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Integrating Multimedia and
Multiple Intelligences to Ensure
Quality Learning in a High School
Biology Classroom
EDUC 685-Multimedia Literacy
Dave Alick
December 7, 1999


Inspired by Dr. Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, educators worldwide are beginning to rethink the traditional textbook and paper-and-pencil approach to teaching.  As technology becomes more affordable, accessible, and user-friendly, educators are also discovering how multimedia applications can be used as a powerful instructional tool.  From a constructivist learning approach, the integration of multiple intelligences and multimedia is an excellent way to actively involve a student in quality learning.  The purpose of this paper is to explore the principles and usefulness of multimedia and Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences in a high school biology classroom.  Suggestions have been included on how to integrate and apply the latest multimedia technology with traditional  biology lessons, along with some links to free related resources found on the World Wide Web.  In addition, the concepts and benefits of using Virtual Treasure Hunts, WebQuests, Virtual Field Trips to shape learning behaviors will also be discussed.

Table of Contents
1.  What is Multimedia?
2.  What is the Multiple Intelligence Theory of Learning?
3.  How does the integration of biology, multimedia, and multiple intelligence enhance student learning?
4.  Virtual Field Trips to Online Museums
5.  Conclusion
6.  References

What is Multimedia?

The human brain is an extraordinary piece of biological machinery.  It is capable of coordinating the senses to acquire, process, and link vast amounts of information to help people learn, communicate, and survive.  One can make a strong analogy between the function of the human brain and a computer 'brain'.  All computers purchased today are Multimedia PC's. This means that the software installed in the system is capable of combining text, graphics, audio, and video with links and tools that help a user navigate, interact, create, and communicate, learn and survive, both academically and socially (Hofstetter, 1997).

Computers are found just about everywhere in industrialized nations--at home, school, work, vacation spots, cars, planes, and some computers are even attached to human beings!  Therefore, one could argue that computer literacy is quickly becoming an essential basic skill to be ranked among the three R's--reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Since the human brain and multimedia applications work in such similar ways, it makes sense to incorporate biology with technology to stimulate better learning among high school science students.  Computer Technology Research (CTR) supports the effectiveness of multimedia as a powerful tool in ensuring student's ability to remember and retain information (Hofstetter, 1997).   Recent findings in brain research suggest that this is especially true when the student is engaged in activities that draw upon his/her multiple intelligence strengths.  To be truly effective educators, teachers must recognize these implications of living in an Information Age and adapt their instruction to meet the individual needs of all students.  Understanding the ways in which learners learn best will help in choosing appropriate multimedia applications to optimize individual student learning.

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What is the Multiple Intelligence Theory of Learning?

The theory of Multiple Intelligences was first introduced in the book, Frames of Mind (1983) by Dr. Howard Gardner.  His ideas on human learning behaviors have sparked a revolution of sorts in classrooms across the world for the ways in which he challenges the notion of a single, fixed intelligence (Checkley, 1997).  The term 'Multiple Intelligences' has quickly become a buzz word among educators.  For years, teachers recognized that traditional measures of intelligence, such as an IQ test, may have been reasonably good at predicting a student's school performance, but they did not accurately represent and assess the diversity of ways in which people learn.  Gardner's 'Theory of Multiple Intelligences' encourages educators to start thinking of intelligence as a set of many different abilities and skills that help an individual learner comprehend, examine, and respond to many different types on content  in order to solve problems or to make something that is valued in one or more cultures (Checkley, 1997).  Dr Gardner suggests that each person possesses several [eight] Multiple Intelligences--ways in which individuals respond in different ways to different kinds of content  An overview of the eight Multiple Intelligences are as follows (Sawatzky 1999):
Bodily/Kinesthetic The ability to use one's body, or parts of one's body, to solve a problem, create something, or put on a production
Interpersonal The capacity to understand, communicate, and relate to other people and groups
Intrapersonal The ability to understand yourself and relate to one's immediate surroundings
Logical/Mathematical  The capacity to manipulate numbers or understand causal systems
Musical/Rhythmic The ability to think in musical terms, hear and recognize patterns, discriminate between sounds, and create music
Naturalist The ability to discriminate among living things and to be in touch with one's natural surroundings
Verbal/Linguistic The ability to use language, both oral and written, effectively
Visual/Spatial The ability to think in pictures, images, shapes, and patterns

