Artículo de la semana

Esta página pretende acercar diferentes temáticas en educación. Será actualizada casa semana con un nuevo artículo en inglés o español.

The three "E's": Enjoyment, Engagement and Enthusiasm

Joseph Renzulli


Por qué hay que tener cuidado cuando le decís a tu hijo que es inteligente

Karen Bendelman 

Hace algunos días Salman Khan, el creador de Khan Academy, escribió un artículo acerca de cómo decidió poner en práctica una investigación que viene siguiendo hace años. Las conclusiones de ésta investigación de la Dr. Carol Dweck apoyan la idea de felicitar a su hijo no por hacer bien cosas en las que ya es bueno, sino cuando demuestra perseverancia en cosas que encuentra difíciles; hacerle notar que cuando uno lucha por algo, el cerebro “crece”.
 
Siempre he admirado el trabajo de la doctora Carol Dweck y su investigación acerca de las mentalidades “estática” y de “crecimiento”. La Dr. Dweck explica que no son sólo nuestras habilidades y talentos “naturales” que nos traen éxito - sino si consideramos a los mismos con una mentalidad estática o de crecimiento.
 
Las personas que tienen una mentalidad “estática” piensan que su inteligencia o sus talentos son rasgos innatos y fijos: se tiene una cierta cantidad y eso es todo. Otras personas tienen una mentalidad de crecimiento: creen que su inteligencia se puede desarrollar, y que su cerebro es como un músculo que puede ser entrenado con ejercicio. Un grupo va por el mundo con sed y curiosidad por aprender, y el otro, queriendo sentirse inteligentes.

La mentalidad se mete en el camino del aprendizaje. Las personas con mentalidad estática están preocupadas pensando si van a verse inteligentes, o si van a hacer una tarea de manera excelente, y le tienen alergia a los errores. Por el contrario, las personas con mentalidad de crecimiento entienden que los errores son parte fundamental del proceso de aprendizaje. Experiencias prácticas del trabajo de la Dr. Dweck sobre mentalidad de crecimiento muestran un aumento de la motivación y el logro de los estudiantes. Una mentalidad de crecimiento promueve el amor por el aprendizaje, por enfrentar problemas desafiantes, y un aumento de la auto-confianza. Dweck resume: "con una mentalidad de crecimiento, los estudiantes entienden que sus talentos y habilidades se pueden desarrollar a través del esfuerzo y la perseverancia”.
 
Esto no implica que todos somos iguales o que cualquiera pueda ser el próximo Einstein, pero demuestra que todos podemos ser más “inteligentes” si trabajamos duro para ello. Es por eso que Khan decidió no felicitar a su hijo por hacer bien algo en lo que es bueno, sino por intentar (y fallar varias veces) en algo nuevo y difícil. Lo mejor es que nunca es demasiado tarde para preguntarte qué tipo de mentalidad tenés, y cambiarla si no te gusta la respuesta. Y yo te pregunto: ¿qué mentalidad estimulás en tus hijos o estudiantes?

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Acerca de las medidas de Tabaré Vázquez para su segundo gobierno: la educación

Karen Bendelman

El candidato a la presidencia de la república por el Frente Amplio, Tabaré Vázquez, anunció diez medidas el 1o de Junio tras su confirmación como candidato por su partido. Estas medidas serán el foco de su mandato si es electo en las elecciones de Octubre en nuestro país. En esta reseña me centraré únicamente en una de las medidas propuestas por el candidato para el área educativa. 

Vázquez promete erradicar la deserción estudiantil en secundaria. Muy seguro de sí establece que la deserción que existe en este momento no puede continuar, pero, ¿qué propone para lograrlo?

No propuso ninguna solución, simplemente dio a conocer la medida sin explicar cómo lograrlo. Yo me pregunto: ¿cómo podemos pensar en erradicar algo sin comprender lo que sucede de fondo ?

Semanas después el ex presidente hablo de ayudas extra-curriculares, que consistirá en tutorías por parte de alumnos avanzados de UTU, universitarios o docentes para que aquellos estudiantes con dificultades de aprendizaje “se emparejen”. ¿Es ése el problema?. No son solo estudiantes con dificultades los que desertan del sistema educativo. ¿No será que la falla está precisamente en el sistema educativo mismo? El problema en parte es que el sistema no tiene en cuenta al individuo y piensa que todos necesitamos lo mismo.

No entiendo como se puede pensar en "soluciones" sin entender primero que es lo que causa lo que está sucediendo. Claramente la educación en nuestro país está en crisis hace mucho tiempo. Cuando el Plan Ceibal comenzó a desarrollarse y la tecnología a establecerse en la educación, se pensó que era la solución que necesitábamos. La ceibalita está pensada para modificar la manera de enseñar a través de la tecnología. Es una herramienta brillante, con un potencial enorme, pero mal utilizada por no haber realizado una modificación rotunda del sistema educativo. Cuando se estableció el Plan Ceibal se centralizó el cambio en la capacitación docente para que aprendan a utilizarlas, en vez de pensar que el cambio radical que estábamos atravesando necesitaba mucho más que una capacitación sobre cómo usar algo, sino un cambio de mentalidad completa. La ceibalita tiene la aceptación que tiene porque es una herramienta que nuestros niños reclaman. El niño es explorador por naturaleza, aprende autónomamente, construye, crea, borra, se equivoca, vuelve a intentar. La ceibalita necesita que el docente entienda que ya no es el centro de enseñanza, sino que su rol cambió y que el alumno hoy en día necesita un docente que actúe como facilitador y mediador del aprendizaje, no alguien que dicte cátedra.

A siente años de la creación del Plan Ceibal, seguimos viendo docentes que no toman la herramienta como parte de una modificación en el aula y en el aprendizaje, sino que continúan realizando planificaciones escritas sobre lo que "se va a enseñar" ese día a sus alumnos, a todos por igual, sin diferenciar necesidades e intereses educativos. Luego, piensan cómo integrarán la tecnología a esa "enseñanza". ¿Cómo podemos pensar en un cambio cuando no entendemos lo que está sucediendo? El sistema fue creado para despersonalizar la enseñanza. Un currículo educativo pensado para que todos reciban y "aprendan" lo mismo, de la misma forma, sin importar que cada uno tiene habilidades, intereses y necesidades distintas.   

La deserción escolar es un problema complejo, con causas tanto educativas como sociales. Ninguna solución sencilla va a acabar con el problema. Pero asumir que todo está bien y proponer medidas simplistas sin cambiar este modelo educativo diseñado hace siglos no es la forma de atacar la deserción.

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Identificación temprana de niños con altas habilidades

Karen Bendelman


Como padres repetidamente nos preguntamos si son usuales los comportamientos de nuestros hijos. ¿Como podemos identificar a un niño pequeño con altas habilidades?

Es difícil señalar características de superdotación intelectual presentes en todo niño pequeño con altas habilidades, ya que éstos difieren en habilidades cognitivas y de lenguaje, intereses, estilo de aprendizaje, necesidades educativas, motivación y niveles de energía, personalidad, hábitos, conductas, y experiencias personales.

Las características a continuación son rasgos “frecuentes” en estudios de niños superdotados según Frances A. Karnes del Center for Gifted Studies de la University of Southern Mississippi. Esto no quiere decir que todas ellas están presentes en cada niño.

Rasgos generales

Una de las características que podemos notar desde pequeños es su estado de alerta. Son niños que necesitan menos sueño ya que son ágiles y activos pero siempre tienen un objetivo en cada actividad que comienzan. Otra característica es el desarrollo más rápido de las funciones motoras: acostumbran a gatear y caminar antes que otros niños.

Además suelen desarrollar su lenguaje a temprana edad, poseen un vocabulario avanzado para ella, y usan estructuras de habla complejas. Esto puede llevar a que sean lectores precoces. 

Desde muy pequeños pueden demostrar una gran curiosidad y un impulso por aprender. Algunos adultos a veces se molestan por las preguntas constantes, y el hecho que no se conforman con una respuesta ilógica o incompleta. 

Otra característica común es la creatividad e imaginación. Poseen una capacidad de inventiva e imaginación elevada, produciendo ideas nuevas y originales. También es frecuente que tengan una excelente memoria. Tienen la capacidad de aprender y memorizar conceptos abstractos y complejos si son de su interés y hasta pueden recordar detalles muy vívidos de tiempos pasados, películas, libros, etc. 

Un aspecto importante a tener en cuenta son sus focos de atención. Esto es, las áreas y actividades que al niño más le interesan, y puede permanecer concentrado en ellas por largos períodos de tiempo. Un niño pequeño no suele mantener su atención por largos ratos; esto va cambiando a medida que crece, pero si notamos una gran capacidad de concentración cuando el niño tiene dos o tres años o incluso antes, debe llamarnos la atención.

Estos extensos períodos de concentración en su área de interés van a hacerse mas frecuentes, y más aún si el niño es estimulado; va a pasar la mayoría de su tiempo motivado y comprometido en esa tarea; y puede demostrar una rápida adquisición de conocimientos y habilidades, gran entusiasmo y altos niveles de energía en cualquier aspecto relacionados a esta área.

Características afectivas

Una característica destacable es el desarrollo del sentido de justicia y de la equidad. Son niños que pueden enojarse si ven que un adulto u otro niño está siendo injusto con otro.

A nivel emocional pueden presentar una gran intensidad de sentimientos y sensibilidad hacia otras personas. Demuestran una mayor empatía hacia otros, preocupados por su bienestar, identificándose con los sentimientos, risa y llanto de éstos. 

Frecuentemente comparten intereses que son más comunes en niños mayores. Es por esto que prefieren la compañía de niños más grandes. Suelen demostrar gusto por los juegos estructurados, basados en reglas, a una edad más temprana que otros niños.

Puede notarse una gran frustración, en ellos, cuando su coordinación motora fina no les permite producir una representación artística o una escritura al nivel que pueden visualizar en su imaginación.

Recomendaciones

·       Crear un balance entre las actividades académicas y el juego.

·       Involucrar al niño en la decisión de qué aprender.

·       Invitarlo a explorar el mundo a través del drama, el arte y el movimiento.

·       Incentivar procesos como la “tormenta de ideas” y pensamiento en voz alta.

·       Proponer centros y espacios de aprendizaje en el hogar y el salón de clase.

·       Involucrar a los niños pequeños en el planeamiento de viajes y salidas familiares.

·       Recordar que su desarrollo emocional y social es en general menos avanzado que el intelectual.

·       Recordar que el desarrollo social es importante – los niños necesitan pares intelectuales además de pares de su misma edad.

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Is Grit Stifling Our Creativity?

Synopsis


Stressed out, relentless, martyrdom is often viewed as part and parcel of success. From the sleepless persona of the Tech entrepreneurs, to the ubiquitous chatter around “grit,” tenacity has become synonymous with achievement. Yet, new emergent research is illustrating that perhaps dogged determination has been glamorized far beyond its usefulness.

I have been a dancer since I was three years old. When I finally graduated to pointe shoes at the age of ten, I was thrilled. Pointe shoes were notorious for their pain and so naturally, were associated with everything badass and superstar.

I displayed my newly blistered and bloody toes to anyone who would look (sorry friends and family).

It was confirmed. I was the real deal.
Success hurts. Progress takes blood.

These ideas seemed obvious, almost mathematical in their simplicity to my ten-year-old mind. “No pain no gain.”

But does it? Does success always necessitate pain?

We are conditioned to endure, to soldier on, to suck it up. Yet, the research on innovation, creativity, and insight paints a more complex picture. Obsessive overwork-- the ballet dancer who dances well past the limits of her bloody feet--may lead to a deficit in the quality of the result, not an increase.


It’s undeniable that grit, sweat, and hard work are core components of expertise. It would clearly be overly simplistic and inaccurate to dismiss their linchpin role. However overworking undermines our success in three major ways: creativity, problem solving and social connection.


WHY GRITTY OVERWORK FAILS US

Stressed out, relentless, martyrdom is often viewed as part and parcel of success.
From the sleepless persona of the Tech entrepreneurs, to the ubiquitous chatter around “grit,” tenacity has become synonymous with achievement. Yet, perhaps dogged determination has been glamorized far beyond its usefulness.


When most people think of expertise research, they think of Ericsson, a professor at Florida State University, whose notability skyrocketed when Malcolm Gladwell popularised his 10,000 hour rule to expertise. Yet, what most people do not know is that Ericsson would not recommend a relentless non-stop pursuit to fulfill that quota.  After traveling to Berlin and logging data on some of the most successful musicians, Ericsson discovered that most successful virtuosos typically do not practice for longer than ninety minutes at a time. This led Ericsson to another, perhaps more even more revolutionary, claim. Downtime for recovery, inspiration, creativity and social bonding is an essential ingredient in skill acquisition.


Too much concentration on a desired result or goal can actually decrease the likelihood of the set goal being actualised. As former Harvard psychologist Dan Wegner  popularized with his research on mental control--any sort of stress or anxiety decreases our amount of mental control. As many of us know, the more you obsess about being on a strict diet, the more likely you are to eventually binge.  Similarly with creativity and insight, the more you try to force good ideas the more elusive they seem. Thinking hard about a problem ramps up your prefrontal cortex, which will maintain your focus and inhibit distractions. This non-distractible state will decrease your ability to make unusual  and disparate connections, inhibiting novel, creative, solutions. 


Overwork also often stands in the space between us and social connection. Beyond the emotional, and psychological benefits which are obviously gleaned from social connection, social connectedness plays an important role in the engendering of creativity.


Inspiration is often described as a one person experience. We have a rich vocabulary to illustrate this: epiphany, eureka, light-bulb moment etc. But great ideas and innovations almost always come about as a result of the interaction between many different peoples ideas, hunches and thoughts coming together. As Matt Ridley aptly puts it-- ideas must have sex.


