Disrupting Class: Honoring Multiple Intelligences through a Student-Centric Approach

Summertime . . . ah, a time to relax, read all of the stuff that has been piling up and enjoy just being outdoors. Thus, my blog writing will be put on hold as I try to fit in as much as I can during these next three months. That’s not to say I will never write anything during the months of June, July, and August. It’s just that making a choice between being on my computer or outdoors will not be a difficult decision.

disrupting class

If you are an educator, I hope you will take this time to read as much as you can, especially about ways to use technology in new and efficient ways. One of the books I am currently reading is Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Ways the World Learns, by Clayton M. Christensen. This is an excellent book that will move you forward in how you think about and use technology in the classroom. Christensen argues that we are using technology more in schools, but still teaching in the same ways. I would agree with that.

Technology to Enable a Modular, Student-Centric Approach

He says we need to move to more student-centric learning, using the strengths of technology to help students learn in their own ways (you remember Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences?). For instance, instead of assessing students at the end of a unit, we should test them daily, using technology to capture and record data, thus allowing the teacher to more efficiently help students learn at their own level and speed.

Disruptive sounds like a negative word, but in the world of technology, it is a positive force. Disruption sparks transformation of markets from complicated to simple, expensive to affordable, difficult to convenient, and unreachable to accessible. Disrupting class involves a positive change to the way we help students learn and also can refer to a positive transformation of society and culture.

Students could use technology to enable individual tutoring, in contrast to our current monolithic structure of teaching the same thing at the same speed to all students. Instead of stuffing new technologies into the old way of how we teach, disruptive technologies can develop new models of teaching and learning, that will constantly be evolving and morphing.

How We Teach Now and How We Could Teach Using Technology

Here’s an example:

Students and the teacher are all using computers in a math classroom. The teacher is projecting a document from her computer on a screen, reviewing a homework assignment and allowing students to ask questions. The teacher can write on her touch-screen laptop, discussing the steps involved in solving a math problem, with the students watching on the screen. This is not much different from the teacher writing on the whiteboard in front of the class. The teaching methods are the same, it’s just she is using a computer and projector.

Now, let’s consider this alternative:

For homework, students have been given a link to an online tutorial to study and review in small groups in class. Next, students take an online assessment that provides automatic feedback. The instructor reviews all student answers before the next class. Students who had problems with this assignment will be given additional tutorials and assessments, until they have demonstrated proficiency with that math problem. The other students move on to more difficult problems, with assessments to gauge understanding.

Throughout all of this, the teacher acts as an individual tutor/mentor, to answer questions in person during class and work one-on-one with students as needed. The teacher will naturally use and select from a multitude of tutorials and other multimedia to help students learn in their own ways. By addressing multiple intelligences and focusing on a modular student-centric approach to learning, each student experiences success and increased intrinsic motivation to learn. Students who are more advanced in the class might be asked to create tutorials to help other students. They could also be used as tutors during the class. The list of options is almost endless when using a student-centric approach.

At the Crossroads?

We are now at an important crossroads in computer-based learning and technology integration in the schools. Computers in the classroom are essential, but so is equal access to online information. Add student-centric technology disruption to the equation, and we can begin to make real progress.

How are you using technology in a student-centric way? What are your thoughts about disrupting class and addressing your students’ multiple intelligences? What are your visions for the future of education in your own classroom? Please post your comments below and thanks for reading.


3 thoughts on “Disrupting Class: Honoring Multiple Intelligences through a Student-Centric Approach

  1. Great concept, and I have begun to try this, so as a newbie I could use some suggestions:
    When teaching Flash to HS students, some are ready to move on and get into more advanced skills. I don’t want to squash their enthusiasm and I have had them go find tutorials or use my manuals to find what they want to create. But I find that they get so advanced that now it is beyond my skill in action scripting to solve/correct the error. I don’t want the student to get overwhelmed or disappointed and it is hard to balance the classroom needs when you have several working at a faster pace and trying to meet all student needs during the class time.
    The other situation I have found is that the “disruptive innovation” works for those type of students that really want (innate desire) to learn. The challenge for me is that I find only a handful in each class are like that. The majority of my “regular ed” students I would say are engaged, but not inspired to work on their own or in small groups. I find those type of students are the ones who take advantage of “oh, so you are not going to dictate to me? Then I think I will just chill for a while”
    I think the disruptive innovation is exciting and I want to continue to practice it, but in the real classroom setting, I think I need some more coaching to be better at it.
    I appreciate any comments/suggestions!


  2. Thanks for your comment. A couple of questions/ideas came to me. One is, why are students taking an elective (I’m assuming a course in Adobe Flash is an elective) if they are not interested? If it is not an elective, then perhaps students who are a little slower on the uptake can begin by creating easy flash animations through online programs, such as Animoto, Xtranormal, ToonDoo, etc. That way, these students can create something meaningful to them, while also experiencing what 3D animation looks like.

    Another idea is to have the students who are understanding how to create animations using Adobe Flash become the teachers. They will not only learn even more this way, but will help free up your time by teaching the students who are having more challenges. They could create online tutorials for the class, using Camtasia or other screencasting programs, making them available for students to view later for review, for instance.

    Much of the teaching could be done outside of class (especially if students can use school computers after school or have access to laptops of their own). In class time could be used for discussing issues and troubleshooting.

    Finally, the class and products students produce should be meaningful, which would motivate them to learn. This is just scratching the surface, but I wanted to respond as quickly as possible. Thanks for writing!


  3. Pingback: The Creative Librarian » Disrupting Class: Honoring Multiple Intelligences through a Student-Centric Approach | Technology Teacher

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