Posts Tagged ‘multiple intelligence’

Aristotle Meets Ockham

June 13, 2010

This wonderful talk on Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor is an apt sequel to A Fable. In it, Queensland educator, Jennifer Riggs, touches on several themes, including ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science, multiple intelligences, and Attention Deficit Disorder, all in the context of science and the teaching of science.

Einstein and Darwin are described as ‘underachievers’ in terms of conventional schooling, and yet history remembers them rather than their studious and compliant classmates. Riggs suggests that modern schooling favours the latter rather than the former, who are often seen as troublesome:

Is there an ants-in-the-pants gene that makes school so difficult for these seedling scientists and their teachers? Let’s fervently hope that no-one isolates and eliminates it. The world would be a poorer place.

Howard Gardner has shown there are are not just one or two types of intelligence, but many. How are we to accommodate these in our teaching?

One of our major challenges is how to teach the hard to reach, many of whom we know to have great potential as scientists. We are rightly worried about disengaged boys and Aborigines. For them, as for other underachievers, research shows up their strengths. When we understand, we can work with these strengths. Students who know this, gain tremendously in confidence and flexibility. Not to mention capability.

There’s an understanding gap at the heart of the problem of the bright child who should be a happy achiever and is not. Education abhors a vacuum, so let’s get going on it.

Those 3D kids who are ‘auditory blind’ by nature may be perfect little nuisances but have wondrous potential. They see in depth – the third dimension. Some are bright, but seen as uppity, some are bright but can’t spell, or learn by rote, some are clever but dreamy, a lot of them can’t sit still, or are disorganised and untidy – scatterbrains. They are strongly visual, both in the physical, material concrete sense, and through the mind’s eye – imagination. They may be seedling Einsteins, Leonardos, even cosmologists. They are to be cherished. Let’s hope some of them will be the science teachers of the future.

Our treatment of these children needs much closer monitoring than it is getting. Thomas Armstrong is not the only one who has written on the Myth of the ADD Child – full of ‘good ideas that are inexpensive and without side effects’. Thomas G. West has written In the Mind’s Eye ‘on the curious connections between creative ability, visual thinking, academic learning difficulties, and the remarkable people who seem to have embodied these characteristics’. Linda Kreger Silverman has written Upside Down Brilliance about the Visual-Spatial Learner. Call to mind that this is one of the components of intelligence identified by Howard Gardner.

Riggs finishes with a challenge to the education establishment, in terms similar to Ken Robinson’s:

It’s time for a re-think. We are staring down the barrel of an education revolution. I know we can trust the revolutionaries to consult first. But please, please, please don’t let consultation begin and end with people in the Bastilles do need to be stormed and Heads to roll, but first, go and ask Aristotle. He has many of the answers we need.


Technological Acculturation

May 21, 2010

Here’s an excellent post from the ‘teacherstream’ blog on WordPress. The video is well worth watching. Here’s the opening paragraph:

The benefits of technology for enhanced student engagement and student achievement are endless and without boundary. I truly believe that we can use technology as a key tool to differentiate our teaching / learning process and to meet the individual needs of students within any diverse classroom. Not only can we better serve the multiple intelligences of students, but we can serve them within the world they are so familiar. As excited as I am about the digital revolution and its role in education, I have found that there are equally as many that are skeptical, and some that are just downright intimidated or afraid.

Much as I enjoyed this post, the grammatical error in the first paragraph (second clause of the third sentence) was a bit jarring. Ironically, perhaps, it points to the need for attention to traditional literacy alongside digital literacy. At least it will be easy to correct the error, given that this is not a print medium. By commenting on the blog, I’ve also provided an instance of Social Constructivism (Collective Intelligence) in action. Perhaps by the time others read my words here, the original will have been updated!

The video makes its point about digital text in a very graphic way, but it is slightly misleading in a historical sense. It implies that the separation of form and content associated with XML (the eXtensible Markup Language) is something that postdated HTML (HyperText Markup Language). While it is true that HTML was first specified by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, and the first specification of XML dates to 1998, XML is actually a subset of SGML (the Standard Generalized Markup Language), which has its origins in the 1960s. XML and SGML are different to HTML in a very important respect, but in order to explain this I need to take a short historical detour.

The term ‘markup’ comes from publishing. Traditionally a manuscript was ‘marked up’ in order to indicate to a typesetter what typeface, size, etc. was to be used for printing. With the arrival of digital documents, it became necessary to devise a computer-readable code that would allow the sharing of documents between computers. Documents produced with an application on one computer might need to be interpreted by a different application on another computer. SGML was designed to make this possible, and it was based entirely on the separation of form and content, all the way back in the 1960s, long before HTML and XML.

SGML is not so much a language as a metalanguage: it allows the user to create any number of markup languages. The creation of a markup language involves the definition of ‘elements’ (or tags) that describe content. For example, I could create an SGML language for use in medical publishing. I might create a tag for a ‘unit of content’ (such as a traditional chapter), and a tag for specialist medical terminology. Once the tags are defined (and stored in a separate document), the content can be marked up and processed by any computer for ‘rendering’ into print.

HTML is basically an application of SGML. It is a markup language rather than a metalanguage. Its tags were created in order to make possible the rendering of content by any computer (using the browser software designed for the purpose). It is not very flexible because its tags have all been defined (by the W3C), and they mostly relate to visual presentation (i.e. form).

XML, on the other hand, is a metalanguage. It is in fact a subset of SGML, designed for ease of use on the Internet. Like SGML, XML allows the creation of limitless markup languages. As long as the tags are defined somewhere, then software can be devised to interpret them. It does postdate HTML, but the principles on which it is based (separation of form and content) pre-date HTML by a couple of decades, in the form of its parent metalanguage, SGML.