Unlike my middle school, which went to exorbitant lengths to decrease the amount of spontaneous conversation in the halls ( think color coded hall passes), innovative companies, like Google, intentionally design spaces to increase social connection and conversation. This has trend has been well documented by researchers, such as psychologist Kevin Dunbar. Dunbar  studied labs around the world and videotape scientists as they worked to determine the evolution of breakthrough moments. He concluded that the wide majority of breakthrough concepts  did not originate in solitary moments late in the night, but rather when the colleagues got together and talked about their work.


PLAY, DAYDREAM, AND SOCIALIZE TO SOLUTIONS

Overworking has been so ingrained in many of us that it’s hard to imagine a different tactical method when approaching a conundrum or a creativity block. Here are some alternatives, play, daydream, and as mentioned above socialize .


Iconic vulnerability researcher Brene Brown confidently blogged that goofing off is really good for you. In her words:

“A few years ago, I noticed in my research that wholehearted people -- my term for men and women with the courage to be vulnerable and live their lives "all in" -- shared something else, too: They goofed off. They spent time doing things that to me seemed frivolous, like gardening and reading. I couldn't really wrap my head around it -- were they slackers? Then one day, while I watched my kids jump on the trampoline in our backyard, it hit me: Wholehearted adults play.”


Yet the data seems to indicate that play is about more than just whole hearted fun. Play actually makes us smarter. As play researcher Stuart Brown claims, “nothing develops the brain like play” . Dr. Stuart Brown interviewed thousands of individuals and cataloged the strong influence between success and playful activity, asserting that play is at the core of creativity and innovation.


The research on creativity and innovations continues to preverbally push us off our computers and away from our desks with it’s promising findings on the positive benefits of daydreaming. Daydreaming, a word that often evokes nostalgic memories of one's youth, yet seems to have little place in our high-paced, hyper-connected world, is becoming ever more relevant. In fact, unplugging, and scheduling in some youthful daydreaming can ramp up our productivity, not derail it. Daydreaming acts as a incubation space for creativity, and allows us to get in touch with our inner consciousness. As Dr. Jonathan Schooler states “Mind wandering seems to be very useful for planning and creative thought”. It is not surprising that many of our best ideas happen in the shower, one of the few remaining spaces that is not filled with constant external stimulation.


Brigid Schulte author of, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, describes the benefits of daydreaming have to do with the brain's default mode network. As Schulte explains,
“The default mode network is like a series of airport hubs in different and typically unconnected parts of the brain. And that's why it's so crucial. When the brain flips into idle mode, this network subconsciously puts together stray thoughts, makes seemingly random connections and enables us to see an old problem in an entirely new light.”


As a first generation American the value of dogged hard work seems to be imprinted in my DNA. Yet with an ironic and iconic twist of fate, leisure time seems to be the new key to productivity. Daydreaming, socializing and play are the commodities of the future, practiced by only a few, with rising worth. So next time you hit a creative block, err...daydream, socialize and play.


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6 STEPS TOWARD BETTER PARENTING OF GIFTED CHILDREN

By Audra Nelson, Parent

The Center for Talent Development’s recent Opportunities for the Future Conference was chock-full of fantastic parenting advice. Strangely, though, I left feeling energized. Maybe because it’s summer, and the days truly are longer. Or maybe because the advice seemed too important NOT to implement. Either way, I’m excited to act on the following six ideas shared by keynote speakers Drs. Del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach. As a parent of three bright, high-energy kids, I spend most of my days feeling tired. Grateful and happy, but tired. There are simply not enough hours in the day. For this reason, I have a love/hate relationship with parenting advice. The advice often sounds great, but just thinking about how to implement it can wear me out.

1. Talk about how talent develops. Don’t let giftedness be the elephant in the room with your kids. Too often, gifted students believe every challenging task is a test of their giftedness, and they live in fear that people will find out they aren’t as smart as everyone thinks they are. Remind children that they have a role to play. It’s not aboutbeing gifted; it’s about using your gifts and developing your talent, achieving and learning more each day.

2. Teach kids that mistakes make us smarter. Too often, children buy into the belief that smart kids do well without working hard. We need kids to realize that working hard makes you smart! As you stretch yourself and overcome challenges, you create new pathways in your brain. Every mistake leads you closer to success. As parents, we can help kids build their brains by providing them with enrichment opportunities such as those offered by CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program or Gifted LearningLinks.

3. Avoid -EST words. As adults, we know it’s rarely, if ever, true that we are the best, brightest, fastest or any other -est. At some point, our kids will learn this lesson, too. If they grow up thinking they are the -EST, the reality will come as a shocker. As parents, we can help build kids’ confidence and give them a realistic view of the world by avoiding “-est” words and exposing them to other kids of equal or greater ability. The earlier that students “swim in a bigger pool of talent,” the easier it is for them to develop a mindset centered on learning and growth rather than a performance mindset in which ability is a fixed entity.

4. Give specific, developmental compliments. John Hattie did a meta-analysis of the education research to find out what makes the most impact on a child’s education, and this was it: individual feedback. The next time my daughter asks if I like her drawing, I’m going to stop and really look at it. And instead of saying, “That’s the best portrait you’ve ever drawn,” I will take note of something specific. Maybe I will say, “I really like the realistic colors you’ve chosen,” or “You spent a long time working on that. You must be learning to pay attention to detail.” I will make the time to respond to her in a way that will influence her learning, not just allow me to get back to my agenda.

Conference

All family members find topics of interest at the Opportunities for the Future Conference.

5. Document and recognize growth. Showing kids how much they’ve learned year to year gives them a visual of growth and an understanding that growth is not fixed, but malleable. When my son moans and groans about handwriting practice, I can encourage him by showing him the improvement he made from preschool to kindergarten.

6. Advocate, advocate, advocate for gifted education.Research suggests that in a typical 180-day public school year, gifted kids spend nearly 75 days on unnecessary repetition, approximately 80 days on content previously mastered and only 25 days on new material. The research on gifted students’ growth over the course of a year is equally dismal. Gifted kids seem to be learning more during the summer, away from school, than they are learning during the academic year in school. In a system that evaluates teachers on achievement, rather than individual growth, teachers have every incentive to pull up low-achievers and, sadly, to let high achievers be. Gifted education needs parent advocates. Let’s get started today!    

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7 Essential Tools for Parents of GT Kids

by Lisa Van Gemert

I can practically guarantee that if your child is gifted, you will face at least five of the issues the tools below help fix. In fact, I’ll give you your money back if you don’t. I have no magic ball, so how do I know? Because I see it literally every day. In the interest of full disclosure, I have suffered from them myself, and so have the GT kids who actually live in my house.

I did a SENGinar the other night on internal motivation, and there were too many questions to be able to answer.  That was not surprising – parents of GT kids are often blazing their own trails on a daily basis. What is also not surprising is that the questions were not that different from each other.  Most of the parents are facing the same issues.  So here are seven tools you will need if you’ve got a GT kid in your family (or you yourself are recovering from Post Traumatic Gifted Kid Disorder.  And yes, I know that seven is a symbol of perfection. That is purely circumstantial.  Probably

1. Tool: Negotiation. Use for: virtually everything.

Negotiation is the screwdriver of the GT parent’s toolbox.  You will use it with schools as well as with your own child.  So where do you get this tool?  Unfortunately, it’s not just something you can print out.  You’re going to have to do some reading and practicing.  Here are some resources to get you started.

Inc. Magazine offers some basic tips on negotiation, and this is hands-down the best place to start.  Read them here.

Business Insider has great tips, too.  You can find them here.

If you’re willing to spend $4, you can buy How to Negotiate with Kids…Even if You Think You Shouldn’t by Scott Brown for a penny plus shipping.

The book often considered the gold standard on this topic is Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World by

How to start?  Find a friend or spouse with whom to practice.  You can start small, negotiating what toppings are going on a pizza or how the Saturday morning chores will be divided.  Let your child shadow you as you negotiate in business situations.

One area this may be necessary is the “Show Your Work” battle in class. Find some tips on that from one of my fave gifted heroes, Ian Byrd, here.

This one skill can change your life, and this is not hyperbole.


2. Tool: Rating Scale.  Use for: Perfectionism


Perfectionists have hijacked the saying “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and sent it off in the direction of “anything I think I have to do I must do perfectly.”  This is false thinking.  Help perfectionists by teaching them to rate assignments, chores, and other must-do’s on a scale of 1 – 5.

A 1 is something that needs to be done, but needn’t be done that well  (taking out the trash, making the bed, practicing math facts for the billionth time [see Tip #4]).

A five is something that must be done perfectly (brain surgery, tightrope walking).  Fives are things with little room for error. Very few things are fives, but you wouldn’t know that talking with a perfectionist.

Most things are about a three, and helping budding perfectionists learn to accurately rate tasks and allocate their resources of time, attention, and patience accordingly is a necessary skill.

My presentation on Perfectionism is here, and you can find more explanations and ideas here.

The must-have book on this topic is Adelson & Wilson’s Letting Go of Perfect.

3. Tool: Zentangle®.  Use for: boredom & stress relief

If there is a panacea for coping with boredom, this is it.  Now, I have my own thoughts on boredom that are more complex than this, but if you’re looking for a simple tool anyone can do (I’ve taught it to four-year-olds), then Zentangle is right for you.

Designed by Rick and Maria Thomas, Zentangle is deceptively simple. The idea is that you fill small spaces with simple patterns.  The inclusion of multiple patterns in the same design is what makes it beautiful, and the repetition makes it soothing.  Kids can do this in class while listening, and I believe it actually improves listening skills, as the brain uses the patterns being drawn to scaffold the ideas being heard.

Zentangle.com is the official site, and they have a starter kit and a book. You can also find information/ideas/all you need to know there.  Another usefule site is TanglePatterns.com.

4. Tool: stopwatch.  Use for: coping with repetitive work


One reason we balk at undesirable tasks is that we lose our sense of time when we are engaged (or not) in tasks we don’t like.  Simply timing how long it takes to do something can make it less daunting or undesirable. If you think I’m kidding, go time how long it takes you to fold a load of laundry or change your sheets.  It is probably much quicker than you think.

When I meet a child/teen/spouse who procrastinates, balks like a donkey, or goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid a task, the first thing I do is insist that we time it.  Once you know how long it really takes, a couple of things happen.

First, you realize that it’s not that bad.  Really? I can change the sheets in seven minutes?  That’s nothing.

Secondly, you have created incentive to try to do it even faster. What tricks could I use to make it only six minutes?  Are there videos on YouTube about how to do this more quickly or effectively? (You’ll be surprised!)

A stopwatch can help kids become manufacturing engineers, seeking more efficient ways to run their cognitive assembly line.

Note: if your child has high anxiety, be sure to use the stopwatch as a tool to reduce, not add to, the anxiety.  It’s not a punishment – it’s a get out of jail free card

5. Tool: mindfulness.  Use for: boredom & anxiety


Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment without judgment. That is a vast oversimplification, but the key elements are there.  Researchers know that the root of boredom is the inability to pay attention, to stay present in the moment.  Mindfulness helps with that.  Reducing anxiety comes from the “without judgment” part.

And don’t worry – you don’t have to become a Buddhist to do it.

You can find a wealth of resources here.

A book I recommend is Mindfulness for Beginners.

My best friend, Patricia Bear, is a therapist in Eugene, Oregon, and the credit for this tip goes to her.  She actually put together some basic mindfulness exercises you can do with kids that you can find here, so thank you, Patti!

6. Tool: executive function skill development Use for: chaos (internal and external)


It looks like lazy with a little messy thrown in.  That’s how I describe executive functioning issues with kids (and adults, really).  Executive functioning is the brain’s ability to manage itself.  Problems with executive functioning are often observed as disorganization (even in kids who love to sort and organize), but the executive functions extend beyond that.

If that rings a bell, Late, Lost, and Unprepared is the book of choice if you are dealing with this issue.  There are many other books on it, but they are almost all written for clinicians.

A great, free, and comprehensive list of resources is found here.

If you’re a teacher, some suggestions for helping children with executive functioning issues can be found here.

7. Cornell Notes  Use for: underachievement


If there’s a one-size-fits-all tool for GT kids, this is it.  Cornell Notes (so named because they were developed by a professor at Cornell’s Law School) refers to a specific way to take and, most importantly, use notes.

Many GT kids struggle with knowing the specific skills of studying that, ironically, their typical learner peers have often mastered out of necessity.  Cornell Notes are one of the strategies that can help, and I believe it is perhaps the most important.

The key is not only the layout, but also the evaluation and summary that is done.  This forces learners to truly think about what they heard.

The layout itself makes studying for exams much easier.

As with so many things, the method is quick to learn, but you can spend a long time mastering it.  I still use this method myself when I attend conferences, so it’s a great life skill for anyone.

Find out how to use them here.

You can download a template here, but after awhile you don’t need one and can just draw your own with two lines.

This toolbox obviously does not contain everything you will need to effectively parent GT kids, but it is a start.  The resources will lead you to other resources, and soon you will be a master craftsman.

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What is Giftedness?
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D. 
 

Every gift contains a danger. Whatever gift we have we are compelled to express. And if the expression of that gift is blocked, distorted, or merely allowed to languish, then the gift turns against us, and we suffer. (Johnson, 1993, p. 15)

What is giftedness all about? It certainly is a term that makes people uncomfortable. I remember going to a back-to-school night in 1976 and offering to find a mentor for any child who wanted to learn something he or she wasn't learning in school. There was no cost for the mentor. All the parents had to do was join the Boulder Association for the Gifted for $5 per year. I had no takers. One father stopped me afterwards and said something to the effect that his daughter was reading several years above grade level, and had a chemistry lab in the basement, etc., but he was “sure” his daughter wasn't gifted!

Since those days, I have endeavored to discover what gifted means to different people. Most of my work has been with parents, and I began to notice that mothers usually called the Gifted Development Center to inquire about testing, while fathers often viewed the assessment with skepticism. When I spoke to parent groups, mothers would nod and smile and fathers would sit with crossed arms and question marks on their faces. One father came up to me after a presentation and told me about his son who had won all kinds of awards as a scholar at Stanford University, but he, too, was certain his son wasn't gifted. I asked him, “What would he have to do to be gifted in your eyes?” The father retorted, “Well, he's no Einstein.”

