Minimalism by Cal Newport. What does it
have to do with MI?
I heard Cal Newport interviewed recently on NPR’s Innovation Hub about how to minimize the negative impact of “social media” overload. He describes how platforms such as Facebook engineer their sites to be addictive by capitalizing on our human need to be accepted (Liked) and belong. He offers some good suggestions for controlling our addiction to our smart phones. However, some people might find these tips more easier said than done. Decreasing our stress and anxiety brought about by social media addiction requires something more than the desire to do so. What is this something more that can help us manage our social media compulsion?
Cal describes the essential first step is a 30 day “detox” from all social media where you delete every app from your phone and computer. The second step is where the Intrapersonal intelligence of the multiple intelligences comes in, but he doesn’t call it that.
Instead, he says, “Wipe the slate clean … of digital media…then rebuild that digital life with real intention… only bring in those things that give you serious benefit or things that you really value. The 30-day detox gives you time to think and get back in touch with
‘What am I all about? What do I care about? What are the things I actually want to spend my time doing? What are activities that give me a lot of value?
So that when those 30 days are over you can start from a foundation of real self-reflection and then you can ask, ‘What do I really need in my life? What’s going to give me a big win?”
You’ve doubtless had the experience
when, across a noisy, crowded room, you lock gazes with another person. It’s
almost like a scene out of the movies – the rest of the world fades to
grey while you and that other soul are momentarily connected in the mutual
knowledge that they are looking at you and you at them.
This much we already know from our
everyday experiences. But psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying
eye contact for decades and their intriguing findings reveal much more about
its power, including what our eyes give away and how eye contact changes what
we think about the other person looking back at us.
You may have noticed these effects
particularly strongly if you’ve ever held the intense gaze of a monkey or ape
at a zoo: it is almost impossible not to be overcome by the profound
sensation that they are a conscious being judging and scrutinising you. In
fact, even looking at a portrait painting that appears to be making eye contact has been shown to
trigger a swathe of brain activity related to social cognition – that is,
in regions involved in thinking about ourselves and others.
Research shows that gazing eyes command our attention
Not surprisingly, the drama of
realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting. Consider a recent study
by Japanese researchers. Volunteers looked at a video of a face while
simultaneously completing a word challenge that involved coming up with verbs
to match various nouns (to take an easy example, if they heard the noun ‘milk”,
a suitable response would be “drink”). Crucially, the volunteers struggled much
more at the word challenge (but only for the trickier nouns) when the face in
the video appeared to be making eye contact with them. The researchers think
this effect occurred because eye contact – even with a stranger in a video
– is so intense that it drains our cognitive reserves.
Similar research has found that
meeting the direct gaze of another also interferes with our working memory (our ability to hold and use information in mind over short
periods of time), our imagination,
and our mental control,
in the sense of our ability to suppress irrelevant information. You may have
experienced these effects first hand, perhaps without realising, whenever you
have broken eye contact with another person so as to better concentrate on what
you are saying or thinking about. Some psychologists even recommend looking
away as a strategy to help young children answer questions.
The drama of realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting.
Another documented effect of mutual
gaze may help explain why that moment of eye contact across a room can
sometimes feel so compelling. A recent study found that mutual gaze leads to a
kind of partial melding of the self and other: we rate strangers with whom we’ve made eye contact as more
similar to us, in terms of their personality and
appearance. Perhaps, in the right context, when everyone else is busy talking
to other people, this effect adds to the sense that you and the person looking
back at you are sharing a special moment.
The chemistry of eye contact doesn’t
end there. Should you choose to move closer, you and your gaze partner will
find that eye contact also joins you to each other in another way, in a process
known as “pupil mimicry” or “pupil contagion” – this describes how your
pupils and the other person’s dilate and constrict in synchrony. This has been
interpreted as a form of subconscious social mimicry, a kind of ocular dance,
and that would be the more romantic take.
Even staring at a portrait
painting’s eyes triggers the kind of brain activity associated with social
cognition (Credit: Getty Images)
Either way, centuries prior to this
research, folk wisdom certainly considered dilated pupils to be attractive. At
various times in history women have even used a plant extract to deliberately
dilate their pupils as a way to make themselves more attractive (hence the
colloquial name for the plant: ‘belladonna’).
