Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence: Music & Symbolism

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen

One doesn’t think of how odd sheet music is as a language.  Ubiquitous and rather separate from other languages.  Appealing no doubt to the musically inclined.

As Gardner (1999, p38) puts it, “Symbol systems may have been developed precisely because of their preexisting, ready fit with the relevant intelligence or intelligences.”

Gardner, Howard, (1999). Intelligence Reframed, NY: Basic Books.

2.0 writing process

Early adopters of blogs and wikis and other collaborative web technologies, have advocated a publish first, edit later model. Almost to the point at which some say, with a strong enough search engine, it doesn’t matter what goes in, as long as individuals can pinpoint and find what they need.

Having been in new media since 1982 (early adoption of news video in the field, cable before cable was cool, early commercial database with a web interface, early media asset management, first digital audio, first digital video, first streaming video and early into the blogs and wikis), I’m telling you Marshall McLuhan was right, but only in the short term.  Words and organization of content matter.  They always end up mattering, and define the things that last.

There is a nascent yet burgeoning trend on the web to use collaborative media to create things of refinement and value.  See Merlin Mann’s recent ontological crisis when Twitter showed him anyone could fill the web with snarky meaningless observations about popular culture.  Amazing, just weeks ago, he was thinking about changing his entire approach and going for higher, lasting, quality.  Also see Seth Godin’s view of his “members only & real names displayed” wiki which he finds increases quality.   Even he edited his wiki page on copyright to remove the “silly” content, and he was the one deeming it “silly.”

Web 2.0 doesn’t all have to be a Libertarian Paradise

Many point to Wikipedia as an example of a writing process-less implementation. However wikipedia demands accountability, has an article format and roving bands of independent editors wielding their “rational self interest.” Wikipedia is a lot more than just government-less. Creating a culture takes a template.

It is possible to use Web 2.0 and get all the goodness of open collaboration, and include all the goodness of the editorial process.  Granted, the “writing process” is no longer linear and can be designed to be much less hierarchical. But what history has taught us is an editorial process should be included in any successful publishing activity.

I’ve developed a circular model in which the first step is always publishing, but then the writer (or somebody) should go through all the steps.

It’s a long way from the hierarchical linear writing process of yesteryear. Those third grade teachers who teach their students “publishing” as a linear “secret” step-by-step process of private work with clandestine “writing conferences” before printing to the laser jet printer! are speaking to an audience of 9-year olds, many of whom published world-wide multiple times the previous evening and nobody (not the writing police or a roving editor) came knocking on their door.

An editorial process can take the good, bad and the ugly produced by the mob, and make it something the entire mob finds useful to consume.

Many early adopters of any technology become like helicopter parents, worried more about how structure will hem their children in rather than provide a pathway toward something more productive.

As a proponent of “open education” I would urge everyone looking for ways to make the collaborative web work, to not be too close minded about editorial openness.

Primary Frog Blog & Now a Frog Wiki

organizedchaos, a special education teacher and blogger, worked with 1st graders in October and November of 2007 to learn about the life cycle of frogs.  she grew frogs from eggs and they chronicled the life cycle in the blog FrogBlog.

the kids each had nom de plume, and no comments were allowed.  they posted digital pictures, drawings, and observations the kids made were typed in by the teacher.

There are 13 posts. Worth a “read” to see how blogging can be used in primary education.

One of my graduate students SPEDSUB put together a wikipage on frogs to be used with K-6 crowd as well.


"Never Get Out of the Boat"

I struggled the first couple of years teaching, to find the right place.  In my third year, I did.  I wrote in part of that journey here.

I knew I had found the right place when an Instructional Assistant they had assigned to me (primarily I assume to “check me out”) reported back, “He’s extremely extremely effective. He does everything wrong (not “by the book”), but he does it all for the good of the school.”  The second thing was, one of the school’s leaders reported to the principal, “Yes, he’s weird, but he’s weird like us.”

It’s a great feeling, finding the right place.  I’m not alone in praising the school and not just out of some sycophantic paranoia about job security.  We are a Title One school and we are filled with very very smart people.  I’m a career switcher, and coming out of the top of Fortune 500 business, I’m telling you, these folks are as smart and creative as any I’ve worked with.  It’s, as always, a combination of things.  Title 1 is not an easy environment.  As a teacher, if you are looking for easy, go to some rich school where it really doesn’t matter what you do – the kids will do fine.  Here, if we screw up, it has a very significant impact.  If we succeed, likewise.  Such a high-stakes environment, coupled with some great management, has pulled together a significantly talented, hardworking team that’s focused on the work and help one another.  I’ve written about our school’s culture here.

At other schools where the teaching is not really make-or-break, people tend to focus on meaningless petty minutia.  The types of situations which prompted the remark I love to quote “Inter-personal politics increase as the stakes decrease.”

I go out for Professional Development, more than I would like.  Each time I run directly into small minded bureaucrats with unresolved control issues and no idea what they are doing. I hear horror stories from folks at other schools of Administrations not listening, making bad decisions, and launching witch hunts when anyone steps out of line or questions them.    The stories are totally believable, having struggled in similar situations in Education myself.

One central office-type I work with who writes Random Musings characterized our school this way, “You got all the right people in the boat.”

