Technology and Multiple Intelligences: The Praxis of Learning Intelligences
Abstract. Practical applications of the theory of
multiple intelligences are presented and discussed. The implementation
of multiple intelligences strategies can be instituted in the classroom
through project-based learning via the utilization of cyber technology.
1. The Failure to Implement the Theory
of Multiple Intelligences
Gardner has come to recognize eight learning intelligences.
The logico-mathematical intelligence suggests that some people learn best
through the manipulation of numbers or through a series of logical precepts
or through syllogisms. The person who learns best by utilizing the logico-mathematical
intelligence is not necessarily destined to become a scientist, mathematician
or an accountant. This person merely learns best through the manipulation
of logical precepts or numbers. An effective example of the exploitation
of this intelligence by teachers would be to have students investigate
the cause-effect relationships of the American Civil War or by analyzing
the differences between the economies of North and the South.
The learners who favor the verbal-linguistic intelligence learn best through the manipulation of words and their concepts. Thus mathematics teachers who employ the multiple intelligence strategy have had their students write out in words the processes and theorems involved in solving equations. Narratives have been created that illustrate certain historical periods. The stories of personal struggles against the institution of slavery make alive historical events of the Civil War for learners who favor the employment of language arts in the acquisition of knowledge and facts.
For the learners who are inclined towards the musical
intelligence, studying the cultural influences of musical compositions
like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" or "Dixie"
would bring understanding of the cultures that influenced this period
of American history. Similarly, the visual-spatial learner would be profoundly
moved by the compositions of the Civil War photographers or painters.
The aesthetic qualities found in films, photographs and paintings create
mental images for the spatial intelligence learner. The visual-spatial
intelligence learners make meaning for themselves through these visual
images. For the kinesthetic learner, participation in re-enactments of
specific battles is enlightening. The visitation of Civil War period plantations,
museums and forts enliven history for those who wish to experience history
tactually, optically and acoustically. To actually walk through the activities
of the daily lives of the people of the period would be the best learning
experience the kinesthetic learner could have.
Interpersonal intelligence students learn best through
personal interactions with others. Small group activities that investigate
the Civil War period stimulate such a learner. A good simulation in which
the students take on roles brings to light the human factors surrounding
the Civil War period. Taking part in the debates that of that period is
a powerful learning experience.
Intrapersonal intelligence students favor personal, reflective
learning. Reading and reflection about a Confederate or Union soldier's
diary or an abolitionist's pamphlets is educational for these students.
They need time to reflect and ponder the lives, arguments and philosophies
of that day.
The naturalist intelligence is Gardner's most recent addition
to the original seven intelligences introduced in 1983. The naturalist
intelligence students are able to recognize large, overarching patterns
or structures in nature and in concepts. For example, the ability to see
a pattern in a seemingly set of random numbers is key to the understanding
of fractals. Similarly, the study of taxonomies and classifications and
the construction of hypotheses involving macro-systems are further examples
of the naturalist intelligence at work. For the students of the Civil
War, naturalist intelligence learners may investigate phenomena of slavery
throughout American history or its antecedents in order to understand
the institution of slavery in the Ante-bellum South.
Of course, none of these intelligences exist in isolation
from the others. Astute learners will use effective combinations to reinforce
their lessons. Thus verbal-linguistic intelligence learners might reinforce
their book-acquired understanding of the Civil War with a kinesthetic
walk through the battlefield of Gettysburg with period music playing in
the background. Such a combination of learning intelligences can create
an indelible impression of the period.
The truths underlying Gardner's multiple intelligences
are self-evident. Learners favor different intelligences and use different
combinations in their acquisition of material and knowledge. This being
so - the question must be asked, "Why isn't multiple intelligences
being effectively implemented throughout all departments and through the
K-16 curricula?" What we see in practice is either total denial of
the existence of multiple intelligences or half-hearted attempts at one
or two collateral intelligences. There is no genuine attempt to utilize
all eight intelligences in our teaching practices. It also appears that
the higher the academic ladder a student ascends, the fewer learning intelligences
are made available for that student. Perhaps the best examples of multiple
intelligences learning taking place in the K-16 arena is in Kindergarten.