But when you look another person
deep in the eye, do not think it is just their pupils sending you a message.
Other recent research suggests that we can read complex emotions from the eye muscles – that is, whether a person is narrowing or opening
their eyes wide. So, for instance, when an emotion such as disgust causes us to
narrow our eyes, this ‘eye expression’ – like a facial expression – also
signals our disgust to others.
Yet another important eye feature
are limbal rings: the dark circles that surround your irises. Recent evidence
suggests that these limbal rings are more often visible in younger, healthier
people, and that onlookers know this on some level, such that heterosexual
women looking for a short-term fling judge men with more visible limbal rings
to be more healthy and desirable.
Look into the eys of a gorilla, and
you are aware you are being scrutinised by another intellect (Credit: Getty
All these studies suggest there is
more than a grain of truth to the old adage about the eyes being a window to
the soul. In fact, there is something incredibly powerful about gazing deeply into
another person’s eyes. They say that our eyes are the only part of our brain
that is directly exposed to the world.
When you look another person in the
eye, then, just think: it is perhaps the closest you will come to ‘touching
brains’ – or touching souls if you like to be more poetic about these things.
Given this intense intimacy, perhaps it is little wonder that if you dim the
lights and hold the gaze of another person for 10 minutes non-stop, you will
find strange things start to happen, stranger perhaps than you’ve ever experienced before.
I want to share this interesting article from the ASCD Update newsletter with you because it nicely illustrates how to engage the kinesthetic intelligence to enhance learning in an important academic skill.
by Rachael Priore
Some people wonder how MI can be applied beyond elementary school when learning becomes more academic and textbook based. This is especially so for students in English Language Arts (ELA) who struggle to maintain attention, engagement and retention of material.
“Hands-on, movement-based learning represents
a shift in the traditional style of learning in an ELA classroom, but from my
experience, it is a shift that benefits all learners – not just those who
struggle… weave multimodal learning into the instructional methods of your
Priore offers several practical
tips for activating more than the linguistic intelligence in the ELA classroom:
Written Assessments (Conferencing, Socratic seminars, Peer Teaching)
Activating the kinesthetic intelligence
in middle and high school classes may sound intimidating at first but a little
at first can mean a lot to students. As you see students’ engagement increase
you can be more daring in your use of movement to connect your content with the
power of kinesthetic learning.
“According to Alison Gopnik, (a psychology and philosophy professor at the University of California), the carpenter parent believes they have the power to shape who their child will become. Much like a carpenter with his truckload of specialized tools, the carpenter parent believes that as long as they parent their child the “right” way, they can influence a particular outcome. That was me, trying to turn my son into a violin prodigy. You see how well that worked out.
gardener parent, on the other hand, knows and accepts that many variables are
out of their control. The gardener parent provides a nurturing environment but
understands that you can’t force an outcome any more than a gardener can
control when the sun shines or how big a plant will grow or whether it will
yield fruit. “
I was struck by this article that embodies the spirit of an MI-inspired education (beyond the obvious connection of gardener and Howard Gardner!). This idea is embedded in The MIDAS process.
Tom Hoerr, former principal of New
City School, has published an excellent Commentary in Education Week entitled, How We Can Develop Good People. It is a
piece full of common-sense wisdom as illustrated by this quote . . .
“regardless of what technology or
the workplace may require – it’s the ability to know oneself and work with
others, out human literacy, that is essential for success. . . people with strong intrapersonal and
interpersonal success skills will be better able to solve just about every
The online version of this article
is called: The Five Success Skills Every Student Should Master
Academic: Lessons from Lotus Slippers by Naomi
This recent article in ASCD’s
Education Update spotlights the importance of interpersonal intelligence.
How can teachers draw students out
of their point of view and break through cultural stereotypes when becoming familiar
with other cultures?
This is a challenge not easily overcome
by the standard lecture or reading the chapter in the text. Facts alone do not
engage one’s interpersonal intelligence.