Then I came across a study in which the researcher thought mothers labeled one child in the family as gifted for their own “narcissistic needs.” An incidental finding of this study was that when the school had labeled the child, gifted, the mothers believed the label and the fathers denied it, which led to marital conflict (Cornell, 1984). That was when the light bulb went on for me. I realized that mothers and fathers were defining giftedness differently. The more I thought about it, the clearer it seemed that the male writers in the field tended to view giftedness very much like the fathers I had run across and most female writers seemed to share the perspective of the mothers (Silverman, 1986; Silverman & Miller, 2007).

Men equate giftedness with achievement. After we tested his son, one Dad said to us, “He's only five. What could he have done in five years to be gifted?” Women, on the other hand, perceive giftedness as developmental advancement. If a Mom sees that her daughter is asking names of objects at 11 months, and memorizing books at 17 months, and asking complex questions before she's two years old, she gets very anxious. “How will she fit in with the other children?” “What will the teacher do with her if she's already reading in Kindergarten?” “Should I hide the books? I don't want them to think I'm another ‘pushy parent’.”

Developing faster than other children makes a child vulnerable, and mothers are keenly aware of this vulnerability. When they can ignore it no longer, when the fear of “What will happen to my child?” rises in their throats, they gulp twice and call a specialist for guidance on their child's unique developmental progress [with one part of them screaming in their heads, “Do you realize how foolish you're going to look if you're wrong and this is all in your head?”]. Despite the myth that “All parents think their children are gifted,” nine out of ten of the parents who break down and make that phone call are right.

The achievement view of giftedness has been with us from the very beginning, with Sir Francis Galton’s (1869) study of eminent men. Today, educators are still looking for children who have the potential to be eminent men. The eminent child in school is the winner of the competition for grades and awards. All the emphasis is placed on products, performance, portfolios—the external trappings. And the child is expected to keep up the hard work throughout life, performing, producing, achieving. So gifted has become the label bestowed by schools on “task committed,” hard working students who get good grades. Clearly, these are the students with the greatest potential for achievement in our competitive society. Is that what giftedness is all about?

When we equate giftedness with achievement in school, or with the potential for noteworthy achievement in adult life, we create an inequitable criterion for children of color, children who are economically disadvantaged, and females. Throughout history, those who attain eminence have been predominantly white, middle or upper class males (Hollingworth, 1926; Silverman & Miller, 2007). By way of contrast, giftedness is color-blind, is found in equal proportions in males and females (Silverman & Miller, 2007), and is distributed across all socio-economic levels (Dickinson, 1970). While the percentage of gifted students among the upper classes may be higher, the vast majority of gifted children come from the lower classes (Zigler & Farber, 1985). Throughout the world, there are more poor gifted children than rich ones.

Far from being “elitist,” public school programs for gifted children allow children who are economically disadvantaged the only opportunities they might have to develop their talents. Those who want to abolish classes for the gifted are penalizing the gifted poor, because the rich can afford private education. And many middle class families are choosing to homeschool their children rather than force them to relearn day after day after day what they already know.

So what is giftedness? The Moms are right. It is developmental advancement that can be observed in early childhood. But the child doesn't advance equally in all areas. As she asks what happens after you die and “How do we know we aren't part of someone else's dream?” she still can't tie her shoes! An eleven-year-old highly gifted boy got off the plane with his calculus book in one hand and his well-worn Curious George in the other. The higher the child’s IQ, the more difficulty he or she has finding playmates or conforming to the lock-step school curriculum. The greater the discrepancy between a child's strengths and weaknesses, the harder it is for him or her to fit in anywhere.

Rita Dickinson (1970), the founder of gifted education in Colorado, reported that a large percentage of the gifted children she tested in the Denver Public Schools were referred for behavior problems. She discovered that at least half of their parents had no idea their children were gifted, and when the parents didn't recognize it, the school didn't either. Gifted children most likely to be overlooked were from low socio-economic backgrounds or culturally diverse or both.

Boys are far more likely to be brought for testing than girls. At the Gifted Development Center, 60% of the 5,200 children tested over the last 28 years are male and 40% are female. Boys are more likely than girls to act out when they are insufficiently challenged at school. Therefore, they are more likely to get their parents’ attention and concern. It is essential for gifted girls to be identified early, before they go into hiding.

And Moms, a word about you. I would like a dollar for every mother who has sat in my office and said, “He gets it from his father.” Our society has such an achievement orientation toward giftedness that most women can't relate the concept to themselves at all. “I'm only a mother. I haven't done anything gifted.” My next book is about unrecognized giftedness in women. It's entitled, I'm Not Gifted, I'm Just Busy!”

Gifted children and adults see the world differently because of the complexity of their thought processes and their emotional intensity. People often say to them, “Why do you make everything so complicated?” “Why do you take everything so seriously?” “Why is everything so important to you?” The gifted are “too” everything: too sensitive, too intense, too driven, too honest, too idealistic, too moral, too perfectionistic, too much for other people! Even if they try their entire lives to fit in, they still feel like misfits. The damage we do to gifted children and adults by ignoring this phenomenon is far greater than the damage we do by labeling it. Without the label for their differences, the gifted come up with their own label: “I must be crazy. No one else is upset by this injustice but me.”

It’s time we took giftedness out of the closet and separated it entirely from the concept of achievement. It’s time we recognized it, valued it and nurtured it in our schools and in our families.

 

References

Cornell, D. G. (1984). Families of gifted children. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press. 

Dickinson, R. M. (1970). Caring for the gifted. North Quincy, MA: Christopher. 
Galton, F. (1869). Hereditary genius: An inquiry into its laws and consequences. London. 

Hollingworth, L. S. (1926). Gifted children: Their nature and nurture. New York: Macmillan. 

Johnson, L. (1993). Thoughts on giftedness. Understanding Our Gifted, 5(5A), p. 15. 

Silverman, L. K. (1986). What happens to the gifted girl? In C. J. Maker (Ed.), Critical issues in gifted education, Vol. 1: Defensible programs for the gifted (pp. 43-89). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Silverman, L. K., & Miller, N. B. (2007). A feminine perspective of giftedness . In L. Shavinina, (Ed.).The international handbook on giftedness. Amsterdam: Springer Science.

Zigler, E., & Farber, E. A. (1985). Commonalities between the intellectual extremes: Giftedness and mental retardation. In F. D. Horowitz & M. O'Brien (Eds.), The gifted and the talented: Developmental perspectives (pp. 387-408). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Director of the Gifted Child Development Center in Denver (1-888-GIFTED1). She has been studying the gifted for morenearly 50 years and has contributed over 300 articles, chapters, and books.

This article was originally published in The Boulder Parent, July, 1993, pp. 1, 13-14. 
Revised: March 2007. P-50

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Student academic abilities vary, but standard tests know only one

IQ Bell Curve
IQ Bell Curve. 
Credits: 
 
iqscorenow.com
Students have different abilities to learn. We know that if we we have a large enough group those abilities form a continuum along a Bell Curve. However, our education system has been ignoring this for many decades. We want to test all students to a single standard and have been doing so for a long time.Then we complain loudly when half the students don’t score to or above that standard.The results are not acceptable. So instead of accounting for the variation in academic abilities, we began lowering the standard. That’s still unacceptable, so we lower the standard again; and again and again.

Why? Because many in education and in the government believes we should all meet a national standard. Does anyone stop to think that this is completely contrary to our knowledge that “learning abilities vary”.

Many in education and government apparently believe that we can appreciably change an individual student’s learning ability by changing the environment and/or methods of instruction. There is no doubt that these will help, but I doubt they it will appreciably increase learning ability or IQ scores.

After nearly a decade of “No Child Left Behind”, and in the last few years over $16 BILLION spent on “Race to the Top” the slide to less than mediocrity continues. The apparent gains are primarily a result of a continuing lowering of standards.

Why are we not content to teach our students to the best of their individual abilities? Yes, I understand that colleges and universities must have standards for entrance exams, but that is another issue. Teaching students to the best of their abilities has nothing to do with what a college considerers their minimum requirements are for entrance into their school. Colleges can decide what SAT score is acceptable. Primary and secondary schools should be lauded for teaching a student to his/her capabilities.

Why do we go on year after years lamenting the fact that half of our college’s first year students fail freshmen English and College Algebra and a third never finish college at all. That’s another issue as well and will be address in another article.

But what can we do about dealing with the issue of different learning abilities? Some perspicacious administrators are doing their best to cope with the problem by developing differing curricula and awarding different levels of high school diplomas.

In addition the administrators are trying to upgrade their faculties by hiring only the best teachers and getting rid of their under-performing ones, but in some jurisdictions the latter is very hard to do. It has always amazed me that just about any institution in the country can fire a Ph.D., a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, but many school districts can’t fire incompetent teachers without paying a million dollars in legal fees. But that too is another issue.

It is encouraging that some administrators and school districts are trying to address the problem, but unfortunately they are few and far between. Let me know if you have any other ideas to correct the situation.

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Gifted Students and Underachieving

by FamilyEducation Staff


Gifted Children and Academic Underachievement


Many intellectually and creatively gifted children do not achieve to their abilities in school. Although parents and teachers are typically aware of how bright these children are, they are puzzled by students' lack of motivation and productivity. Furthermore, as school performance declines, even parents and teachers may begin to wonder whether the students are as capable as test scores and earlier performance indicated. Frequently, the children themselves lose confidence in their ability to perform in school.


What are some signs of academic underachievement?


  • Unfinished or missing school work
  • Disorganization
  • Disinterest in school
  • Excuses or blaming others for problems
  • Too much socializing, or in contrast, loneliness
  • Declining grades

    Sometimes young people will become immersed in learning of their choice, will read continuously, or escape to computers rather than accomplish school assignments. They may be active but selective learners and refuse to do required school work.


    When should underachievement be considered a problem?


    Even very bright children should not be expected to receive "A" grades in everything. In fact, students who complete almost all their work perfectly may not be sufficiently challenged. All students should be expected to have strengths and weaknesses, as well as subjects they find more and less interesting. Underachievement should be considered a problem if it is severe (achievement well below grade level), is longstanding (occurring over more than one school year), or is causing the student distress.

    Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children -- a non-profit association of teachers and parents that publishes educational materials, including the magazine "Parenting for High Potential."


    What Causes Gifted Children to Underachieve?

    There usually are complex causes, so it is important not to oversimplify the problem. Gifted children may not understand why they are underachieving. Usually school and home causes combine to set this pattern in motion.


    Possible School Causes

  • Lack of challenge
  • Too much or too little competition
  • Conflicts with teachers
  • Unidentified learning disabilities
  • A move to a more or less difficult school
  • Peer pressure
  • Lack of opportunities to be creative
  • Lack of structure or too much structure in the classroom
  • Mismatch between students' learning preferences and intellectual strengths and the classroom strategies, expectation, and environment


    Possible Home Causes

  • Conflict between parents
  • Overprotectiveness by parents
  • Overempowerment of children
  • Too much or too little attention
  • Health problems
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Feelings of pressure
  • An anti-work attitude or overemphasis on work

    Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children -- a non-profit association of teachers and parents that publishes educational materials, including the magazine "Parenting for High Potential."


    What Can You Do about Your Child's Underachievement?


    Many children do overcome their underachievement; others continue similar behaviors throughout adult life. If the pattern has continued for more than one school year, it is important to get help. It is easier to change the pattern if you identify it early. Following are some suggestions for getting help:

    1. Arrange for regular communication with your child's teacher about the problem.
    2. Join a parent support group for gifted children.
    3. Arrange for an evaluation by a school or private psychologist who specializes in helping gifted underachieving children.
    4. Read Up From Underachievement and Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It.
    5. Avoid conflicts with your child's teacher that may lead the child to blame the school for his/her problems.
    6. Continue to encourage your child's interests, regardless of the level of school success. Do not use talent development as a reward for academic achievement.
    7. Encourage your child to participate in enrichment activities that involve other achieving gifted children.
    8. Don't give up on your child.
  • Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children, a non-profit association of teachers and parents that publishes educational materials, including the magazine "Parenting for High Potential."


    ------------------------------

    Self-Directed Learning Well Explained and 27 Actions
    by  • MARCH 23, 2013

    TeachThought.com has a series of posts about self-directed learning by Terry Heick and the staff, well worth a read!

    Learning is most effective when it’s personalised; it means something to the learner. That happens when people feel they are participants and investors in their own learning, shaping what and how they learn, and able to articulate its value to them.” — Leadbeater, Charles

    The Independent Project

    The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.

    We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don’t need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.

    Self-Directed Learning Through A Culture Of “Can”

    The long-term output of any school should be not just proficient students, but enabled learners. An “enabled” learner can grasp macro views, uncover micro details, ask questions, plan for new knowledge and transfer thinking across divergent circumstances. This doesn’t happen by content “knowledge holding,” or even by the fire of enthusiasm, but by setting a tone for learning that suggests possibility, and by creating a culture of can.

    First, it’s important to realize that a “culture” is comprised of tangible factors (students) and intangible factors (curiosity). It is also ever-present — it exists whether or not we as educators acknowledge it. It precedes formal learning and will last long after that formal learning experience has passed.

    Learning Can


    If a learner is develop a sense of can, he or she must learn it.

    While some students have more natural confidence or initiative than others, can is slightly different than confidence. Can is a mix of knowledge and self-efficacy that has been nurtured through experience — by consistently meeting both internally and externally created goals judged by standards that are also both internally and externally drawn.

    Read more.

