I attended a noontime lecture today given by Felice Frenkel, describing her work as a science photographer, and her innovative projects on using drawings as a learning tool for scientific concepts. Her work is a great example how important good visualizations are in helping to convey ideas. She has a new book coming out, No Small Matter, Science of the Nanoscale (with George Whitesides) that looks like it will be interesting. I am putting it on my list of things I’d like to have. The photos she showed in the talk were gorgeous. It looks to be a good study of how visual representations can inform physical intuition.
Ms. Frenkel also talked about some of the NSF-funded work she did on a program to examine how student drawings could be used as a learning tool. The Picturing to Learn site has examples of student drawings that were made in response to questions about basic physical concepts. They reveal what the students are thinking, and can be used to highlight parts of the concepts that students missed. If I were teaching, I probably would include some of these ideas in my classes.