Five Minds for the Future – Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner portraitHaving discovered Howard Gardner’s work (Harvard University) a few years ago, particularly his theory of multiple intelligences, I have been keenly interested in following further developments in the field. I am now reading a more recent book he wrote, Five Minds For The Future.

I recently discovered this interview Dr. Gardner gave for the Australian Institute for Company Directors, where he discusses a bit of the history of the book and what implications it has for educators. I encourage you to listen to it and ponder, as I have.

You may also be interested in Dr. Gardner’s blog at

Disclaimer: While I believe Dr. Gardner has done some fascinating work that has value in its application, I have also discovered that Dr. Gardner and I diverge significantly in our views of human origins, society and politics. I have discovered elsewhere that Dr. Gardner celebrates Charles Darwin as perhaps the most significant investigator of our time. I, on the other hand, believe that science has failed to support Darwin’s  hypotheses of macro-evolution. Dr. Gardner is also a strong proponent of socialism, stating elsewhere some radical views on income redistribution that I find abhorrent (see his interview with Richard Heffner). Nevertheless, I find his work on the five minds fascinating and compelling, while drawing significantly different conclusions about applications.

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Student Authentication for Online Courses

The recent Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) has made it mandatory that we be able to verify that the correct person is actually taking an online exam or other high-stakes assessment. The legislation language indicates that an institution must verify students’ identity by using at least one of the following:

  1. secure login and pass code
  2. proctored exams
  3. identification technologies

Regardless of which of these an institution pursues, there are some guidelines that may help with decision-making.

This blog article gives a good overview of how the online education sector is addressing these needs. It also provides a useful conversation point for a broader discussion of concerns of academic integrity that are not addressed by the legislation. It’s worth reading.

An Update on Student Authentication and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)

New DOE study: Online learning outperforms the live classroom

Well, a major study has formally analyzed and found out what a lot of us in online learning suspected or even thought we knew all along. This brand new study just released from the Department of Education is a comprehensive meta-analysis (that is, it is a comprehensive analysis of a large number of individual studies summarized analytically). The study started with 1,332 studies about online learning. They winnowed this set down to 46 rigorous studies that compared at least one element of online versus face-to-face learning, and from this group derived 51 effects.

Some of their key findings that I found most relevant are:

  1. For older (i.e. adult) learners, students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.
  2. Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.
  3. Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than learners in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning.
  4. Most of the variations in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly.
  5. The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types.
  6. Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online and face-to-face conditions varied in terms of curriculum materials and aspects of instructional approach in addition to the medium of instruction.
  7. Blended and purely online learning conditions implemented within a single study generally result in similar student learning outcomes.
  8. Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in an online class.
  9. Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learning reflection.
  10. Providing guidance for learning for groups of students appears less successful than does using such mechanisms with individual learners.

The authors provide these comments in the Conclusions section of their Executive Summary:

In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. Even when used by itself, online learning appears to offer a modest advantage over conventional classroom instruction.

However, several caveats are in order: Despite what appears to be strong support for online learning applications, the studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium. In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.

Read the full study. It is really fascinating and encouraging.