    The Four Stages Of The Self-Directed Learning Model

    self-directed learning

    What You Need To Know About Self-Directed Learning

    Self-Taughts

    What It Is: The process of teaching one’s self, or “Self-directing” through the learning process

    Why Do It: Engagement, self-pacing, and free

    What You Need: Hardcopy, digital (e.g., learnist), accessibility, content control, location free (mobile learning)

    Tips & Tricks: Self-assessment, momentum, planning, variety, projects

    Problems & Challenges: Procrastination, laziness, misguidance, lack of motivation, time management

    Famous Self-Taughts (Autodidacts): Leonardo Da Vinci, William Blake, Herb Rits (in addition to Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and many others)

    Why It’s Especially Relevant In 2013: Modern access to information and formal (e.g., MOOCs and free eLearning sources) and informal (video games and simulations) learning platforms make self-directed learning more accessible–and powerful–than ever before

    27 Actions That Promote Self-Directed Learning

    1. Challenge something
    2. Make an observation
    3. Draw a conclusion
    4. Question something
    5. Revise a question based on observation & data
    6. Critique something
    7. Observe something
    8. Revise something
    9. Transfer a lesson or philosophical stance from one situation to another
    10. Improve a design
    11. Identify a cause and effect
    12. Compare and contrast two or more things
    13. Test the validity of a model
    14. Separate causes from symptoms
    15. Identify the primary and secondary causes of a problem
    16. Adapt something for something new
    17. Make a prediction and observe what occurs
    18. Narrate a sequence
    19. Study and visually demonstrate nuance
    20. Identify and explain a pattern
    21. Study the relationship between text and subtext
    22. Elegantly emphasize nuance
    23. Critically evaluate a socially-accepted idea
    24. Extract a lesson from nature
    25. Take & defend a position
    26. Record notes during and after observation of something
    27. Form a theory & revise it based on observation and/or data
    -----------------------------


    Do Gifted Kids Want To Be Zuckerberg Rather Than Einstein?

    By Dr. Jonathan Wai | Feb 06, 2013












    Synopsis


    There are now more gifted students. But are they geniuses? And are they choosing careers in science?

    Dean Keith Simonton recently argued in Nature that scientific geniuses may well be extinct today, and Rebecca Boyle’sn article in Popular Science on scientific geniuses gives an excellent overview.  But are there more gifted kids today, who arguably have the potential to become a scientific genius like Einstein?

    The mystery really begins with a series of yearly reports from 2009 through 2012 by New York Times writers Elissa Gootman, Sharon Otterman, and Anna M. Phillips:

    May 4, 2009: “More Children Take the Tests for Gifted Programs, and More Qualify”
    April 30, 2010: “More Pre-K Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs”
    June 21, 2011: “More Preeschoolers Test as Gifted, Even as Diversity Imbalance Persists”
    April 13, 2012: “After Number of Gifted Soars, a Fight for Kindergarten Slots”

    It appears that year after year there are more gifted students being identified in New York City.  But what about states other than New York?  Are there more gifted students being identified all across America?  And could this actually be linked to and/or explained by a broader phenomenon such as The Flynn effect, which is the consistent rise in IQ over the last 80 or so years?

    In a recent article in Current Directions in Psychological Science titled “Studying Intellectual Outliers,” my colleagues Martha Putallaz, Matthew Makel and I examined whether there are more gifted students being identified in the 16 state region in the Southeastern United States where the Duke University Talent Identification Program Talent Search takes place.  We essentially examined whether the Flynn effect operates for the smartest 5% of the American population, something that had never been done before.

    Using a sample of over 1.7 million test scores on the SAT, ACT, and EXPLORE given to gifted 5th, 6th, and 7th graders from 1981 through 2010, we found that there are indeed more gifted students being identified in recent years in states well beyond New York (primarily on the math subtests).  And this can be linked to the Flynn effect, which is the mysteriously consistent rise in IQ over many decades.  So New York isn’t really all that special.  More gifted kids are popping up all around the country.  This is likely due to the fact that average scores are rising whereas the cut scores to qualify for gifted programs have remained the same.

    But if the Flynn effect explains the larger number of gifted students in New York and other states, what explains the Flynn effect?  Although there are many potential explanations, my favorites for the increasing number of intellectual outliers include test sophistication, cognitive stimulation (such as technology and video games), and the fact that smart people might be pairing up and having smarter kids.  However, researchers in this area are still not quite sure whether general intelligence is actually increasing, or whether something like test sophistication is driving the score increases.

    So there are certainly many more kids testing higher on IQ tests today.  But are there really more geniuses today?

    If your definition of a genius is someone like Einstein who may only come along once every few centuries, then the answer is no.  However, if you are willing to consider geniuses as people who score extremely high on an intelligence or IQ test, then perhaps this is why Steven Pinker thinks we are “living in a period of extraordinary intellectual accomplishment.”  Just consider the scientific and literary intellectuals that overwhelmingly congregate in John Brockman’s Edge who without a doubt have a collective mean IQ in the stratosphere.  If there are more geniuses today this also means there are more amazing devices and ideas being created than ever before, which is highly beneficial for all of us.

    I think Simonton may be correct in that we have not yet found the next Einstein.  But perhaps part of the reason we haven’t found a scientific genius today is because the smartest kids may be increasingly choosing not to pursue a career in science because there are so many other interesting and financially rewarding things to do.  For example, create the next Facebook, Google, or Microscoft and become a billionaire.

    ---------------------------------

    Bill Gates: Invest in better teaching

    By Bill Gates, Special to CNN
    January 30, 2013 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
    Watch this video

    Gates on Good Teachers and Education




    Editor's note: Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Watch an interview with him Sunday on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

    (CNN) -- Today I released my annual letter. Each year, I reflect on what I learned in the last year through our travels and work with the foundation and how that will shape my thinking over the coming months. This year, my letter focuses on how important it is to set clear goals and measure progress in order to accomplish the foundation's priorities, both here at home and around the world.

    Setting a clear goal lets you know what you're driving at: Picking the right interventions that will have the most impact on that final goal, using that information to understand what's working and what's not, and adapting your strategy as necessary. One of the clearest examples of the power of measurement was the work of our partners to support great teachers.

    In the past few years, the quest to understand great teaching has been at the center of the public discussion about how to improve education in America. But for the country's 3 million teachers and 50 million schoolchildren, great teaching isn't an abstract policy issue. For teachers, understanding great teaching means the opportunity to receive feedback on the skills and techniques that can help them excel in their careers. For students, it means a better chance of graduating from high school ready for success in life.




    But what do we mean when we talk about great teaching? In my experience, the vast majority of teachers get zero feedback on how to improve.

    That's because for decades, our schools have lacked the kinds of measurement tools that can drive meaningful change. Teachers have worked in isolation and been asked to improve with little or no feedback, while schools have struggled to create systems to provide feedback that's consistent, fair and reliable.

    That's why the Gates Foundation supported the Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET, project. The project was an extraordinary, three-year collaboration between dozens of researchers and nearly 3,000 teacher volunteers from seven U.S. public school districts who opened their classrooms so we could study how to improve the way we measure and give feedback about great teaching.

    Earlier this month, the MET project released its final findings. The report confirmed that it is possible to develop reliable measures that identify great teaching.



    The project also found that using multiple measures to understand a teacher's performance -- including classroom observations, student surveys and growth in student achievement -- provides a richer and more reliable picture of a teacher's strengths and areas for improvement than any one measure alone.

    Some critics say a strong evaluation system costs too much. The foundation and others have estimated that it could cost between 1.5% and 2% of the overall budget for teacher compensation and benefits to implement a feedback and evaluation system based on multiple measures of teaching performance.

    But such an investment in great teaching would be small compared to what is being spent now on professional development that too often shows little results. And if lessons learned from addressing equally complex challenges in other sectors are any guide, investing in a reliable system to measure and support effective teaching will pay rich dividends.

    Knowing how to identify and measure great teaching is a huge step toward providing better feedback and support for teachers and building a better education system for all our children -- but it's just one step. The challenge now is to use this information to give teachers the tools, resources and support they need to do their best work.

    As schools become better equipped to provide tailored, constructive support, teachers will become empowered to be students of their own teaching. Creating that kind of environment -- one that supports teachers' professional growth and better prepares students for life after high school -- is worth the investment.


    ------------------------------------
































































    My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted
    By Carolyn Coil, Special to CNN

    Editor’s note: Carolyn Coil is a speaker, educator and
    author. She works with teachers, administrators, parents and students, offering strategies for raising achievement, developing creative and critical thinking skills, motivating underachievers, differentiating curriculum and assessing student performance. She has taught graduate-level gifted endorsement courses for more than 20 years. You can follow her on Twitter, @CarolynCoil.

    (CNN) – American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness. Yet even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. U.S. federal law defines gifted students as those who perform or who show promise of performing at high levels in any one of five categories: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts.

    Beyond that definition, there are no specific national criteria for identifying gifted and talented students nor does federal law provide funding or mandates for identification of these students or programming for them. This definition is left to the states.

    The result has been a wide variety of state definitions and methods for the identification of gifted children. Some states have specific definitions for giftedness, while others have none. Some states require programs for gifted students, while others do not.

    In other words, the availability of programs and services for gifted students depends for the most part on where a student lives and what state, school district or school he or she is in.

    There is debate over how to identify and measure giftedness, whether giftedness is innate (nature) or developed (nurture) and whether giftedness is driven by intelligence test results or through other indicators.

    My view: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child

    These varying perspectives have led to much misinformation about gifted students and what programs for gifted students should look like. Here are 10 of the most common myths about gifted students and programs for the gifted:

    Myth No. 1: Intelligence is inherited and does not change. Gifted students, therefore, do not need any special services.

    All of us do inherit certain traits, intelligences and talents. But these need to be developed and nurtured throughout life for them to grow and reach their full potential. A beautiful flower inherits certain traits. But if it is not watered and fed and if it does not get the right amount of sunlight, it does not develop as it could. The same is true for gifted children.

    Myth No. 2: Giftedness can easily be measured by intelligence tests and tests of achievement.

    Giftedness is difficult to measure. This is why schools and school districts try so many different ways to identify gifted students. Tests are often culturally biased and may reflect ethnicity, socioeconomic status, exposure and experiences rather than true giftedness. Other children may be gifted but are not good at taking tests. They may not score well on standardized tests but may be gifted, especially in creative and productive thinking.

    Myth No. 3: There is no need to identify gifted students in the early grades.

    Many school districts do not begin identifying gifted and talented students until third grade. There is a belief among some educators that giftedness cannot be properly identified in the early grades. However, the National Association for Gifted Children programming standards start with pre-kindergarten. The group’s early childhood network position paper says that “providing engaging, responsive learning environments … benefit all children, including young gifted children.”

    Photos: Inside a 'genius school' in 1948

    Myth No. 4: Gifted students read all the time, wear glasses and/or are physically and socially inept.

    From Jason, the cartoon character in the “Foxtrot” comic strip, to Sheldon on the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” we can see this stereotype in action. But like all other kids, gifted children come in many varieties. Some are successful in sports or music, and some are physically attractive. Some have many friends, while others have only a few. Some are extreme extroverts, while others are introverts. There is no one type of person or personality we can pinpoint as gifted.

    Myth No. 5: Gifted kids are all model students – they’re well-behaved and make good grades.

    This statement reflects another stereotype about gifted students. Some gifted children are model students. They are compliant, follow directions, never misbehave and make straight A’s. But many others challenge teachers, do their own thing instead of the assigned work, procrastinate until the last minute when doing long-range assignments, get low grades, are disorganized and have poor study skills.

    Myth No. 6: All gifted students work up to their potential.

    Most schools have their share of gifted underachievers. These students have the potential for excellence but - for a variety of reasons - do not fulfill that potential. Gifted underachievers may decide they will only do the minimum requirements and choose the easy work instead of more challenging tasks. They often lack study and organizational skills because in the early grades they don’t need to develop them. Some get discouraged when the work doesn’t come easily, and others don’t want to look gifted because it isn’t “cool.”

    Myth No. 7: Teaching gifted students is easy.

    Some believe that a good teacher can easily teach any student. If this were the case, good teaching with no special training would be all that is needed to teach gifted students. However, in my many years of teaching graduate-level courses in gifted education, I have found that good teachers add to their skills and learn new strategies and techniques targeted particularly to meeting the needs of the gifted. Most teachers of the gifted tell me this is the hardest, most challenging, most exhausting and most rewarding teaching they have ever done.

    Myth No. 8: Gifted students will get by on their own without any special help from the school.

    I hear this myth often, especially in times of budget cutting. Some people claim that gifted students come from wealthy families who can meet their children’s needs. Others assert that the expense of providing gifted programs cannot be justified. In general, the assumption is that gifted students will succeed regardless of the quality of the education they receive. This is simply not true. Gifted students require special services and programs to ensure the growth rather than the loss of their outstanding abilities.

    Myth No. 9: It never hurts gifted students to teach others what they already know.

    If gifted students already know the grade-level standards, it may seem logical to have them teach others. This is faulty logic. It assumes that teaching struggling students is something gifted kids innately know how to do. Most gifted students do not know how to tutor others. They often are frustrated that struggling students don’t understand what they perceive as easy. Peer tutoring using gifted students also takes away time they should be using for more advanced work, more rigor and more higher-level thinking.

    Myth No. 10: All children are gifted.

    If all kids are gifted, then there is no need to identify gifted students and no need for any special programs for gifted. I strongly believe that all children have distinctive and unique qualities that make each one valuable. This does not mean, however, that all children are gifted. Being identified as gifted simply means that certain children have needs that are different from most others at their age and grade level. All gifted students need programs and services to ensure their growth rather than the loss of their outstanding abilities.
































































































































































































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    Good vs. Great teachers: How do you wish to be remembered?

    There are endless articles, blogs, essays on the difference between good and bad teachers. All the frameworks for teacher evaluation highlight the shades of difference. But to my eye there are far too few adequate analyses of the difference between good and great teachers.