In a conversation with Kathy Checkey, Gardner notes that individuals do not necessarily have the same strengths in each area or the same amalgam of intelligences.  He further suggests that individuals can improve at each of the intelligences, although hypothesizes that some will improve in one area more readily than others.  Gardner makes it clear that his theory merely describes a learning behavior and should not labeled as a learning style.  He states that learning styles are "claims about ways in which individuals purportedly approach everything they do...You could say that a child is a visual learner, but that's not a multiple intelligences way of talking about things.  What I would say is, "here is a child who very easily represents things spatially, and we can draw upon that strength if need be when we want to teach the child something new." (Checkley, 1997).  According to Gardner, to understand Multiple Intelligences is to understand individuality.  "The ways in which intelligences combine and blend are as varied as the faces and personalities of individuals" (Edwards, 1995). Gardner also does not rule out the possible existence of additional intelligences, but research in this field is still in its infancy.

One could literally spend hours on the Internet surfing through vast amounts of information about the Gardner's Multiple Intelligence (M.I.) theory of learning.  Yet, it appears that regardless of individual views or interpretations, all agree his theory is to help individuals understand, respect, and value the ways in which they seem to learn more easily, and use those strategies to become a more successful learners.

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How does the integration of biology, multimedia, and multiple intelligence enhance teaching and learning?

"A key to effectiveness of educational technology, such as multimedia, lies in the recognition by the teacher and student that all people have learning strengths and weaknesses" (Edwards, 1995).  For too many years, teachers have been relying on classroom resources that only stimulate verbal/linguistic, mathematic/logical, and on some occasions visual/spatial learning behaviors.  Why?  Society has been conditioned to view mastery of these learning behaviors as the epitome of intelligence, hence the popularly of IQ, SAT, GRE, state, district, and school standardized tests.  Yet if educators were to put the ideas of M.I. theory into practice, they would quickly recognize how unfair traditional assessment of learning and intelligences have been. Gardner cites that "...for most places, either for ideological reasons or for financial reasons, or because they've never thought about it, treat everyone in the same way, teach them in the same way, measure them in the same way and think they've treated everybody fairly, but in fact it's exactly the opposite..." (Peck, 1994).  Most of a typical school day is spent listening to unidirectional lectures, taking notes, completing worksheets, and taking memorization driven tests.

Supporters of constructivism argue that this style of passive learning fails to engage the student in his/her own learning.  A learner-centered focus, in which students take a greater responsibility for what goes on in their own minds, may be the better route to take in educational process.  Both student and teacher must find active ways to tailor each individual's multiple intelligences to best acquire new concepts, ideas, and knowledge.  What better way to do this than introducing multimedia in the classroom?  Consider the following application of M.I. Theory and computer-based learning:
Bodily/Kinesthetic Navigating through software- or web-based scientific inquiries, dissections, and WebQuests with the use of a keyboard, joystick, mouse, science probe technology, or touch window.
Interpersonal Collaborating online via listserves, chat rooms, newsgroups, and e-mail; Engaging in simulations that require two or more people.
Intrapersonal Completing computer assisted instruction/ILS labs; simulations that only rely on the computer's response, self assessments, designing homepages, and word processing class assignments.
Logical/Mathematical Understanding navigation through hypermedia design paradigms and BooLean logic; Generating database and spreadsheet programs; Engaging in problem solving software; Using online calculators; Utilizing multimedia authoring programs.
Musical/Rhythmic Listening to *.wav, MPEG, or MIDI files associated on software and Web pages; Creating presentations that require the recording of sound(s).
Naturalist Using real-time images of the natural world as a basis of a comparison study;  Digitize images or the natural world captured on videotape or digital camera.
Verbal/Linguistic Comparing online articles from scientific journals, magazines, businesses, schools, and independent sources; Programming multimedia presentations that incorporate desktop publishing, voice annotations, and speech output. 
Visual/Spatial Designing and interpreting graphical layouts; Using draw- or paint programs; Charting data in spreadsheet applications; Capturing/manipulating images from a digital camera, video, scanner, or web page; Manipulating objects in three dimensions using JAVA script.

(Edwards, 1995)

 All too often, the teacher is the soul source of the information, the learning path tends to be teacher-to-learner, and sometimes the critical step of learning along the ways gets lost (March, 1999).  Instead of being bound by the limitations of magazines, videotapes, and books available in the classrooms and libraries, multimedia applications open up a whole new world of discovery and learning.  Multimedia empowers a teacher to structure lessons that reach all students--an ability so often desired, but not met in the traditional classroom. Multimedia empowers the student to take an active role in his/her own learning.  And multimedia helps both teacher and student develop and strengthen all of the multiple intelligences necessary for quality learning.

