Well, learn by looking with graphic novels & illustrated texts!
In the recent graphic novel, Neurocomic, Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Roš take us on an adventure inside the brain. We follow an unnamed fellow who accidentally falls into one and must travel through neurons, axons, synapses, and neurotransmitters trying to get out. Along the way, he is guided by some of neuroanatomy’s key scientists as they describe their discoveries, including Sir Charles Scott Sherrington (who named the synapse) and Hans Berger (inventor of the electroencephalogram). Both he and we learn a little about the morphology, pharmacology, electrophysiology, plasticity, and synchronicity of the brain. The authors’ whimsical tone guides us on a fun and memorable journey, almost hiding from us the fact we are learning.
Another example of graphic treatment of a “serious” subject comes from Daniel Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. Best-selling author Pink shifts to manga style to deliver career advice for today’s professionals. Similar to Neurocomic, this book follows the adventures of a narrator — a young hero, herein assisted by a magic career advisor for 6 essential lessons for surviving and thriving in today’s world of work. By weaving together the power of heroic storytelling and the visual stylization of manga, Pink accurately targets his greatest potential audience: young professionals, raised on manga and anime. Before they — or we — know it, we’ve zoomed through a well-told enjoyable story, learning all the way.
These recently published books reminded me of my first encounter with visual learning (beyond comic books — but that’s another blog post!).
I first discovered Space-Time and Beyond in my college days. Rather than a graphic novel, this is more like an illustrated textbook exploring the intersection of theoretical physics and metaphysical traditions in an effort to move our understanding, as the subtitle says, “Towards an Explanation of the Unexplained.” Each page illustrates a single concept with a diagram, framed by a brief introduction and followed by an explanation. Each new page builds upon the concept from the previous page, leading the reader through increasingly complex levels of theory to an perspective of understanding that still stands up today. The second half provides extensive footnotes documenting the theories illustrated throughout.
See what I mean about visual learning?