    I actually find that latter distinction more interesting, in a similar vein to the Jim Collins inquiry on businesses: how does one go from good to great? And like Collins, I think the difference is qualitative – The actions, behavior, and attitudes of great teachers differ considerably from those of good teachers; it’s not just a matter of degree. (That’s why I find almost all the well-known evaluation systems humdrum – they focus on mere goodness instead of being designed backward from greatness. That’s for another blog).

    Let me propose a set of distinctions – admittedly a bit glib – that may have value for sharpening our sense of what greatness is in teaching:

    • Great teachers are in the talent-finding and talent-development business.
    • Merely good teachers think they are mostly in the business of teaching stuff and helping students so that it gets learned.
    • Great teachers are aiming for the future: are these students better able to succeed on their own after me and without me?
    • Merely good teachers look mostly to the past: did they learn what I taught and did they do what I asked of them?
    • Great teachers decide what not to teach to ensure lasting emphases and memories
    • Good teachers cover a lot of ground while making the content as interesting as possible.
    • Great teachers delight in smart-alecks and skeptics who clearly have raw but undirected talent.
    • Good teachers are often threatened or bothered by smart alecks and skeptics.
    • Great teachers know us better than we know ourselves, especially in terms of intellectual character.
    • Good teachers merely know us as students of the subject.
    • Great teachers get more from us than we thought possible to give
    • Good teachers have high expectations and passions, and think that the rest is up to us.
    • Great teachers sometimes bend the rules and fudge the grades on behalf of raw student talent.
    • Good teachers uphold standards and grade according to the scores students earned.

    Here is a report from a student’s science teacher – from the elite British school of Eton, no less – who in a final report makes clear his stance as a “good” teacher:








    Alas for this teacher, the student in question grew up to be a Nobel prize winner who cheekily displays this report on his web site and has it framed in his office.

    Such stories are not amusing outliers. I have personally witnessed many such reports and attitudes as a student, teacher, parent, and colleague.

    I have often in workshops told the story of a former student of mine, Chris, who was mostly successful but viewed as a big pain-in-the-you-know-what by many of his teachers. I saw Chris up close not only as his teacher but as the advisor to the school paper where he was editor. He once got us all in trouble by writing an expose of the work and living conditions of the school’s cafeteria and building and grounds workers – published on parents’ day, no less. The Dean confiscated all the copies. I admired him and fought on his behalf a few times.

    Chris grew up to be Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-winning report for the New York Times.

    Many talented people in the arts are famously hard to deal with; John Lennon and James Brown are familiar examples. Jaime Escalante, one of the most well-known great teachers, was extremely difficult to work with (as reported in the wonderful Jay Mathews account of Escalante’s work at Garfield HS). Had it not been for his Principal and some other knowing supervisors, Escalante would likely have never accomplished what he did. I saw a teacher in Portland HS in Maine years ago who was the greatest teacher I ever saw – Leon Berkowitz. He refused to join with his colleagues on school reform projects and was notoriously cranky.

    There are numerous such stories about Albert Einstein, as readers no doubt know. (Alas, many of them are untrue, such as the story that he did poorly all through school.) But Einstein clearly bristled under the kind of good teachers I am describing (as recounted in Isaacson’s biography of Einstein):

    He would later be able to pull off his contrariness with a grace that was generally endearing, once he was accepted as a genius. But it did not play so well when he was merely a sassy student at the Munich Gymnasium. “He was very uncomfortable in school,” according to his sister. “He found the style of teaching – rote drills, impatience with questioning – to be repugnant…the systematic training in the worship of authority was particularly unpleasant.”

    Skepticism and a resistance to received wisdom became a hallmark of his life. As he proclaimed in a letter to a fatherly friend in 1901, “a foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”

    I once led a workshop on critical thinking and asked teachers to fill out a T-chart with critical on one side and uncritical on the other. Curiously, many teachers proposed such indicators as attentive, disciplined, and follows directions and procedures carefully as indicative of critical thinkers. When I suggested that those sounded to me like indicators of compliance a teacher noted that, indeed, when she had proposed “skeptical” at her table they had rejected it as the hallmark of uncritical thinkers!

    This is all very personal for me, as you might guess. I was a smart aleck; I was not a successful student for many years. It wasn’t until one high school teacher and one college teacher saw some talent in me to nourish that I turned the corner and began to believe in my worth as a thinker. I still seethe with dislike for a teacher who never once praised me for anything I did all year (though he was a very good teacher and highly respected by others). I almost dropped out of both college and grad school in the face of teachers who didn’t know me, didn’t care to know me, and only cared to give me low grades to teach me a lesson about hard work and scholarship. When I decided to be a teacher – in part, motivated to right the wrongs inflicted on me – I vowed to find and reward learners who showed potential, whether as thinkers, soccer players, teachers, trainers or unit writers. And I can honestly say that of all I have accomplished as an educator (and as a parent) I am most proud of what I have accomplished as a talent scout.

    So, ask yourself, honestly: do your behaviors and attitudes suggest that you are sufficiently in the scouting and talent-development business? Or do they suggest that you are too much in the content-mastery business? (Notice I am not saying that it is impossible to be both; I am talking about the good teacher as being too focused on one and not the other).

    Yes, yes, I know the pressures on you; I know the schedules, the syllabi, the standards, the evaluation system, the pressures of 700-page textbooks. Please, consider, however: do you think greatness comes without challenge and sacrifice, in teaching or anything else? More pointedly: do you really believe in the long run that it is mastery of your content that determines a student’s long-term fate? Can’t you think of teachers whose greatness lay in their ability to see and promote – sometimes at the expense of time, rules or policies – what others ignored in you? How, then, do you wish to be remembered as a teacher: merely good? Or great?

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    Top 5 TEDTalks for Parents of Gifted Kids

    By Tiffany Kwong

    I love TEDTalks. Whenever I need a break from my day-to-day routine, I watch a TEDTalk and lose myself in the brilliance of people and their ideas.

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with TEDTalks, let me give you a brief overview of TED. TED is a private, nonprofit organization that was founded in 1984, with the objective of hosting an annual conference on Technology, Entertainment, and Design—hence the acronym, TED.

    Since then, TED has grown; it now hosts global conferences and events throughout the year and has expanded its scope to include leaders from various fields and disciplines, such as medicine, education, economics, anthropology, and music. At these conferences, notable speakers like Jane Goodall, Bill Gates, and Nobel Prize winners confront audiences with issues, ideas, and phenomena that seek to inspire passion and curiosity.

    TED’s goal is simple: To spread ideas. According to its mission statement, “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” Thus, TED decided to release and post its “talks” online, making them free and accessible to our global community of learners. Since launching its website in 2007, TED has posted 1,356 videos online, which have been viewed almost 1 billion times worldwide.

    With so many talks readily available, my efforts of selecting only five videos proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. But for your viewing pleasure, here are my top five most powerful, informative, and stimulating TEDTalks. Enjoy!

    5. Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts”
    In her discussion, writer Susan Cain speaks about introversion and questions why it is undervalued in our society. She calls for a celebration of introverted-ness and offers three suggestions for changing the ways we view introversion.

    Favorite quote: “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

    4. Sugata Mitra’s “The Child-Driven Education”
    Professor of education Sugata Mitra describes his global “Hole in the Wall” experiments, where children are given access to computers and the Internet. Through these experiments, Mitra illustrates how, when given the resources, groups of children learn from each other and become “self-organizing systems.”

    Favorite quote: “Children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.”

    3. Adora Svitak’s “What Adults Can Learn From Kids”
    In this inspirational video, then twelve-year-old child prodigy Adora Svitak asks her adult audience to reexamine the ways they view children as “irrational” and “irresponsible” beings. Rather, children should be acknowledged and valued for their abilities to imagine the possibilities of tomorrow.

    Favorite quote: “Learning between grown-ups and kids should be reciprocal. The reality, unfortunately, is a little different, and it has a lot to do with trust, or a lack of it.”

    2. Temple Grandin’s “The World Needs All Kinds of Minds”
    In this 20-minute talk, Temple Grandin demonstrates how autistic minds process information and urges us to nurture these varied ways of thinking as resources in our twice-exceptional youth.

    Favorite quote: “Now the thing is, the world is going to need all of the different kinds of minds to work together. We’ve got to work on developing all these different kinds of minds.”

    1. “Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity”

    In this comical but informative discussion, Ken Robinson examines our education system in relation to creativity. Like Adora Svitak, he stresses that children have amazing capabilities and “capacities for innovation.” However, Robinson argues that creativity is being squandered in our classrooms, where academic abilities are placed at a higher premium than other types of intelligences.

    Favorite quote: “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

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    8 Secrets for Raising A “Can Do” Kid

    Posted: May 22nd, 2012 by Michele Borba



    Parenting tips to help nurture self-esteem and positive attitudes in our children and teens

    If you could give your children a quality that would enhance their chances for leading successful, meaningful and fulfilling lives, what would it be? Though answers may seem endless, many experts say one of the greatest gifts would be instilling a “Can Do Attitude.” Here are eight secrets to help you raise a “CAN DO!” Kid

    REALITY CHECK: Real and authentic self-esteem is a combination of a feeling of Worthiness:”I am likeable, loved and worthwhile” and a feeling of Competence: “I have the skills to handle life.” [Based on Nathaniel Branden's work]

    Unraveling the Mystery of Building Healthy Self-Esteem

    The caliber of our children’s productivity, inner strength, contentment, interpersonal relationships, and competencies is largely impacted by the strength of their self-beliefs. And the best news is there are endless simple parenting moments to nurture positive attitudes in our children. 

    Focusing on only worthiness-or making your child feel more special than others-is a detriment to a child’s character and relationships with others.

    And always rescuing (or “helicoptering”) and solving your child’s problems doesn’t nurture that sense of competence.

    So aim to strike a balance in your parenting of building your child’s feelings of worthiness and competence. I love James Dobson’s analogy of the way to boost self-esteem the right way: “Think of a pilot landing a plane at night- he needs those lights to be on both sides of the runway for a smooth landing. So too does your child.”

    Here are eight tips from my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions that help your child recognize his or her achievements, unique strengths,  and cultivate a “Can Do Attitude” and authentic self-esteem.

    8 Tips to Cultivate a “Can Do” Attitude in Kids

    Secret 1. Discover Unique Strengths

    There are so many fabulous opportunities to help our children discover their special talents and strengths. My Girl Scout leader from years ago was a master. Mrs. Woolley made us feel great by pointing out what we were good at. I always marveled at how she remembered our personal competencies. Then one day I discovered her secret when I found her notebook opened to a page filled with notes: “Meghan is interested in acrylics, Kelly’s soccer game, Joanne’s music recital.” It was her way of making sure no girl’s talent was ever overlooked.

    Years later I still admire (and use!) Mrs. Woolley’s simple but powerful way of helping kids discover their strengths! It’s a secret we parents should be using far more. The more our children recognize their unique strengths, the stronger their self-beliefs will be. So help your child become aware of his or her own special qualities and talents. (And halt those comparisons to other siblings!)

    Secret 2. Celebrate Special Achievements and Efforts

    Nothing builds positive beliefs more than succeeding, and those achievements deserve celebrating. One way is having your child start his own Victory Log in a small notebook or journal. Each time your child achieves a special goal–such as finally learn to ride a bike, learn those math facts, or survive her first sleepover–encourage your child to describe the success on a page and then date it.

    The book can become a priceless keepsake of a child’s accomplishments that he can continue for years.

    For a non-reading child, consider taking a photo of the moment and pasting it into the log.

    This activity also helps your child learn to track his own successes and develop internal praise motivation instead of waiting for us to praise or reward those accomplishments.

    Secret 3. Focus on Actions Not Appearance

    Recent studies show that too many of our kids – especially girls – base their self-esteem on how they look instead of what they can do. The effect on self-confidence is disastrous. So help your daughter focus more on her actions and less on appearance. Gently turn conversations about looks, dates, and dress sizes into topics about plans and goals.

    Also, be a role model by discussing your goals and share your pride over any new accomplishments. By talking more about personal achievements and less about appearance, you will help your child develop personal beliefs formed on her accomplishments. In the process she will feel better about herself.

    Secret 4. Use Specific, Earned Praise to Cultivate Positive Beliefs

    Everyone loves praise, and kids are no exception. But keep in mind that not every little accolade you say will boost self-esteem. And you don’t want your child to become a praise-a-holic expecting every little action to be praised (which does not help self-esteem). Praise that builds “Can Do” beliefs has  three characteristics: The praise is deserved, specific, and repeated.

    Here’s how to use those secrets of effective praise to help a child recognize a special ability. The simple tip actually helps the child develop a new and positive image about himself.

    1. Start by tuning into your childLook for a special talent, trait, skill or passion in your child that deserves acknowledgement. Maybe you notice your child displays an artistic skill, or a sense of humor. Maybe she’s caring, or persistent, resourceful, respectful, or knows more about dinosaurs than any kid of the block. The more specific the trait, the better.

    2. Next, find a moment when he really demonstrates the talent. This is when you can acknowledge the skill.

    Word your message so your child knows exactly what he did to deserve your praise:

    “Kevin, you are so  artistic because you use such wonderful colors and details in your drawings.”

    And always use the same word to describe the talent (“artistic” or “musical” or “kind-hearted.”)

    Hint: Using the word “because” in your comment instantly makes your praise more specific.

    3. Then, praise the same skill or talent several more times over the next few weeks.That way your child will then be more likely to believe the message, and adopt it to form a new belief about himself. Make sure the praise is earned. Quick, little sincere reminders is the best approach. Halt the rewards and keep your money in your wallet. The right words are the best way to boost behavior.

    4. Keep praising! Keep in mind that new behavior habits take a minimum of 21 days of repetition.The lower the self-esteem of the child the more frequently you’ll have to repeat the praise. That way your child will then be more likely to believe the message, and adopt it to form a new belief about himself.

    You might also take a photo of your child that displays his talent (such as his best painting) or the moment he is engaged in doing his talent (he’s at the table drawing). Then display the photo somewhere so your child can be reminded of the talent.