In a workshop conducted by Stephen Barkley of Performance Learning Systems Inc., quality learning was defined as "when the student engages in activities that stimulate constant improvement, originality and creativity, integration of topics, depth of subject, complexity, details, active involvement, application, emotions, and ownership and pride" (Barkley, 1999).  Experience has shown that individuals truly understand something when they can represent the knowledge in more than one way.  Various multimedia applications can quickly and easily facilitate these needs.

Biology lends itself well to the integration of multiple intelligences and multimedia.  In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the accessibility of quality multimedia products.  Many of these applications are free to the general public via the Internet.  As one searches for relevant sites, it is important to look beyond the online equivalent of a textbook or handout.  Focus on finding the sparks that create insights, contrasts that excite problem solving, the bells and whistles to motivate, and the passion that inspires (March, 1999).  Below are some selected free multimedia biology-related Internet sites which give a user the opportunity to utilize many different types of  intelligences:

(Link to Interactive Multimedia Online Inquiry-Based Biology Labs)

Click on any picture to go 
to that site
Cells Alive!
 Heart Preview Gallery
Virtual Frog
Body Quest 
Ewe 2
Cell Structure
Circulatory System
Dissection Lab
Human Anatomy

(for additional multimedia interactive sites: )

There are other possibilities of integrating learning and multimedia technology.  The previous sites were dedicated to specific topics.  But harvesting multimedia on the Internet can also be used to help shape activities around more general learning goals.  The following diagram outlines decisions that would guide users toward a format of Web-based learning:


The diagram and explanations below were adapted from: (March, 1999)

If a teacher or student is new to the Web, the first step would be to evaluate and collect multimedia Web sites.  A Topic Hotlist, usually generated by the teacher, is a collection of bookmarked sites that are most useful, interesting, and/or peculiar for a given topic and a variety of learners.  A Multimedia Scrapbook could take the form of online newsletters, desktop slide presentations, and HyperStudio stacks that would focus on providing links to a variety of subject-related multimedia resources.  Generated by teacher or student, the Scrapbook is built around what the individual learner defines as meaningful and helpful.  Once the multimedia sites are collected it is important to make the transition to learning the information.

There are three ways to target specific learning behaviors using online multimedia resources.  The first option is an online Treasure Hunt.  Designed by teacher, students are given a listing of specific sites that hold information that appeal to several multiple intelligences and are essential to understanding a given topic.  After sites are collected, one key question is posed for each Web site.  Well-designed questions, including a culminating "Big Question" will undoubtedly engage each student in quality learning.

Subject Samplers are the ultimate in the integration of multimedia and multiple intelligences.  The teacher presents six to eight intriguing Web sites organized around a main topic.  Students develop a sense of connection with the topic because they are asked to respond to Web-based activities from a personal perspective.  They may be asked to explore or compare personal interpretations of pictures, data, or sounds and share (by posting online) experiences they have had.  This would allow the student to see that their views are valued.

Finally, WebQuests help students go beyond learning basic facts.  A WebQuest is "an inquiry activity that presents student groups with a challenging task, provides access to an abundance of online resources and scaffolds the learning process to prompt higher order thinking.  The products of WebQuests are usually then put out to the world for some real feedback." These online multimedia activities readily draw upon all of the multiple intelligences learning behaviors.  Designed around current events or controversial topics, students are required to work intra- and interpersonally to evaluate, hypothesize and interpret information.  "All students begin by learning some common background knowledge, then divide into groups.  In the groups, each student or pair of students have a particular role, task, or perspective to master.  They effectively become experts on one aspect of a topic.  When their roles come together, students must synthesize their learning by completing a summarizing act such as e-mailing a congressional representatives or presenting their interpretation to real world experts on the topic." (March, 1999).

