You Are Not Your SAT Score


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A crash course in Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence theory and some creative applications for it. I presented this as a 5-minute talk to an all-ages crowd at Ignite Seattle 15, August 2011.

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  • We tend to think of intelligence in kind of a general way...maybe something we can measure by filling in these little bubbles, then getting a score that tells us how smart we are.
  • So in the 80s, this Harvard researcher, Howard Gardner, observed that it wasn't that simple, and he proposed a new theory of multiple intelligences. I like to think of this as 8 kinds of smart, or, even better, 8 different ways you can GEEK OUT.
  • First up is logical-mathematical: hard-core geek: facts, figures, calculations, crunching numbers. If you divide the circumference of a bowl of frozen custard by the diameter, what do you get?
  • Pi...a la mode. A segue to linguistic intelligence. This is the good with words stuff: reading, writing, spelling, Words with Friends. You might even know what the heck a TOLUYL is. Most standardized tests focus on these first two: basically math, logic, reading.
  • But Gardner noticed that some people with brain injuries who'd lost the ability to speak could sing, which led him to the idea of a distinct musical intelligence. You might express this by, say, having a jam session in your backyard with a ukelele and a toy trumpet. 
  • Spatial intelligence: the ability to navigate 3D space in your head or create images from your mind’s eye. My buddy Julian tapped into this when he envisioned what it would be like to live in trees in this fantastic drawing.
  • OK, who's feeling like this is too much talking and you just need to wiggle? Go ahead, do it! You're not being rude; you're exhibiting your bodily-kinesthetic intelligence! Swimmers, dancers, actors, hula hoopers: you're all over this. You're working your body.
  • Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and relate to other people: to get what makes them tick. I know this kinda looks like stock photography but it's actually my tender-hearted son Tate, trying to cheer up his best friend.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence, knowing yourself. I like to take pictures of things that inspire me, which might look like a bunch of old red stuff, but I know that I'm drawn to objects with a story, with authenticity and timeless design. This ability keeps us centered.
  • Last is naturalist intelligence, the ability to observe, classify, and categorize things around us, not only different kinds of butterflies and flowers and clouds but even cars and types of shoes.
  • So in Gardner's theory, each of these intelligences is distinct, each has merit, each contributes to society and enriches our culture. They overlap and intersect and combine to produce creativity of all sorts.
  • Now I bet as I went down the list there were at least a couple that resonated with each of you. This is what I consider my own unofficial intelligence profile, with the big circles representing the areas I'm naturally better at. Yours would look totally different. That's cool. That's the point.
  • You may also have been told, or think, that you're bad at some of these. But there's always a different way to think about it. Dyslexia, for example, can indicate really strong spatial intelligence, because you can kind of turn the letters and words around in your head.
  • All of these--all of these---are things you can get better at. You just have to find your way in. If it's music, you don't have to have perfect pitch. You might try drumming, composing, being a sound engineer, or, as the Ace Hotel suggests, even picking a dope record and rocking out.
  • You can use this theory to help you learn something, even something hard--say, the capitals of the former Soviet Republics. Play to your strengths. Find what works for you. Put 'em in alphabetical order, do a color-coded map, make up a poem or a song, you get the idea.
  • You can use this theory to improve your communication. If you're a linguistic gal trying to get your point across to a creative director with a well-crafted 3-page email, it ain't gonna happen. Trust me. I've tried that.
  • You can use this theory to get unstuck. If you're trying to write or code and you're feeling blocked, tick down this list and try something that's really different. Go for a bike ride, draw a picture, mess around on your guitar. See what happens. You might be surprised.
  • You can use this theory to broaden your perspective. These kinds of events are awesome because they bring together innovators from so many disciplines. If you're working on something, ask yourself: What have I missed? Who else could I bring in to get a fresh insight?
  • You can even use this theory to create new connections in your own brain. Einstein played the violin to boost his creativity. So don't just play to your strengths. Stretch yourself! Try something new! It's good for your brain! 
  • This truly is a crash course--I'm just scratching the surface, but I've found this stuff useful even at a very high level. And if you'd like to know more, read more, talk more about this tweet me! And remember: YOU ARE NOT YOUR SAT SCORE: THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS YOU CAN BE SMART!
  • You Are Not Your SAT Score

    1. 1. what’s  smart?image:NewsOne
    2. 2. mul=ple  intelligences image:  Harvard  Graduate  School  of  Educa=on
    3. 3. logical-­‐mathema=cal
    4. 4. linguis=c image:  Words  with  Friends
    5. 5. musical
    6. 6. spa=al image:  Julian  Baldwin
    7. 7. bodily-­‐kinesthe=cimage:  Obama  Pacman  blog
    8. 8. interpersonalimage:  Stephanie  Rabinowitz  photography
    9. 9. intrapersonal
    10. 10. naturalist image:  BuJerfly
    11. 11. all  enrich  culture
    12. 12. logical-­‐   mathema=cal bodily-­‐ verbal-­‐ kinesthe=c linguis=c naturalist visual-­‐spa=al musical-­‐intrapersonal rhythmic interpersonalyou’re  a  natural
    13. 13. you’re  not  a  naturalimage:  Lake  Speech  and  Language  Services
    14. 14. find  a  way  in
    15. 15. learn  somethingimage:  Magellan  Geographix
    16. 16. improve  your  communica=on
    17. 17. get  unstuck
    18. 18. broaden  your  perspec=ve image:  monkee-­‐
    19. 19. create  connec=onsimage:  Jeff  Lichtman/Harvard  University
    20. 20. you  are  not  your  SAT  scorecontact:  @mamatweeta