The Kindergarten room is filled with wonder and surprises to be explored
through every learning intelligence. There is singing, story telling,
personal-discovery activities, group-discovery activities, number manipulations,
jumping, running and sitting learning games, the exploration of patterns,
and finger painting. By the time children reach eighth grade, most students
experience only the learning intelligence most conducive to the discipline
itself. Students create art in art class, but not in science. Students
employ numbers in math but not in English. Thus a student dares to ask
the question in an eighth grade science class, "Does spelling count?
This isn't an English class, Ms. Smith!" Students and teachers have
relegated certain skills and intelligences to be used only in certain
disciplines. There is very little transference.
The creative high-school teacher who dares to employ a
"foreign" intelligence in her class is looked upon with academic
suspicion. How can any self-respecting honors senior English teacher allow
her students to write a song in place of writing a term paper? The musical
intelligence may be used in a music class but is practically taboo in
any other discipline in high school. By the time students reach the college
level, any idea of multiple intelligence learning has been largely ignored
- even by the discipline that exploits the intelligence the most. How
many art departments have relegated the "performing arts" to
a status below that of the academic study of art? Art history or music
history classes are often considered to be much more serious, rigorous
and "academic" when compared to their performing counterparts.
At the college level, there emerge only two primary learning intelligences:
logico-mathematic and verbal-linguistic. The others are largely abandoned.
The traditional mid-term, final and a paper only allow a narrow choice
of learning intelligences.
Nearly as appalling a situation are teachers who attempt
to utilize multiple intelligences in their disciplines but only through
the most unnatural and convoluted means. The singing of the periodic table
or the singing of Shakespearean sonnets do not inspire most students.
It may at times do something for the musical intelligence students; however,
by the time the other learning intelligence students have denigrated the
lesson as being insipid, even the musical intelligence students have rejected
Most teachers do not even attempt to incorporate the other
intelligences into their teaching strategies. The reasons are clear enough
to discern. First of all, the established curriculum and the time-honored
approaches to the disciplines do not lend themselves to other intelligences
in a natural manner. As an example, to teach astronomy through a kinesthetic
intelligence seems a bit far-fetched and unnatural to the discipline.
How would the average teacher or lecturer begin to design a lesson with
musical considerations that would be readily assimilated by all students
in the class? Collaterally, standardized and traditional assessments do
not utilize nor recognize any of the intelligences except the logical-mathematic
or the verbal-linguistic. And with the recent resurgence of teacher evaluations
resting on these high stakes scores, there is little hope that teachers
will design many lessons with multiple intelligences in mind.
A second reason why teachers neglect multiple intelligences
lies in the pragmatic fact that there is inadequate time to prepare lessons
utilizing more than one learning intelligence. With inadequate time to
cover even the basically mandated elements of the course, teachers will
not "waste" time by covering the same material for students
who prefer to learn through another intelligence. Hence the ubiquitous
lecture predominates at the higher educational levels. In addition, teachers
not only lack the time in their classrooms to utilize other intelligences,
they also lack the time to prepare for such lessons. Thirdly, and perhaps
the most important explanation why teachers largely ignore multiple intelligences
is that it is simply wrong-headed. Teachers do not have the expertise
in the other intelligences to produce meaningful lessons using multiple
intelligences. It would take too much time and effort to plan and implement
However, the concept of multiple intelligences is not
about what a teacher does in the classroom, although most pre-service
and in-service programs tend to make it so. The concept of multiple intelligences
should be about how a person learns not about how a person teaches. The
misplaced emphasis on teachers to teach lessons using different intelligences
is well intended but practically unattainable.
2. The Implementation of Multiple
As an example, a literature instructor has assigned the
novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. The
instructor plans to cover not only the literary constructs of the novels
but also the concepts of utopianism. The political, social, economic,
cultural, educational, and religious aspects of societies will be the
topics of discussions as well. The instructor utilizing multiple intelligences
will assign a variety of projects from which learners will choose. Each
project will be required to cover a basic set of requirements, for example,
each project must define the concept of utopia. Each project might be
asked to demonstrate an understanding of either the political, social,
economic and cultural aspect of societies and to create a model. Each
project could be required to either create a utopia or argue the conditions
under which a utopia might be possible.
