Supported by the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Foundation. This document was submitted to the Initiative by Jane Carlson-Pickering (November 1999).
The signs are all there, and the picture is becoming clearer. Children are engaged in learning; Teachers, old and new, are excited about learning new ways to reach their students. What is the driving force behind this electric charge of educational energy? Technology! Furthermore, when it is used in conjunction with curricula that incorporates the Multiple Intelligences, all students young and old, find that it taps into and sustains their attention. Digital content is one of four “pillars” of school technology, along with hardware, connectivity, and professional development. When teachers implement both the theory of multiple intelligences and technology, they along with their students, find that their classroom experiences become more stimulating.
Learning and our Emotions
For the first time in the history of humans dramatic new imaging techniques allow researchers to study the workings of the brain, opening a vast frontier of knowledge on human cognition. Intelligence and learning are multi-dimensional. Educators are continually pondering brain research and its link to multiple intelligences. According to Dr. Larry Squire, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, “There are lots of kinds of intelligence. Intelligence is much more than the ability to create neuronal memory pathways with long-term potentiality. In the real world, memory and intelligence are closely linked”. Brain research supports the theory that throughout our lives, we are capable of growing new connections between neurons, and these connections create learning and memory.
The theory of Multiple Intelligences aligns well with our present understanding of the human brain. Managing new approaches to teaching and learning requires a deep understanding of how the brain works, as well as an understanding of what motivates and engages people. Thinking and feeling are connected because our patterning is emotional. Therefore, we need to help learners create a felt meaning, a sense of relationship with a subject, in addition to an intellectual understanding. Our emotions open and close the doors to our ability to learn new information and perform specific tasks. We are emotional about things for which we have a passion.
If knowledge comes to us through a modality of interest to us, we will more likely feel that it is important. Additionally, we are most motivated to learn when we are involved in activities for which we possess some talent. Thus, if a teacher presents material through a variety of intelligences, the more likely he will reach a greater number of students. Through these actions, students will be more likely to learn, remember, and apply those experiences, thus creating positive emotional connections. Passive educational experiences alone tend to enervate and have little lasting impact.
Creating a State of “Flow”
Integrating technology and M.I. is what educators are doing to help their students reach a state of “flow.” Flow can best be described as a state of high, relaxed concentration where an individual is actively engaged in learning something new, but not to the point of frustration. It is a mental state where one is so involved in their learning experience that they reach a point where they seem to pay no attention to anything outside of what they are doing.
Effective Learning through M.I. means “Triple Coding” Content
One of the reasons M.I. and technology work so well together is because researchers now know that when an individual wants to deeply understand something complex in nature, they should triple code their learning experiences. This means, if you are exposed to new ideas that are presented to you through a minimum of three different intelligences, you will have a better chance of remembering the information.
If a teacher weaves together several teaching strategies to present information about one topic, then we can say that his triple coding the educational experience. As an example, let’s take a look at a class learning about simple machines. The teacher may introduce the topic first, by showing a demonstration (using a simple machine) on how a simple machine can perform work. Next, he may introduce new terminology to the class via vocabulary words, reading in the content area, or through similar (verbal) activities. A third method of introducing the topic might include showing the students how to create a mind-map of their chapter on “Simple Machines.”
A Mind-Map is a visual record of either a piece of written material, or an oral presentation. Mind-maps are created by representing key words from the content being covered, and giving them pictorial images to help an individual grasp the information quickly and rapidly with pictures, colors, and new vocabulary. The mind-map could be hand-drawn, in color, created with computer add-ons like the CrossPad, or it could be created with a computer graphic program such as “Inspiration.” In any event, the students would then have a visual representation of all the information they need to understand, and in this format, it may tap into several of their intelligences just by the nature of its design. (i.e. The logical intelligence is “turned on” by the order involved in the process of making the mind map flow; The visual/spatial intelligence is activated by the color and images represented; and the verbal intelligence is stimulated by the terms associated with this topic).
Therefore, information is now stored in the brain both verbally and non-verbally. Cognitive retention is even stronger, when the mind-map is created by the individual himself. According to Tony Buzan (author of The Mind map Book), 95% of the value of mind mapping lies in the making of the map. Mind maps are highly individualized and can reveal the thought processes a person has gone through as they absorb new information.