Priddy summarizes her approach in
her book China Educator’s Toolkit
“I divide academic empathy in the social sciences into three categories: historical empathy, pushing students outside presentism to understand people living in other times; cultural empathy, engaging with contemporary cultures outside of students’ experiences and challenging students’ cultural biases; and social empathy, building activities in which students learn to listen to one another’s perspectives and collaborate to form new learning.”
Gina Boyd, Teacher of Gifted Students, Tippecanoe Schools., Lafayette, Indiana wrote to me recently about her use of The MIDAS with her class of high ability students. It is always interesting to hear about the wide variety of uses for the MIDAS Profile. Gina agrees with other educators that MI helps gifted students to have more nuanced views of what it means to be smart. The MI framework allows students to appreciate themselves as well as different kinds of smartness in their peers.
“I teach 4th and 5th grade high ability students in a self-contained classroom. During the first quarter of the 4th grade year, I teach a unit on giftedness in which the students learn about themselves as learners.
I use MIDAS with my class every other year because I have my students for 2 years, and I will be using it again in September of 2019.”
I received the following update from Mayra Ruiz, MIDAS director in Puerto Rico. This initiative was instigated by a dynamic and inspirational group of instructors and has snowballed to all four campuses: Hato Rey, Mayaguez, Manati, Bayamon and Arecibo. It is gratifying for me to hear that the work continues despite the challenge they had recovering from devastating hurricanes.
At the Career Institute of Puerto Rico (ICPR) Junior College, MIDAS is finally given the importance it deserves and for which I have fought for many years. It is in the plans of the President, Dr. Olga Rivera, to use MIDAS for 2019, as a tool to promote our Institution.
Over the years, ICPR has used MIDAS for:
Teaching: Objective: Increase Retention and Graduation rates
Training the Faculty: Objectives: 1. Influence how to offer classes. 2. Upgrade to the Faculty in Technology.
Recruitment: Objectives: 1. Locate students in careers according to their intelligences. 2. Provide the Admissions Officers with the offers they should emphasize.
Sales and marketing: Objectives: 1. Identify the best way to sell the programs, according to the prospect’s ability to solve their problems. 2. Advertising campaign regarding MIDAS.
For several years now, I have been working with MIDAS and to get the most out of it.
Sincerely, Mayra Ruiz, Career Institute of Puerto Rico (ICPR) Junior College
With the help of colleagues in the Netherlands, Singapore and China we are now organizing MIDAS Certification training workshops. Certification ensures that MIDAS users are familiar with proper administration and interpretation procedures. MIDAS is different from most tests and assessments and so for students to get the most benefit from their profiles, it is necessary for them to receive the right guidance.
There are four levels of Certification: Foundations, Practitioner, Mentor & Master Mentor. Feedback from MIDAS Practitioner, Dionne Heng Cheng Peng describes very well the goals of the training.
From Dionne Heng Cheng Peng, 11-7-18, Singapore
“After knowing MI, I have learnt to see my kids with a different lens, knowing that each one of them is unique and crafted differently. Individual has their different learning preferences as individual intelligences are scaled differently. I am excited and motivated to partner my students’ parents in bringing out the best of their child with the MIDAS report. Many parents are frustrated and having this power struggle with their kids due to a clash of their intellectual styles with their kids. Being able to work together with parents deriving the best way to communicate with their child and to guide the child finding their best study skill that intrigues their learning are my motivation for now!
I am definitely intrigued to know that even the most difficult or not recognized child is smart in their own way who can also contribute in their small ways to give back to society. Helping individuals to find their confidence, motivation and ownership to learning is so exciting. As a parent myself, I am so thankful that MI has opened my mind and changed my ways in responding to my own kids, helping them to take ownership of their learning as this is a life-long learning skill. I have learned to ask “How are you smart?” instead of “How smart are you?” now.”
My thanks to Henry Toi and his colleagues at NurtureCraft for organizing two workshops for me. First, we trained a group of people to be Certified MIDAS Administrators at the Practitioner Level. Second, I conducted at daylong workshop entitled, Neuroscience and the Art of Teaching. See group photo below.