The traditionalist learner who is also probably a verbal-linguistic
intelligence learner will choose to write a term paper. The logico-mathematical
intelligence learner might choose to create economic models of a utopia
illustrating perfectly controlled economies of supply and demand. The
naturalist intelligence learner may choose to create a paradigm of how
utopian ideas have come about in the past and why they have failed. The
musical and kinesthetic intelligence learners may pool resources and utilize
the companion interpersonal intelligence to create a musical play based
upon one of the novels. The intrapersonal intelligence learner may choose
to investigate the writings of Thomas More's Utopia and create a comparative
study of More's writings with the two novels. Or perhaps the intrapersonal
learner may wish to explore the history of utopianism through film. The
visual-spatial intelligence writer may attempt to design architecturally
the hatchery building so described in Brave New World. By using projects,
students may choose the intelligence best suited for their learning intelligence
and determine the projects that will demonstrate their understanding and
mastery of the subject. Educational institutions need to break away from
the standardized and traditional assessments of exams, essays, and term
3. Technology as a Means for Implementation
The verbal-linguistic intelligence students today may
create not only the traditional term papers, but they may also present
their learning and papers on the Internet through web pages. The papers
and projects created on the web becomes a resource for future students
who will also investigate these topics. Web pages may be created and archived
through HTML or the traditionally generated papers may be stored on the
Internet through Adobe Acrobat's PDF for convenient, universal accessibility.
The sharing of knowledge and the management of knowledge becomes a necessary
skill for the modern-day teacher and learner. The Internet is a means
to begin to manage this deluge of information.
For the logico-mathematic intelligence student who will
demonstrate economic models, the use of spreadsheet or statistics programs
will become essential to illustrate economic scenarios based on certain
market factors. The results of these models may be shared on various presentation
programs such as PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or Corel's WordPerfect's presentation
maker program. Presentation programs may also be stored on the Internet
For the kinesthetic and musical intelligence learners,
they may produce their musical play in animation or with real performers.
Either of these performances may be captured on CD-ROMs. A number of animation
programs may be utilized. One currently popular animation program is Macromedia's
Flash. Performances with human actors may be digitized with digital cameras
or analog tapes may be digitized by computers. These digital images are
conveniently stored on CD-ROMs which can be inexpensively reproduced.
The kinesthetic and musical intelligence learners may also organize and
create virtual tours or presentations of their topics.
The naturalist intelligence learners may need to catalog
historical utopian ideas and group similar ides together and yet note
their differences as well. These past ideas can be created and indexed
with various programs. A popular, powerful program is Adobe's Acrobat.
Once the learner has collected these ideas, indexes and catalogues may
be created for quick searches to compare and contrast ideas. From these
indexes, the naturalist intelligence learners will be able to discern
patterns of ideas and recognize commonalities between various thoughts
of utopianism throughout the history of thought.
The interpersonal intelligence learners will be able to
collaborate effectively by utilizing groupware programs. Various group
programs are available that facilitate small group work. Groupware allows
each member of the group to share his or her ideas while still retaining
a workable structure and timeline.
For the visual-spatial intelligence learners who wish
to design the hatchery building described in the beginning of the novel
Brave New World, programs such as a Computer- Aided Design (CAD) would
be very useful. Various drawing programs such a Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia's
Fireworks will also assist these students.
The intrapersonal intelligence learners may wish to compile
various films of utopian concepts and narrate their own documentary of
utopianism. This may be performed through either analog or digital technology.
Modern technology provides these reflective learners access to resources
beyond the traditionally printed media.
For examples of student work using multiple intelligences in project-based assessments, please see http://www.genconnection.com/students/welcome.htm.
Ray Gen is English Department Chair at El Segundo High School, 640 Main St., El Segundo, CA 90245 and a Doctoral Student at Pepperdine University, 400 Corporate Pointe, Culver City, CA 90230
Please direct inquiries concerning articles for submission to Drs. Elizabeth and Donald Perrin