Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Multimedia and Multiple Intelligences

Posted on | February 13, 2011 | No Comments

When I was teaching at Victoria University in New Zealand, I was invited to give a keynote address for a distance learning conference at Massey University. I chose to draw on Howard Gardner‘s theories of multiple intelligence and connect them to multimedia. I always thought that the Harvard psychology professor had developed a framework that was useful (and admittedly quite obvious) for guiding multimedia innovations while recognizing the diversity of learning styles by different people. Gardner, who is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, developed the following list of intelligences: linguistic, musical, spatial, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and bodily-kinesthetic.

Here is a short video introducing the multiple intelligences by Chris Warren.

I want to elaborate on his ideas with my own thoughts in some future postings and more importantly start to make the connections between specific tools and the types of intelligences they can help create. Here is a preliminary list of my thoughts.

Linguistic – Certainly one of the implications of the web was the return to reading and it seems as if the emergence of the iPad is a remediation of the magazine with an enhancement of its interactive aspects. Recently I put a crossword puzzle on my website, although mainly as an antidote to any TV watching. But we can expect that multimedia will continue to develop programs, especially for kids, to help understand and use words, to develop story-telling and poetic capabilities, and to develop other word and reading games.

Visual-Spatial – It was in New Zealand that I played iD’s Doom for the first time. Its first-person capability was an extraordinary new experience for navigating in a virtual space that simulated a real-world environment and I remember playing it for 12 hours straight (My memory was enhanced because I had to walk past a graveyard at 4am). Spatial understanding has been augmented by a number of multimedia tools including charts, maps, and other types of 3-D modeling, although it remains to be tested what impact it has on visual-spatial intelligence.

Bodily-Kinesthetic – Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect are two of the newer consumer products that expand the visual-spatial dimensions of multimedia with an enhanced sense of body awareness and coordination. Wii games can involve waist control with a virtual hula hoop and develop eye-hand coordination by playing tennis or baseball your living room. One of the games we have at home is The Beatles Rock Band on my Xbox, which is teaching my 6 year-old how to drum like Ringo Starr.

Musical – While the early trend was to intellectualize music and “coagulate” music skills into keyboards and computer programs, games on the Xbox console and other devices are creating ways to enhance musical appreciation and skill acquisition.

Interpersonal – What is social media if not, hopefully, the development of better interpersonal skills? Does texting enhance interpersonal skills? chatting online? Skyping? Collaboration tools enhance group learning and cooperative work. Perhaps it is no wonder that Howard Gardner’s foray into the digital world has been through an exploration of ethics. The proliferation of the smartphone lately has raised concerns that people are withdrawing from face-to-face interactions.

Intrapersonal – Media have always been used for self-exploration through tools like diaries, blogs and biofeedback devices. Also, self-directed learning can be a tool for interpersonal discovery. The trend continues to be towards using digital multimedia in the online education world because of its opportunities for unique and personalized experiences.

Logical-Mathematical – Although this still tends to be the preferred mental mode of modern life, it is challenged by the entertainment culture that media themselves have helped to promote. Economic competition from Asia and other parts of the world have renewed calls for strengthening the educational curriculum to enhances this type of intelligence, and multimedia can play a part.

My interest in computers was first stimulated by a computer game on a system called Plato that simulated an automobile racing track, and each student could propel their car forward by answering math questions such as 49+59. A correct answer would propel the car forward a certain distance. I was amazed by the enjoyment and enhanced attention given by the students as each tried to win the race by answering the questions correctly and quickly.


Anthony J. Pennings, PhD has been on the NYU faculty since 2001 teaching digital media, information systems management, and global communications.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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