A multitude of WebQuests have been developed for a variety of topics and can be found at:

The advantages to integrating lessons with well-designed multimedia applications are abundant.  Studies show that well-developed multimedia instruction:

(Craig, 95)
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Virtual Field Trips to Online Museums

The idea of reaching more students by integrating multiple intelligences with multimedia applications has inspired many educational institutions to use technology to bring in visitors worldwide via the Internet.  Hopefully the schools of the future will take advantage of virtual field trips to online museums.  Many museums now offer online exhibitions that appeal to a variety of learning behaviors and offer students readily accessible, rich learning environments.  Online, students can explore areas at their own pace and stop at exhibits that really spark their interest.  A few examples have been noted below:
Our doors are always open.
The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has in storage a century's worth of scientific inventions and discoveries ready for the students to explore via the computer. Each month, the "inQuiry Attic" offers an online exploration of an scientific object that would not otherwise be available for the public to see.  

The Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, California contains an online digital library collection of past exhibitions, digital images, archived Webcasts, Webcams, searches for topics A-to-Z, and much more.

Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois gives highlights of past and present exhibits using text, animation, audio and video clips.
At the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy offers an online "Multimedia Catalogue" which consists of a descriptive text of the artifact on display, a biographical text and a detailed text which provide the visitor with a more complete understanding of the historical-scientific context of the artifact itself. Each text is accompanied by still or animated images or by filmed sequences.

From an educator's perspective, a virtual field trip has several benefits over the traditional out-of-school excursion.  With a couple of keystrokes and clicks of a mouse, they can travel across the world, visiting places and experiencing things which, for many students, would be otherwise impossible.  In addition, virtual field trips require no paperwork, no money, no 'lost time' from other classes, and can be easily and frequently revisited.  Some sites are better than others, so educators should find sites that fully integrate linked text, graphics, audio, video, and user interaction.  Sites that meet these multimedia specifications will undoubtedly allow students to use the kinds of intelligences in which they are strong, thus engaging them in quality learning.

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Every good teacher wants to find better ways to motivate students and inspire quality learning in the classroom.  If teachers accept Dr. Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, then they accept that all people are different and that educators should respect, value and nurture that diversity (Edwards, 1995).  Yet one does not need scientific research to validate what teachers have known for centuries--regardless of age, gender, race, or socio-economic background, students like to have choices.  They like freedom.  They like feeling that they are smart.  Plato put it memorably: "The purpose of education is to make the individual want to do what he has to do." (Gardner, 99)  Students enjoy tasks in which they can predict success.  Since understanding how students learn is the crucial step in a providing a quality education, offering them different opportunities to draw upon their multiple intelligences strengths is an excellent way to ensure quality learning.

Knowing that the brain behaves very much like a computer, where data is constantly entered, stored, linked and retrieved, it only makes sense to integrate computer software and applications to pique students' intelligences and learning behaviors.  Current research suggests that the brains of today's students are perfectly 'wired' to navigate through multimedia applications.  Studies further suggest that students learn better when engaged in lessons involving well-developed multimedia resources.  These resources, such as Treasure Hunts, Subject Samplers, WebQuests, or Virtual Field Trips are relatively easy to create and/or are readily available online for the educator.  In addition to biology, there are a multitude of applications across the curriculum that need to be incorporated in the classroom.  The use of such learning opportunities would certainly empower students and give them the chance to develop the self-confidence, knowledge and skills necessary to survive in this Information Age and inspire them to become life-long learners.

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Barkley, Stephen.  Raising Student Expectations.  Performance Learning Systems, Inc.  November 1999.  <>

Carvin, Andy.  Traditional Intelligence Theories.  EdWeb: ExploringTechnology and School Reform.  August 1999. <>

Checkley, Kathy.  The First Seven...and the Eighth: A Conversation with Howard Gardner.  Educational Leadership, Vol. 55, No. 1.  September 1997. <>

Craig, David G.  Learning Criteria for Multimedia Lessons.  October 1996.  <>

Edwards, Jack.  Multiple Intelligences and Technology.  Florida Information Resource Network.  December 1995.  <>

Gardner, Howard.  The Disciplined Mind.  Simon & Schuster.  New York, New York.  1999.  p 52.

Hofstetter, Fred T.  Multimedia Literacy, 2nd Edition.  Boston:  Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 1997. <Online Companion Reference>

March, Tom.  Practice: A Role for Webbed Educator. Working the Web for Education: Theory and Practice on Integrating the Web for Learning. Ozline Web Development.  September 1999. <>

Peck, Dr. Kyle L.  Howard Gardner on: Advances in Learning Theory. Reinventing Our Schools:  A Conversation with Howard Gardner.  1994   <>

Sawatzky, Jamie.  What’s New for Only the Best 1999–2000?.  The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  September 1999.  <>

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