Since 1983, educators have sought to apply Howard Gardner’s seminal theory of multiple intelligences to the classroom. Gardner recognized that people possessed different intelligences and learned better using certain intelligences rather than others. The truth contained in Gardner’s concepts was self-evident and readily embraced by the educational community. Universities, teachers, administrators, pre-service and in-service programs readily accepted Gardner’s concepts and immediately attempted to incorporate the concept of learning intelligences into the classroom. While Gardner’s theory has been widely accepted and recognized, its integration and application into the everyday classroom has been stultified due to a lack of a functional means to put into practice the concept of multiple intelligences.
Gardner has recognized eight separate intelligences with perhaps a ninth in the wings. The traditional-core curriculum readily utilizes the logico-mathematical and the linguistic intelligences. Indeed the core subjects in math, science, language arts, and social studies have been taught predominately appealing to these two intelligences. Some brave practitioners have attempted valiant attempts to “cross-over” to the other intelligences, but no whole scale adoptions have been made. The musical, spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences have largely been left alone by the core curriculum. A few teachers have adapted music to a few Shakespearean sonnets, but wholesale, crossover adoption of such strategies has not taken place. The “new” naturalist intelligence will probably suffer the same fate as the musical, spatial and bodily-kinesthetic. Practitioners who have emphasized collaborative work and project-based learning have been able to appeal to the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences with some success.
So why hasn’t full adoption occurred in the classroom when educators everywhere recognize the truth of multiple intelligences? The answer is quite simple. Ask any practitioner. First of all, the established curriculum and the time-honored manner in which these subjects are taught do not lend themselves naturally to “foreign” intelligences. For example, to teach biology by appealing to the musical intelligence seems to be most difficult and “unnatural” for most students and teachers. Similarly, the assessments used by the state sanctioned entities do not assess any of the intelligences except for logico-mathematical and linguistic. Secondly, there simply isn’t enough time for the teacher to plan great lessons that appeal to various intelligences. Thirdly and most importantly, the strategy of placing the burden of multiple intelligences on the teacher is wrong-headed. The concept of multiple intelligences should not be 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 is about how a person learns - not about how a person teaches. The emphasis placed on teachers to teach lessons using different intelligences is well intended but practically unattainable.
The solution is two-fold. Firstly, the emphasis needs to shift from teacher to student. The idea that teachers should control the concept of multiple intelligences is ludicrous. Students need to be empowered to learn in the manner conducive to their learning intelligence. The job of the teacher is to supply a context or a framework in which the students learn. The students learn by using the intelligence that best suits them for the task at hand. Technology enables the students to utilize the different intelligences, and technology allows the students a proper medium through which they may demonstrate their mastery of the subject through technology-based project learning.
As an example, my English students study the concept of utopia and the novels Brave New World and 1984. The class investigates the fundamental aspects of societies. These aspects include the social, political, educational, political, and religious components of society. The students are encouraged to discover and learn about utopias and the elements of societies. Their authenticating projects include a wide-range of choices. They may write a traditional term paper; or they may write a short story or a poem or a song or create a video or a hypertext. But no matter which project a student chooses, she or he must include the five components of society listed above. The presentation of the project may take any desired shape as well. It may exist on traditional paper; it could be a PowerPoint presentation, or a CD-Rom, or a web site. Students may choose to produce a video, audio, or computer animation. Thus the mode of learning is left up to the student not the teacher. The learning intelligence rests with the students not with me. In this way I am able to meet the learning requirements of my students on an individual basis without imposing my favorite learning intelligence on them.
Technology allows the students an opportunity to study according to their own preferred learning intelligence. The process of learning has always been something a student must do for her or himself. Technology allows a practical way for this to occur.