Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week 9: “Well Done”, Your Password Has Been Successfully Entered


Can Technology Be the Password for Addressing All Students’ Learning Styles & Intelligences?

Sometimes you find teachers do many things to make their students understand their subject matters. They sing, dance, play games, solve puzzles, show pictures, bring real materials, ask students to help each other, …etc. They think that by doing this, they use a variety of aids to make their explanation clearer and understandable. They have no any idea about learning styles or multiple intelligences. They just do this unconsciously. So, all what teachers need is a solid theoretical background about these two topics. I think that if they are aware of their students’ learning styles and intelligences, they can modify their methods of teaching in a way that leads to productive and enjoyable learning.

However, if a mismatch between students’ learning styles and teacher’s style occurs, many problems will appear. According to Felder & Henriques (1995: 21), the students tend to be bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the course, and may conclude that they are no good at the subject of the course and give up. Instructors, confronted by low test grades, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts, may become overly critical of their students (making things even worse) or begin to question their own competence as teachers.

Hence, teachers should know well their students’ learning styles and intelligences from the very beginning. Actually , there are many models that deal with these two terms. One of the most familiar learning styles models is the VAK model. This Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles model does not overlay Gardner's multiple intelligences; rather the VAK model provides a different perspective for understanding and explaining a person's preferred or dominant learning style, and strengths. Gardner's theory is one way of looking at thinking styles; VAK is another. Visual learning style involves the use of seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc. Auditory learning style involves the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises. Kinesthetic learning involves physical experience - touching, feeling, holding, doing, practical hands-on experiences.

Another theory that deals with diversity among students is the Multiple Intelligences by Gardner. Gardner challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of cognitive science and education. He proposed that every human being possesses eight different intelligences that reflect different ways of interacting with the world. The eight intelligences – Verbal-Linguistic, Logical- Mathematical, Intrapersonal, Visual-Spatial, Musical-Rhythmic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal and naturalist -- are all used by individuals in varying degrees, but one MI is always particularly dominant. Gardner believed that by understanding a student’s strengths and weaknesses in each intelligence, we could help to improve student success. Integrating multiple intelligences into the classroom involves changing our idea about teaching and learning so that we address individual differences, providing a range of activities and experiences to facilitate learning (Fose).

The second step towards a complete understanding of these two models is that teachers should know how to identify their students’ learning styles and intelligences. One way to do this is to use questionnaires. They don’t need to create new ones as there are many of them on the web. Surfing the internet, I’ve found a very fantastic questionnaire that help teachers to discover their students’ learning styles. Students will like it very much as it is colorful and interesting. Here is the link: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/VAK_quest.htm


Here is another questionnaire for discovering the preferred learning styles: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a2_learnstyles/pages/roughandready.htm. I think it is suitable for adults.

 
 
For identifying students’ multiple intelligences, here are two free printable tests,
free Multiple Intelligences test 1, free Multiple Intelligences test 2, .Teachers can print them and ask their students to complete them.

After knowing well and identifying students’ learning styles and intelligences, we need a variety of activities and tools that match each of them. Technology can provide teachers with such different tools. They are available at any time. All what they should do is to select a suitable tool for the suitable student's learning style and MI. Surfing the web and reading my colleagues’ posts, I’ve found some technological tools that match each learning style and MI:

1. For Verbal-Linguistic Learners, we can use online discussion forums, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, online crossword and word search puzzles, story creation software, podcasting, social networks, word processing, e-mail, multimedia authoring, and videodiscs to create presentations.

2. For Logical-Mathematical Learners, we can use math programs that allow drilling and practicing, database programs that help explore and organize data and information, spreadsheet programs, computer aided design programs, calculation tools, calendars, problem solving software and graphing calculators.

3. For Visual-Spatial Learners, we can use Macromedia Flash or SnapzPro software for creating visually rich media that illustrates a difficult concept, mindmapping software, CAD software for creating 3-D visual designs, Apple software products of iPhoto, iMovie, and QuickTime for assigning photography and video projects, PowerPoint presentations, spread programs which allow students to see charts, maps or diagrams, concept mapping tools, photo sharing, Draw/Paint programs, digital cameras, reading programs with visual clues, and image composing programs.

4. For Musical/Rhythmic Learners, we can use songs, jingles, or rhythmic beats, podcasting, music clips, music composition software, videodisc player, reading programs which relate letter/sound with music, CD-ROMS about music and instruments, and tape recorders.
5. For Bodily/Kinesthetic Learners, we can assign a project where your students build some sort of 3-D object and use a digital camera or camcorder to document its progress as it is being created. The final documentary can be facilitated with the implementation of Apple's iPhoto or iMovie software. We also can use WebQuests, keyboarding/mouse, video production, virtual field trips and animation programs.

6. For Interpersonal Learners, we can use online discussion boards, instant messenger to discuss ideas, social networks, computer games which require two or more persons, and programs that allow to create group presentations.

7. For Intrapersonal Learners, we can use blogs, internet research, developing multimedia portfolio, video editing, and games involving only one person.

8. For Naturalist Learners, we can use a sampling synthesizer asking students to compose a musical composition from sounds recorded from the environment and share as an online digital MP3 file that their classmates can download to their computers or iPods. We can also use digital cameras to document field projects, and microscopes or magnifiers to draw or photograph natural objects.

These suggestions can be helpful for teachers to work with their students putting in mind a variety of learning styles and multiple intelligences. But, I want every teacher not to forget that he/she is the basic element in the learning process. Using these tools are just aids for making the learning experience more enjoyable. The most important job that teachers should do is to help their students know what learning styles and intelligences they have. I think that this is more important than providing activities that suit them.

I want to end my post with Fose's words. He sums up all the main points of addressing a variety of students’ learning styles and multiple intelligences using technology:

In order to help your students reach their full potential, you must be fully aware of your students’ learning styles and the multiple intelligences that they tend to favor; then, you must also be cognizant of your own learning styles and your own tendencies to teach within a multiple intelligence that fits your comfort level. Force yourself to break out of your personal comfort level and strive to address other intelligences in your day-to-day teaching. If you attempt to implement different technological tools and provide your students with opportunities to be assessed in a variety of ways, you will find that they will be more motivated to learn. Remember, each one of your students possesses every single intelligence but the degree to which they use them is as individualized as their fingerprint. One of the best things that you can do to help your students reach their potential is to take the time at the beginning of each semester to reflect on the students in your class. Visualize them as unique individuals, who have fully realized and developed their intelligences, and then plan your lesson plans accordingly!

Resources Used:
  • Felder, R. & Henriques, E. (1995). Learning and Teaching Styles in Foreign and Second Language Education. Foreign Language Annals, 28, NO. 1, pp 21-31.
  • Fose, L. (Date Unknown). Exploring technology to address student multiple intelligences and learning styles. Available online at: http://www.calpoly.edu/~lfose/articles/Exploring_Technology.pdf.
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