    The moment your child verbalizes the strength and acknowledges his talent or strength is when you know he has internalizes it. You can then help him develop another positive belief about himself…and another..and another!

    Secret 5. Accentuate the Positive to Eliminate the Negative

    A powerful way to help a child develop firmer self-beliefs is to teach positive self-talk. One of the easiest teaching strategies is to model the strategy in front of your child. Just be on the alert for some positive action you are proud of, and then deliberately acknowledge your deed out loud so your child overhears.

    “I love how my recipe turned out.” Or: “I’m really glad I stuck to my exercise program. I lost five pounds!”

    At first you might feel a bit strange, but when you notice your child praising his own strengths a little more, you’ll quickly overcome any hesitancy.

    Secret 6. Develop a “Can Do” Family Slogan

    Negativity can quickly become a habit that is deadly for developing “Can Do” attitudes. So squelch any Stinkin’ Thinkin’ before it starts to breed in your kids!

    A mother told me she stopped put down comments with a slogan. Whenever any of her kids said, “I can’t”, other family members learned to say, “Success comes in cans, not in cannots.” It was a simple but effective way of encouraging her kids to think more positively about themselves.

    Is there a slogan you might want to start up in your home? Tune into your own statements as well. Your child is listening and internalizes those comments.

    Secret 7. Don’t Be a Safety Net

    No parent wants their child to suffer disappointments, and often our first adult instinct is to try and solve their dilemmas for them. But watch out: doing so robs kids of the opportunity to find their own solutions. Proble

    m solving is exactly the skill kids need when they’re on their own.

    Avoid that temptation of rescuing your kid and solving his problems. Instead, step in only when really needed them you are nearby. Children need to build self-beliefs that say, “I can figure things out for myself.” Then do let your child know you believe he can.

    Secret 8. Help Your Child  Learn From Mistakes

    I watched a teacher give a small wrapped present to each student on the first day of school. The children were amazed to find small erasers inside the boxes. The teacher said, “You’ll be needing these this year, because you’ll be making lots of mistakes. That’s how you learn.” Her simple gift helped “erase” the idea that mistakes mean failure, and can be a chance to start again. And it’s an essential lesson for developing “Can Do” attitudes.

    When your child makes a mistake, stay nonjudgmental and help her focus on what she’s trying to achieve. You might ask, “How did you want this to turn out?” or calmly say, “What will you do differently next time?” Above all, help her believe she can succeed in her efforts: “I know you can do it. Hang in there.”

    Final Thoughts

    As a parent, you have countless opportunities to reinforce your child’s self-beliefs. Your expectations, your reactions and your words can give your children votes of confidence or chip away at their attitudes about themselves. Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself at the end of each day is this: “If my child’s self-beliefs were based only on my words and actions today, what would she believe about herself?” Your answer should guide how you interact with your child each time you are together.

    Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

    I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books including The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.

    You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news and research about child development.

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    My view: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child
    By Chandra Moseley, Special to CNN

    Editor’s note: Chandra Moseley is a working, single mom. A resident of a Colorado city, she makes sure to expose her daughter to small-town living through weekly trips to the Rocky Mountains.

    (CNN) – My daughter, who is 5, was identified last year as "gifted.” Well, I honestly had never properly understood what being "gifted" meant. I naively thought, "Oh, my baby is so advanced, she is just so smart!”

    For those of you who are truly unaware of what being gifted means, let me help you understand.

    Gifted students are defined by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) as those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.

    The part of the definition that’s missing - and what I so desperately needed to understand - is the social and behavioral issues that may come with giftedness.

    For one thing, my daughter, Nya, is a perfectionist. She gets frustrated even if she only slightly draws outside of the lines. She also gets unnerved by certain loud noises (buzzing or toilets flushing) and even the seams on her socks.  I’ve had to turn her socks inside out because the seam on her toes irritated her so much. I thought she was just being fussy.  

    I became aware of Nya’s giftedness through Rev. Regina Groff, a family member’s minister, who noticed the way Nya was coloring when she was just 2. Rev. Groff has gifted children of her own and recognized Nya's frustration each time she drew outside of the lines. That type of frustration and overexcelling is all part of the perfectionism characteristic of being gifted. Just that simple act of frustration revealed her giftedness at the right time that day.

    There are other characteristics of giftedness that for many, including my daughter, are telltale signs - excessive energy, unending curiosity, emotionally advanced, early and superior language skills or a need for perfectionism. Gifted children might have supersensitivities, and that’s what was going on with the loud noises and her socks.

    Rev. Groff suggested getting Nya tested and recommended an early childhood education public preschool that has a program for gifted children. Her children attended the same school, and she could not say enough good things about it. I was in the process of trying to find, as many parents do, the "perfect preschool.” Thank God, I listened to her advice and pursued that specific school. I am a firm believer in the notion that God sends people into our lives to guide us, inspire us, lead us and teach us. Rev. Groff guided me that day into the right place my daughter needed to be, and Nya continues to guide me into the right place I need to be.

    Nya, which means fulfilled wish, has always been extraordinarily special to me. She was a gift from the day she was born, delivered to me by another vessel. Nya is adopted. I sometimes have to remind myself of that because she couldn't possibly be any more like me. In what I thought could be only one miraculous event by her being born, she continues to produce miracles and forever enrich my life. She has not only taught me what unconditional love feels like - how to laugh until your belly aches, how to play like you are the silliest person in the room - but also how to be so aware that every challenging moment in your life exposes you, teaches you and prepares you for something to come.

    I remember Nya’s first year of preschool. What could have been a 10 minute homework session (yes, homework in preschool) turned into an hour and a half of erasing and rewriting each word until in her mind it was perfect. Let me tell you, there were many pencils being thrown across the room (not by me), breakdowns, and crying (yes, some by me.)

    What I didn't understand at the time was her constant quest for perfection.

    Her amazing teacher, Brenda Natt, explained to me that it is all part of being gifted and that was the very reason Natt cuts off all the erasers of her pencils in her classroom. She understands that her students struggle with that issue and what she wanted them to understand was that it was OK if something isn't perfect sometimes.

    The same teacher strongly advised me to enroll Nya in a gifted school to prevent her from getting lost in the loopholes of a typical school program - not only academically but also emotionally. She told me, "gifted kids are almost comparable to special needs children. While their IQs are high, they have behavioral aspects that need special attention and the right teachers with the right understanding to guide them."

    After four years of questions - How can Nya go from 1 to 10 over something so simple? How can she be so sweet, compassionate, mellow and then completely lose her cool over not remembering the right words to a verse of a song? Why is she such a hothead? - all of this was finally making sense. If I only knew then what I know now.

    What I have learned is not to deter Nya from finishing a project or even a simple task when she’s in the middle of it. Gifted children are not all on the same page; they all have very different levels of needs, some more than others.

    It has been fascinating and amusing to talk to other moms in her class and compare how they react to certain situations in the same way. I am constantly learning and trying to gain knowledge on how to help Nya be the person she is destined to be, while she has helped me be the person we needed me to be.

    One of the most important things now truly embedded in my thought process is the notion that we just don't know what a child may be struggling with or what a parent might be going through. Many of us have witnessed situations in stores or restaurants where a child is lashing out or just having a complete breakdown and we are so quick to assume or place judgment on that parent.

    "They just don't know how to discipline!" "That child is a complete brat!" or even "That kid is completely out of control and that parent has no idea what they are doing!"

    What I have realized is that parents are all on the same team. I really wish we would start doing less criticizing of each other and do more listening, learning, encouraging and supporting. Like my example in the store, maybe next time we see a child in that circumstance, we can evaluate that situation and maybe show support by a kind smile, a glance of understanding, a sweet distraction or maybe, for some, a sincere prayer.

    That’s what it's all about, right? To learn from each other and grow with each other. To continue to become better for each other, our children and generations to come.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chandra Moseley.




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    12 Ways to Know if You’re in a Project-Based Learning Environment or Merely Having Kids Create Projects in Your Classroom

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    I often talk with educators (and parents and administrators) who are convinced that their students are working within Project Based Learningenvironments. They tell me about the wonderful projects the kids have created and how much fun the kids have. I’m always delighted to hear the kids are having fun in school! However, I find that when asked a few probing questions, it becomes clear whether or not PBL is actually happening or if the teachers are merely creating projects for students to complete.

    Similarities:

    English: Students learning about vermicomposting

    Students learning about vermicomposting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    • Projects and PBL can both be fun.
    • They’re often both hands-on.
    • They often ask students to work in groups.
    • They often are graded with rubrics at the end.
    • They are often presented to the class at the end of the learning period.
    • Both are rooted in hard academic content and standards.

    On the surface, both “projects” and Project Based Learning can seem awfully similar. So what is the difference? How can we tell if students are working with traditional classroom projects or with a richer, more complete Project Based Learning environment?

    Take a look at some of the following pieces and see what you think:

    The launch of the project: 

    Does the learning start with a big-idea question that the kids have to answer? And they can’t answer it without learning information and skills along the way? (PBL)
    Or does the learning happen with you directing what and how they’ll learn; then the kids get a choice to show you what they learned? (project)

    As students get older, are they the ones who are creating the question instead of the teacher? (PBL) Or are the challenges always teacher-created? (projects)

    Is the question or challenge broad (or specific) enough to create an environment of “optimal ambiguity,” where no one really has a quick, Google-able answer? Where several answers might actually be right? Where multiple academic disciplines might need to be brought in to solve the problem/question/challenge? (PBL)
    Or is there a specific right/wrong answer that the students are trying to find for their end-results? Is there a strong focus in only one academic area, with little to no over-lap with other content areas? (projects)

    The process of learning new information:

    Do you know in advance the path the kids will be taking with their process? Are they off-track if they veer from your expectations and suggestions? (projects)
    Or do you have a clear path in mind for what the kids will probably need to follow, but refrain from sharing that path with them? Instead you let the kids ask their own questions for what they need to know and learn and materials/resources they’ll need to gather, as they create their own paths. And you’re ok if their path varies greatly from your predictions? (PBL)

    The research: 

    Where do students get their information for research? Have you provided all the materials they’ll need for research, with specific right/wrong answers possible? (projects)
    Have you created avenues for them to be able to contact additional resources of information, including people? Do they sometimes bring back information and facts, some of which you’re not sure is accurate because you didn’t previously know those facts? (PBL)

    Quality of student-provided resources and information:

    When your students are gathering resources and information, who is in charge of verifying the accuracy of their information? Have you been the one to vet all their resources? (projects)
    Or are students learning how to evaluate and validate their own resources by learning the concepts behind triangulation of information? Then they present to you how they know their information is accurate? (PBL)

    The final product: 

    Are you ever surprised with the direction and end results that kids come up with for the final product to illustrate/demonstrate their learning?  (PBL)  Or do you always know what they will create before the project starts and what the optimal results should be for that final product? (projects)

    How much does the aesthetics of the final product matter? Are you more concerned with the beauty of the work (*projects) or the learning that happens? (PBL)
    *Note: Aesthetics does sometimes matter in PBL, depending on the focus of the challenge/question. Usually, though, it’s more about the learning than the artistry and “pretty” of the final deliverable.

    Which was the primary focus of the learning: academic standards (projects) or skills? (PBL)
    Or were both academic content and skills equally vital in the success of the learning? (PBL)

    Final presentations: 

    Do students have a strong say in how they are assessed (PBL) or did you create the rubric wholly on your own? (projects)

    Do students have meaningful participation in the positive and constructive questions of their own and each others’ work? (PBL) Or is the teacher the only one who gets to assess the learning? (projects)

    Do the presentations include audience members from the real world helping to assess the results of the project? Are the presentations published online in networks that have connections to the topic at hand (PBL) or are the presentations kept within the confines of the school-related community?

    While there are certainly other components which can be considered in the “PBL vs projects” debate, these seem to be some of the quickest indicators of a classroom shifting toward a PBL environment. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed so if you’d like to add a few, please do!
    If you’re a teacher who is looking to shift from projects to PBL, please take a look atLifePracticePBL recipe cards. These PBL recipe cards are specifically designed to help bridge the span between traditional classrooms and the perfect PBL projects that we often see highlighted in the big blogs and magazines, but find it difficult to re-create in our own classrooms. I know. I’ve been there. Go check out LifePracticePBL.org 

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    Teaching Kids to Be Critical Thinkers

    The Power of Critical Thinking

    We all want our children to grow up to be successful in life. The definition of success will differ for each individual, but it is common for parents to want their children to achieve in school. Education is valued greatly around the world and as times change, the challenges our children face need to be highlighted in our education systems. Children deserve a heads up, to prepare them with the skills and knowledge required for the future. Things are changing and they are changing fast. The world has become much smaller with communication technology and there is now unlimited information available at the touch of a few buttons. These factors create a need for children to be flexible to change and equipped with skills to be lifelong learners. No longer are drilling facts a priority for most educators. Education has evolved and the primary goal is to teach our children to be motivated learners and critical thinkers.

    • The Critical Thinking Consortium
      The Critical Thinking Consortium is an internationally renowned, non-profit association committed to promoting critical thinking from primary to post-secondary education through professional development, publications and research.

    Using Questions to Teach Critical Thinking

    To effectively prepare children for the challenges they will face in the future, one area of learning arises as essential. Our children must becomegood thinkers and not simply good at remembering facts. The children of tomorrow (and today) need lots of opportunity to evaluate information and formulate opinions about the world around them. A key to instructing children to be critical thinkers in the 21stcentury is through the power of questions. Good thinking is not driven by questions that have right and wrong answers. It is driven by questions that are open-ended and that provide opportunity for problem-solving. These are the golden questions that inspire children to grow in their learning.

    Questions are a very important part of instruction. It is valuable for parents and educators to learn how to ask good ones and it is also important to teach children how to ask lots of them! When kids are taught that questioning is a skill, the stigma and fear of being wrong goes away. They understand that success is not about knowing the answers but instead it is about knowing what to ask. After all, it is questions that provide the foundation of all research; and it is questions that challenge the status quo to search new horizons and create change in the world.

