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On the Record: Howard Gardner

On the Record: Howard Gardner

By Deborah Malamud

Howard Gardner, Hobbs professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote The App Generation, which examines the impact of technology on the cultural values of today’s youth. Gardner spoke in Higley Auditorium on Oct. 29.

Your book The App Generation explores the negative and positive effects of apps on adolescents’ “three I’s”:  sense of identity, intimacy and imagination. What is your advice for adolescents seeking to strengthen their personal “three I’s”?

Don’t let how other people describe themselves exert undue influence on how you think about yourself. You can have hundreds of “friends” but that’s very different from having a few real, genuine friends. It’s great to have apps help you do what you want to do, but you should never let the existence  of an app dictate what you do.

You told the Israeli journal Educational Echoes that liberal education won’t survive in the 21st century unless reform takes place. What can we, as liberal arts students, do to save it?

Take advantage of it, and you will be fine. Then other people will see that you are fine, and that will help to preserve it. It’s not up to current students to remake schools. There’s a joke at Harvard [that goes,] students are there for four years, faculty are there for life, Harvard is there forever. Kenyon could say a similar thing.

You are particularly known for your theory of multiple intelligences. In your talk, you spoke about an experiment that revealed teenagers today to be more skilled graphically and less skilled linguistically than those of the ’90s. How might increased dependency on apps affect your other proposed intelligences?

It’s how you use it. Let’s take music. It’s wonderful, all the things you can do technologically with music. But if it means you download your own mind and just do what’s available, then it’s kind of sad. At the end of the day, you’re responsible, not the device, and not the software. So are you going to let them determine your life?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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