort of order (chronological, importance of points, etc.). Even though an auditory-sequential learner may view the outline as the basic construct of writing a paper or delivering a speech, it isn't for the visual-spatial thinker. In fact, it will require pre-planning for a visual-spatial thinker. They may need to brain-storm their ideas onto a piece of paper. Once that is accomplished, they find patterns to connect their various points. These patterns may or may not involve the same sort of organization that a auditory-sequential thinker uses. The disadvantage of the visual-spatial process is that is is more time consuming and requires more steps. The advantage is that the visual-spatial thinker may come up with novel points that don't come out in a linear process and may also develop a novel way of connecting the points together. Usually the completed project is well-thought out, once you can get them to go through all the necessary steps. Unfortunately, this can be the most difficult aspect of teaching a visual-spatial learner unless you find topics of interest to them.

A gifted visual-spatial learner will often have a very chaotic environment, frequently will be late, and almost always seem disorganized. This is the way it appears to linear thinkers who probably could not function in such an environment. On the other hand, visual-spatial learners prefer to learn about subjects in depth, can often find what they need in their "vertical filing system", and hate being cut off in the middle of something (which is why they are late - finishing something is more important than punctuality). The processes involved in organization work in entirely different ways for different learning styles. Recognition that there is more than one "right" way to do things is critical for recognizing and helping visual-spatial learners to achieve their potential.

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