    The Level of Questioning

    When we use questions to instruct learning it is important to remember that they are not all created equal. Some are better than others and for children to benefit, educators and parents must learn to ask quality questions that elicit critical thinking. Learning to ask good questions starts with understanding how they are leveled. For clarity on this it is useful to reference Blooms Taxonomy for higher-order thinking. The chart, available in the link below, assists in raising the bar on instruction by delivering opportunities for more sophisticated thinking. When children develop their ability to analyze and problem-solve they become better able to handle the fast paced information world we live in. With this in mind, it now becomes evident that questions are the real answer for preparing our children to be life-long learners.

    Bloom's Taxonomy


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    Would You Work for a 13-Year-Old Entrepreneur?

    These UConn MBA students are! Mallory Kievman's hiccup remedy has garnered support from Startup America and the University of Connecticut business school.

    Photos courtesy of Hicuppops

    Mallory Kievman, the 13-year-old entrepreneur behind Hiccupops.

     

    At first, Mallory Kievman appears to be an average eighth grader. Her favorite subjects are language and science. When not in class, she enjoys soccer and distance running.

    Here's where Mallory differs: her list of extracurricular activities also includes owning a business. And this ain't no little lemonade stand.

    Mallory is the creator of Hicuppops, a lollipop designed to--you guessed it--stop cases of the hiccups. The candy is more than just a novelty item: it was named the innovation with the greatest patent potential at the 2011 Connecticut Invention Convention, and, this summer, Mallory will work with MBA candidates from the University of Connecticut who will consult her on how to bring this new product to market.

    A 13-year-old entrepreneur may make some smile, but veteran businessmen insist that this is more than just a cute story. Mallory's father, Adam Kievman, says Hiccupops has received customer, investor, and distributor inquiries from around the globe. Danny Briere--the founder of private-public initiative Startup Connecticut and a liaison to Startup America--says that the company has received so many distribution requests from stores that if Hiccupops were available for distribution today, the company would immediately be cashflow positive.

    "The thing I love about it: I deal with start-ups all day long, and there are many that have a window of six months, or a year, or two years to make their money and that’s it. Then they’re obsolete. You can see this being around for decades,” Briere says.

    Briere first met Kievman at the 2011 Connecticut Invention Convention, which was held at the University of Connecticut. The convention--a competition among tens of thousands of Connecticut grade schoolers--was all abuzz about Hiccupops. After being awarded the CIC equivalent for "best in show," Hiccupops applied for a patent (which is still pending).

    If filing a patent application and turning an idea into a business sounds like difficult work for a girl who isn't even in high school, it is. Mallory admits she's received a substantial amount of business guidance from her father, Adam, who is a human-resources executive at a pharmaceutical company.

    Still, Mallory can take credit for all the research-and-development. She began making the product in her kitchen in the summer of 2011, she says. After several bouts of the hiccups, she starting researching rumored cures, and found that apple cider vinegar, sugar, and lollipops worked best. Mallory then amalgamated them into a single piece of candy.

    "I knew from experience by that point that no one wants to drink apple cider vinegar straight from the bottle," she says. "Combining apple cider vinegar and sugar into a lollipop would make it more tolerable."

    Hiccupops has recruited the help of Fiona Posell and her marketing firm, Produce Communications. Possel, who helped launched the food product POM Wonderful, will receive some equity--the amount is undisclosed--in exchange for her work.

    Hiccupops will also be aided by UConn business students this summer. Using an introduction from Briere, Hiccupops began talks with Christopher Levesque, executive director of the University of Connecticut's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation after its win at the innovation competition. On a recent Thursday, four MBA candidates from the center met with the young business-owner to begin a summer-long project in which they will consult Hiccupops on how take its remedy from the Kievman kitchen to store shelves. (Hicuppops is careful not to call itself a "cure" due to possible FDA scrutiny.)

    "We're not working on this because it's a 13-year-old with no self-confidence and think it’s just a good marketing ploy," Levesque says. "This is something that has some real gravitas to it."

    Levesque adds that the product's low production costs and wide distribution potential give the company a great opportunity to be successful.

    But with Mallory returning to school and Adam to his job as director of talent acquisition at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Hiccupops will need a new CEO in auturm. None has been identified yet.

    One thing's clear: The winning candidate will need to be comfortable taking cues from a high school freshman.

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    Dr. James R. Delisle rebukes NAGC’s new definition of “giftedness”

    by Dick Kantenberger

    Dr. Jim Delisle was in Houston last week and I had a chance to talk with him on both Friday and Saturday about his rebuttal of  the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children)  new definition of giftedness. What I should say is the new president of NAGC, Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’, definition. But since the NAGC Board approved it, maybe I was correct in the first place.

    Dr. Delisle has many issues with the new definition, but generally he thinks the thrust of gifted education  according to Dr. Olswewski-Kubilius is what we can make a gifted person do rather than who the gifted person is. If the new definition is implemented, he suggests the National Association for Talent Development might be a better name for the organization.  He further points out if the new definition is followed, “gifted students are only gifted part of the time“.

    Important aspects of Dr. Delisle’s article were added by Carolyn Gillespie K on the internet “… the new NAGC definition, ….drops many important details in it's elaboration. Omitted are 2e (twice exceptional) kids, social-emotional aspects of the gifted, minority cultures, low-and middle-income kids…Paula and others' focus is clearly on the Achievement aspect of giftedness“.

    Mary St. George,in New Zealand, also on the internet, made the connection between talent development and Francois Gange. But talent development is only the second part of Gange's model, and Mary rightly concluded “that it probably didn’t apply here.”

     If we were to accept Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’ definition, we essentially are abdicating every model of giftedness over the last 100 years from Gange, Gardiner, Sternberg back to Hollingworth.

    I believe that the NAGC is already backing away from the new "definition" and by November it will be pretty much forgotten, except by the developmental proponents. And as you might expect, there are a number of them in NAGC and that's alright. Our core beliefs need to be challenged so our mission is relevant. But I still believe that Dr. Delisle is right, and the NAGC should have had a lengthy decision with it’s members before so drastic a change in direction.

    Read both the definition at  http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=6404 and Dr. Delisle rebuttal athttp://www.hoagiesgifted.org/defining_moment.htm. Let me know what you think.

    Dr. James (Jim) Delisle has taught gifted children and those who work on their behalf for more than 30 years.  Jim retired from Kent State University recently after 25 years of service there as a professor of special education.  Throughout his career, Jim has taken time away from college teaching to return to his “classroom roots”, volunteering as a 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th grade teacher in 1991, 1997 and 2006. Also, Jim taught gifted middle school students one day a week between 1998-2008 in the Twinsburg, Ohio Public Schools.


    The author of more than 250 articles and 17 books, Jim’s work has been translated into
    multiple languages and has been featured in both professional journals and in popular media, such as The New York Times, and on Oprah!  A frequent presenter throughout the U.S., Jim has also addressed audiences in nations as diverse as England, Greece, China, Oman, Turkey and Saudi Arabia


    Dick Kantenberger
    National Gifted Education Writer at Examiner.com
    Board of Directors and Director of Marketing at Rainard School for Gifted Students

    -----------------------------

    Four Strategies to Spark Curiosity via Student Questioning

    BY KEVIN D. WASHBURN3/22/12

    British archaeologist Mary Leakey described her own learning as being "compelled by curiosity." Curiosity is the name we give to the state of having unanswered questions. And unanswered questions, by their nature, help us maintain a learning mindset. When we realize that we do not know all there is to know about something in which we are interested, we thirst. We pursue. We act as though what we do not know is more important than what we do, as though what we do not possess is worth the chase to own it. How do we help students discover this drive?

    Strategy One: Equip Students to Ask Questions

    At its essence, curiosity is asking questions and pursuing answers. The brain does not like unanswered questions and will shift into seek-and-find mode to uncover and understand the unknown. Questions ignite curiosity.

    We often ask students if they have any questions, but we rarely teach them how to askadvantageous questions. Like any skill, asking questions can be taught and practiced, and with technology enabling an increasing emphasis on self-directed learning, this skill is more important than ever. As Wendy Puriefoy explains, "The skill of question formulation -- a thinking ability with universal relevance -- can make all learning possible."1 Students should be equipped to be inquisitive explorers, to pursue learning anytime, anywhere.

    Strategy Two: Provide a Launch Pad

    Even if students have mastered the full range of question forming, it is difficult to inquire about topics with which they have no familiarity. When this is the case, giving just enough information to launch inquiry can help. Limit the information to true basics, such as a general context and term definitions. Then challenge students to generate questions that, when answered, uncover additional information. (For a more creative approach to launching questions, try something similar to Dr. Judy Willis' inventive use of radishes!2) Guide and prompt as needed to encourage questions that address deeper concepts, and connections that will help students construct understanding. If needed, eliminate duplicity by combining questions. Once the questions are articulated, let the search begin!

    Strategy Three: Cast a Wide Net

    During the information gathering phase of learning, the brain does its best work in an active and receptive state. (Neurologically, this is characterized by decreased frontal lobe activity but increased activity in the temporal, occipital and parietal lobes, and by increased alpha and theta wave activity, suggesting a relaxed and receptive mental state.3) Action associated with this neurological state includes searching and collecting that is both focused ("I know the topic I am pursuing") and open to discovery ("I do not know where I will find it or what else I may find in the process"). We can foster this by challenging students to "cast a wide net" as they gather information, striving for diversity in sources and source types. Not just a summary from Wikipedia, but also a poem that addresses some aspect of the topic; not just the labeled diagram, but also an artist's portrayal of the idea.

    Keep the search active by praising student efforts to discover novelty. A new idea or perspective raises new questions, and since the brain does not like unanswered questions, curiosity continues to motivate the search.

    Strategy Four: Avoid Cutting the Search Short

    Curiosity cut off at its peak rarely regains its fervor, so allow ample time for students to thoroughly pursue answers and novel discoveries related to the topic or idea.

    What is found -- the answers to the questions -- must eventually be sorted and related to known ideas or experiences for new knowledge and understanding to emerge. However, we can spark curiosity by engaging students in questioning and in pursuing answers. Learning "compelled" by questions is learning driven by curiosity.


    References

    1Puriefoy, W.D. (2011). Foreword in Rothstein, D. & Santana, L. Make Just One Change.Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
    2Washburn, K.D. (2010). 
    The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain. Pelham, AL: Clerestory Press.
    3Carson, S. (2010). 
    Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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    Why most teachers don’t know what they don’t know.

    March 7, 2012 by tomwhitby

    Most professions have professional journals. Professional journals have long been the method by which innovations to professions have been introduced. Lengthy articles explaining the: who, what, where, when, why and how of an innovation in the profession was spelled out for all to read. Follow-up journal articles weighed the pros and cons. Journals historically have been a form of print media, but with the advent of the internet many are transitioning to a digital form in addition to the printed version.

    The process for innovators to get things published in these professional journals can be long and arduous, but the pay-off is usually worth the wait. These journals have readerships of great numbers of people in the very profession that specific innovators want to reach. There are: journals for Medicine, journals for Law, and journals for Education just to name a few.

    At one time, to keep up with the journals was to keep up with the profession. That was true when change came slowly and people were able to adjust to change over longer periods of time. With the advance of technology, things began to happen more quickly. Innovation began to explode. The process and the trappings of the print media began to fall behind. More and more innovators took to the digital alternative of websites and blogs for their; who, what, where, when, why and how of an innovation in the profession. The professional journals began playing catch up. Innovation exploded in every profession and the print media has proved to have many more limitations than digital publishing. Why struggle with the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature when Google is at hand?

    Now, let us go onto education and its professional journals and their impact on teachers. Contrary to what is often said about education, currently, there are many innovations affecting the education profession. Technology is the driving force behind most of the education innovation. It is impacting not only what we can do as educators, but it is also changing how we approach learning. These innovations may have not all reached the education journals yet, but they have been presented and are being discussed digitally and at great length in social media.

    A few of the recent topics include: the Flipped Class, eTextbooks, PBL approaches to learning, blended classes, Edcamps for PD, BYOD, Digital classrooms, Tablets, 1:1 laptops, digital collaboration, Social Media, Mobile Learning Devices, Blogging. Some of these topics have made it to the print media, but all are being delved into at length through social media. It is a disadvantage to be a print-media educator in a digital-media world. I can understand how a majority of educators whose very education was steeped in print media is more comfortable with that medium. The technology however, is not holding still to allow educators to dwell in a comfort zone. Just as the technology of the printing press got us beyond the technology of the scrolls (Parchment & Quill), Technology is now taking us beyond print media to digital publications and boundless collaboration.

    In order to take a full measure of the advances of technology, there are certain adjustments to be made and skills to be obtained or reanimated. This requires a change in behavior, attitude, and most importantly, culture. Information from technology may be easily accessed, but it is not yet a passive exercise. It requires effort and an ability to learn and adapt. These are skills that all educators have, but many may not always be willing to use. The status quo has not required educators to use these skills in a long time. Using these skills requires effort and leaving a long-standing zone of comfort in order to learn and use new methods of information retrieval. Waiting for the Journal is no longer a relevant option. Educators are driving the changes, but technology is driving the change. The need for reform may very well come from the need for the changes in education to keep up with the rate of change.

    Professional Development is the key to getting educators to access dormant skills. They need to be the life-long learners that they want their students to be. It is the practice of life-long learning that separates the good teacher from the great teacher. They need to be led and supported in this effort. They need to be coaxed from those damned comfort zones which are the biggest obstacles to real reform. This must apply to ALL educators regardless of title. If administrators are to be our education leaders then they should be leading the way for the teachers. Professional Development is not a teachers-only need.