Each time I return to my current school I think of that guy in Apocalypse Now.  While going up the river toward Cambodia, he gets out and walks into the jungle in search of mangoes.  When he returns, he’s reduced from his experience to freaking out in the bow of the boat in the fetal position ripping at his own clothes, repeating, “Never get out of the boat. Never get out of the boat. Never get out of the boat …”

When I return to school, I always feel the same way.

One of the graduate school courses I teach is to soon-to-be general education teachers. They are going through their student teaching during the class, and they are in job search mode.  I’m hearing all sorts of stories. I sent out this list, ostensibly tongue & cheek, of rules they might think to follow during their first year of teaching.

It’s a list of rules compiled by U.S. spies in Moscow during the cold war…

The Moscow Rules:

1. Assume nothing

2. Never go against your gut

3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control

4. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone

5. Go with the flow, blend in

6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover

7. Lull them into a sense of complacency

8. Don’t harass the opposition

9. Pick the time and place for action

10. Keep your options open.

Anybody who’s taught in a bad situation, and thats a lot of situations in education, knows this isn’t tongue & cheek at all.

In all other business situations, when something is broken, folks look to the management. The president of a company is the first to go. Why is it in Education (capitalized to refer to the Academic Industrial Complex) when people look to fix it, they always talk about fixing the teachers? Oh yeah, it’s because the leadership is paying the consultants who come up with these solutions.

Knowledge Adventure: Reading Blaster Ages 4-6

Reading Blaster is an educational program which works on mastering pre-primer reading skills. This engaging program uses problem-solving skills which will help develop literacy and comprehension skills students need to acquire to read. It is designed for students ages 4 through 6 or grades pre-school through first. It is also designed for students with disabilities who struggle in mastering basic reading skills that prevent them from being good readers.

This program can be used in regular classrooms as well as special education classrooms. Its interacting program allows students to work individually on their reading skills. It is also a great program to use on a projection screen and work on the games together. Reading Blaster helps reinforce many of the literacy students are learning in these grades. It is a flexible program for students to use; they may stop and go with the program as they wish and work in different areas of the game at different times.

The program is based around two friends and a robotic dog. Their mission is to find the treasures from a treasure chest. To find the treasures, students must first complete five series of games of their choice. They have between four and five activities to choose from, each focusing on three different areas of reading. The first is matching letters, sounds, and words together. Second is recognizing uppercase and lowercase letters, and finally, placing letters in alphabetical order. Once a student completes five individual games with at least 80% mastery, they are rewarded with five stars. After five stars have been collected then they are rewarded with a piece of treasure from the chest. Along with receiving pieces of treasure, students are also allowed access to practice writing with letters, make collages with pictures the game provides to represent a certain letter, as well as receive and write emails. Reading Blaster provides constant positive feedback to the students and is a great way to keep students’ attention.

Reading Blaster is a great program that works on pre-primer reading skills and computer skills. As students become older they are required to know more and more about computers. This game helps them work on using a computer by following directions, understanding how to use the mouse pointer, and finally, understanding the keyboard. This is vital for students to know and this interactive computer program is a great way to reinforce these skills.

Knowledge Adventure is internationally known company that focuses on multimedia software for the classroom and the home. It is an award winning company that has been recognized for its educational work. Reading Blaster, as well as many other programs, have been used in many situations and been shown to be very effective among students with or without disabilities working on beginning literacy skills.


Reading Blaster contains five progressively challenging activities, eight read-along story books, a wide variety of extension activities that are printable for classroom use, and a progress tracker which assesses the students’ progress along the way. The game comes with a manual to help understand set-up as well as the company’s contact information if there are any questions.

Adult Management Features, Support Website & Support of Software:

This software comes with a well detailed manual to help with the set-up. It also provides many printable activities that can be printed out and used for cooperative learning. This educational software would be compatible to use with a SMART Board and work on the activities as a class. The program is matched up with national standards so a teacher can feel confident in letting their students used the educational computer program. Reading Blaster also provides the teacher instant feedback in addition to showing how students are performing in certain literacy areas. Reading is an ongoing process and there are follow up programs to this one. Once students have mastered the areas of the program, teachers can look into a more challenging version to work on with students. If further assistance is needed with the program, the user friendly website can be searched for answers as well as contacting the company directly.


This program is a wonderful value for classroom use. For one classroom it costs a total of $60. In the No Child Left Behind Act, under Title II Part D, it states the primary goal of the section titled Enhancing Education Through Technology is to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary schools and secondary school. Grants are also available to help meet financial costs.

Reflection on Knowledge Adventure: Reading Blaster Ages 4-6

Reading Blaster is an educational program that helps students ages 4-6, as well students with disabilities, learn to work on beginning reading skills. Its interactive approach is very engaging to the students using the program. It is a program that allows for most students with or without disabilities to work on their problem solving skills in the area of basic literacy skills.

This program and the company that creates this program are internationally known. It is reliable and the products they produce have been shown to make an educational difference on students. Its reasonable price makes it easy to purchase, but if not, there are grants available to help.

I was able to complete several of the stages in the game. I received several of the treasures from the chest. The program was well designed in the fact that it was easy to work and very motivating to keep going.

I have looked at other programs that focus on beginning literacy skills. Most of the programs do not work on the basic literacy skills Reading Blaster does. Many of the students in the K-2 special education classroom struggle in the areas that this program is designed to teach. Reading Blaster is a program that would benefit students with or without disabilities who are learning to read.

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