Making ‘Innovation’ Live Up to Its Hype

Innovation1response to column by Matthew Muench, In Education Week, March, 4, 2015

Some people wonder what has happened to multiple intelligences theory after nearly 33 years. Has it gone away? Has it been disproved? Is it really innovative?

 A recent column in Education Week reminded me once again that MI has not gone away, but instead has gone ‘underground’ in its influence.

 It is hard to call MI a new and ‘innovative’ idea after 32 years on the scene but putting MI into practice in the typical classroom today remains a novel and sometimes very challenging activity. A big challenge is using MI as a bridge between what teachers are already doing and what is known to be true about effective instructional strategies.

The author of this article is questioning the “Gee whiz” factor of band new educational technologies such as game-inspired programs and other ed-tech products.

 Where MI shows up in this article is when the author advocates that ed-tech designers and school purchasers should not be blinded by all the bells and whistles, but instead to “use learning science to improve design.” His main argument is that curriculum designers should select activities that will “help learners acquire the personal skills so critical to shaping success in learning, work and life…(specifically) “interpersonal” and “intrapersonal” skills.”

 Muench eschews the derogatory term of “soft skills” often used in the business context to describe the social and self-management capacities that he considers to be fundamental to achieving success in both life and school.

 MI theory raised the perceived salience and cognitive value of these invisible mental skills from “nice” personality characteristics to forces that have true intellectual value. Maybe that is why MI is still alive in the minds of thoughtful educators even after 32 years battling against the tide of America’s testing fixation.