    In order for teachers to better guide themselves in their learning, they need to know what it is that they need to know. They need relevant questions about relevant changes. Being connected to other educators, who are practicing these changes already, is a great first step. Using technology to do that is the best way to develop these Professional Learning Networks. Connected educators are relevant educators. That is how we can begin to change the culture and move forward to real education reform.

    Connecting with other educators is easy through Social Media. Twitter is a mainstay of information for thousands of educators. Ning sites provide great collaborative communities for educators to join groups and share sources. Blogs provide the most up-to-date information on innovations and current practices. RSS feeds and iPad applications like Zite, and Flipboard carry blogs directly to you to read and share. I could add many more things to this list, but the sheer amount of things technology offers educators is in itself a deterrent to those who are overwhelmed with how much they think they need to learn. Educators need not know all of this, but by focusing on one, the others will begin to come into view, and the need to learn as a life-long learner will take control.


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    Giftedness Doesn't Guarantee Creative Achievement. What makes a person creative?

    Published on December 26, 2011 by Nigel Barber, Ph.D. in The Human Beast

    There is a dirty little secret that you will never hear from educators involved in programs for the "gifted." These intellectually precocious youngsters generally go on to lead lives that are, well, boring.

    Because high intelligence is required for great accomplishment, one might imagine that giving gifted children every opportunity would be a sure-fire way to increase the level of creative accomplishment in our society, thereby making all of us a lot better off.

    Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. To begin with, some of the most creative people in the world are not all that bright in terms of being capable of scoring high on IQ tests. High Iq may be necessary for creativity but it is not sufficient.  No one who met the young Charles Darwin was bowled over by his towering intellect, for example and his early academic career was quite mediocre, even for someone tentatively planning to enter the clergy.

    Science is admittedly a dull plodding business in which the 99 percent perspiration often drowns out the 1 percent inspiration, the eureka moments. Yet, some of the world's most highly creative people in the arts were far from intellectual giants.

    Mozart had a lifelong fondness for garish costumes and the grossest of bathroom humor. In the movie Amadeus, he was depicted as giddy and immature. His defenders refuse to admit that the one of the most accomplished composers who ever lived could have had a trivial intellect.  But people with Williams syndrome may have incredible musical facility and still be intellectually incapable of tying their shoes.

    So much for great scientists and great composers! Other creative fields have their share of high achievers with room-temperature IQ scores. Vincent Van Gogh whose paintings now auction for tens of millions of dollars was considered dumb as a post by those who knew him. His neighbors even took to calling him The Caveman.

    If intelligence were the key to creative accomplishment, one would expect young people who excel in their academic careers to be highly creative as adults. The evidence on this question is mixed. One pioneering study on a group of academically gifted young people, known as the "Termites," found little evidence of superior creativity in adult life (1,2) although the group was highly successful in the more prosaic sense of earning lots of money.

    More recent research suggests that the very highest Scholastic Aptitude Test achievers (in the top quartile of the top 1 %) are both more creative and more occupationally successful in later life compared to the lowest quartile for that elite group (3). The fact that such rarefied comparisons were required speaks volumes about how difficult it is to show that people who are intellectually gifted are also more creative.

    Why is there so little of a connection between IQ scores and creative accomplishment? One possible reason is that gifted people are emotionally unstable. As English poet John Dryden phrased it: "Great wits are sure to madness near allied," where by wit he meant intelligence. Yet, this explanation is not really consistent with evidence that very high IQ people are economically successful.

    Another explanation is more intriguing. According to this perspective, creative accomplishment is not just a matter of having a creativepersonality but leading the life of a creative person. This is not merely a case of living in creative places at creative times, e.g., Italy during the Renaissance, but experiencing a personal history conducive to unusual creativity as well.

    Unfortunately, if you want to write like Charles Dickens, you need a Dickensian childhood, which is to say exposure to all manner of difficulties and indignities, such as seeing one's father cast in a debtor's jail and getting thrown out of one's home for failure to pay the rent. This is not to say that creative people are themselves emotionally fragile.  Rather their creativity helps them to survive trauma.

    The biographies of highly creative people are replete with tragedy such as the early loss of a parent. Coping with such harrowing events, and worse, is the furnace in which creative people are forged. Evidently it is in coping with the emotional conflicts of childhood that artists develop their creative muscles, so to speak.

    That is why so many gifted children fail to deliver creative accomplishment. Their lives are just too easy.

    Sources
    1. Subotnik, R. F., and Arnold, K. D. (1994). Longitudinal study of giftedness and talent. In R. F. Subotnik and K. D. Arnold, (Eds.), Beyond Terman: Contemporary longitudinal studies of giftedness and talent (pp. 1-23). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
    2. Terman, L. M., and Oden, M. H. (1959). The gifted group at mid-life, thirty-five years follow-up of the superior child. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
    3. Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. (2005). Creativity and occupational accomplishments among intellectually precocious youths: An age 13 to age 33 longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 484-492.


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    How do you identify a gifted child?

    Group kids by ability and subject not age, says gifted-education professor Miraca Gross, Professor of Gifted Education, School of Education, Director of the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre(GERRIC), University of New South Wales

    Ygqhkd46-1324268210Thinking ahead: Let children with higher intellects break free of age groupings, says Miraca Gross. Flickr/ACPL.


    Schoolchildren should be classed by intellectual ability in subject groupings rather than lumped together according to age, says Miraca Gross, the University of New South Wales' Professor of Gifted Education.

    In the interview below, Professor Gross says that grouping kids by chronological age is the product of an impractical view of human development. She also says that gifted kids often physically develop faster and that they deserve their own specialist schools just as much as highly musical or athletic kids do. After two decades at the University of NSW, Professor Gross retires at the end of this year.


    In Australia we’re very good at identifying kids who have high ability in sport, athletics, music, and we’re pretty good at art. Where we’re not so good is identifying kids who are academically talented.

    Most of us agree on what musical giftedness is – they can play well – same with art, same with sport, same with athletics. But there is controversy over what we mean by academically gifted: do we mean someone who is performing very well academically in class, or someone who has the capacity to perform well but for some reason isn’t doing it? And then we have the kid who is very bright but has a learning disability like dyslexia who can think very well but has extreme trouble getting stuff down on paper. That kid may be very, very, intellectually able but her disability is blocking the translation of her intellect into into performance.

    It’s an interesting area and it’s fraught with difficulties. If we were talking about intellectual disability you wouldn’t be asking me if one flash-in-the-pan indication that a kid is struggling would mean that he is intellectually disabled.

    So what we’re looking for is, across a reasonable period of time, the child showing that she thinks at a level more like kids who are older, or the child who has flashes of insight that she’s able to share with her teacher. It’s a pattern.

    Very bright kids often start reading before the entry to school. That’s a very good indicator because the parents can’t sit a four-year-old up on a couch to read. If the kid is able to read she’s able to read. So if you’ve got a kid in kindergarten or preschool who’s a very fluent reader – quite a bit beyond the level of age-peers – that’s a very good indication of high intellectual ability. Also if she spontaneously teaches herself basic maths, addition and subtraction, that’s a good indicator. Kids who are very bright and very intellectually, academically, mature for their age can be good candidates for acceleration.

    How should schoolchildren be grouped for classes?

    Unfortunately, schools are organised by age rather than subject areas. In secondary school you’ve got departments which are organised by subject or by discipline, so you’ll have the maths department or the science faculty, the English faculty or foreign language faculty. However, there is quite strong organisation by chronological age: 12-year-olds are educated separately to 13-year-olds. It’s not so much that slaves to tradition as [that we are] taking a view that all children of a certain age are going to be at the same developmental level – and that’s just not a practical view to take. Some kids who are in years four to five at school are as mature as a year 6 kid; we want to be able to make her a member of a year 6 class because she wouldn’t have any difficulty with that level of academic work.

    In sport and athletics, weight, size, and height have a direct impact on how the kid is going to perform. But in academic work, weight, size, and height don’t make any difference at all. For example, if you’ve got a kid in year 7 who is very bright at maths, his size doesn’t make a darn of difference. If we’re dealing with the education of kids who are intellectually retarded, we don’t look at their height: we look at their capacity to learn and we compare that with the capacity to learn of an average kid. Equally with gifted kids, we don’t say OK I’d love to think about putting this kid up to the grade above but he’s still only average height for his age. We shouldn’t worry about that. We’ve got to be awfully careful when we’re looking at one sort of definition of kids and using it compare to average kids or intellectually disabled kids, that we don’t make comparisons that are not necessary or valid.

    Are intellectually advanced kids emotionally mature enough to cope socially when they are jumped up levels?

    Emotional maturity in kids tends to be correlated with their intellectual ability rather than their chronological age. A kid who is six but is more like an eight-year-old in the way she thinks is probably more like a seven or eight-year-old in the way she feels. Just like with the intellectually disabled kids: a kid who is 10 but thinks like an eight-year-old generally feels more like an eight year old. With kids, the way they think – the self-talk – and they they feel are very closely correlated – much more so than how it is in adulthood.

    Do gifted kids get bullied when they land in a class of older children?

    Their reception by an older peer group largely depends on how the older kids have been prepared by the school for the arrival of younger kids in their midst. What many schools do is give the younger child visiting-rights in the older classroom for a few weeks. Say you’ve got a year 5 class and there’s going to be a year 4 kid, a younger kid, coming up to be in that class – what the school often does is say “OK, the younger child will visit the older class on Fridays.” Then when the older class adjusts to that, they say, “OK, what if we have Madeline with us on Thursdays and Fridays, rather than just Fridays?” And the older kids say, “OK, why not?” It’s the psychology of getting the older class to adjust to the younger child that gets rid of the danger of bullying.

    We do it in sports teams. A child who has greater aptitude in sport can be playing with the older kids, and after the first surprise of “Oh, there’s a younger kid here,” they see how well she can play and it’s no big deal. It’s exactly the same with the academics. If the older kids see that the younger kid isn’t going to slow things down and be useless, they’ll say, “OK, that’s no big deal.”

    Is the age divide more problematic if the older peers are reaching puberty?

    That’s less of a problem than people think. This is going to sound strange, but there’s a lot of research than shows this. Girls who are intellectually very bright menstruate earlier than their age peers. Boys who are very, very bright also have primary and secondary sexual changes coming a little bit early. We don’t know quite why that is but we have known it for the best part of 100 years. You tend to find that if you’re allowing a girl to accelerate [up levels at school] you’re putting her in with kids with whom she’s going to start having her periods at about the same time rather than early, and that works well.

    Are teachers generally smart enough to do the best for gifted kids?

    It’s not so much the intelligence of the staff as how much they know about gifted education and gifted kids. If I was the principal of a school and I was going to accelerate a kid into a class above, I would put her in with a teach who already knows something about gifted kids and is not going to work on stereotypes but rather is going to work on sensible expertise. More and more teachers now have training in gifted education. My centre alone, GERRIC, over the last 20 years has trained almost 2000 teachers in an 80-contact-hour course. I would like to see the good things that are happening, happening in every school across the state, and across the country.

    Do gifted children come from gifted parents?

    In general, yes. Sometimes children who are very slow have parents of average ability, but sometimes children who are very slow come from parents who are slow learners. Sometimes you find a gifted child comes from a family of fairly average ability but often you find a gifted child coming from a family where the parents are very bright, too. There’s no absolute rule. If parents are not particularly interested in fostering a child’s abilities, the child might not feel permitted to show that she thinks very well.

    The most important thing for parents is not to be worried if their child is not showing the same developmental stages as other kids but is going through them faster. Some parents worry a bit that if their child is talking earlier than some other children that they may burn out in later life. That’s just not true. They don’t need to worry.

    How important a measure is IQ?

    IQ is enormously important in helping us understand whether a child is intellectually delayed or intellectually advanced. So if a school or teacher thinks that a child might be developmentally delayed and is progressing much slower than usual they will get a psychologist to give the child an IQ test, because that allows us to see the degree of slowness that the child has. Similarly, if a child’s progressing faster than usual, intellectually, it’s a good idea to give an IQ test because that gives us a measure of how much beyond her age peers she really is. If a child has an IQ of 120 that means she’s in the top 10% in her capacity to think. In music, art, sport, we don’t calculate enhancement with IQ, but with intellectual ability the IQ test is a very, very useful instrument: not just to see if the child is bright, but how bright the kid is, and how far beyond her classmates she really is. It enables us to present the child with a curriculum that suits her needs rather than one that is designed for just most kids.

    Was the push a decade or so ago to spread the study of philosophy in schools an example of a curriculum suited to gifted kids?

    The philosophy for children movement was generally regarded as something that was good for most, if not all, kids. Certainly children who were keen, analytical, evaluative thinkers, probably got more out of philosophy for schools, but I certainly wouldn’t want an enrichment program like philosophy for schools to be kept only for the gifted kids. It’s not a matter of giving gifted kids entertaining, challenging, satisfying curriculum as if the others are getting a boring, unchallenging, unsatisfying curriculum. That’s the last thing we’d want to see happen.

    Have you noticed a change in the incidence of gifted children over the years?

    I haven’t seen a greater incidence of gifted kids, just like I haven’t seen a greater incidence of intellectually disabled kids over the years but I have seen a greater awareness of the needs of developmentally disabled kids and gifted kids. Teachers are much more aware than they were 20 years ago of the range of individual differences in our classrooms and they’re much more responsive to that range.

    Is there merit in having separate schooling for gifted kids?

    I wouldn’t think of selective schools as separate schools. There is the Conservatorium High School which is a school for children who have towered in music and the performing arts. We don’t talk about that as if it is segregation, because we accept that for kids who have got certain types of talent they may need to have a special education. In NSW we’ve also got schools for kids who have talent in sport and in athletics and we don’t worry too much about the separateness of schooling for that, so why shouldn’t we have schools for kids who’ve got particular aptitudes in what’s extremely serious: maths, English, science, languages? That doesn’t worry me; I don’t think of it as separate education. I think of it as special education with a curriculum designed for kids who differ in a particular way. For gifted kids that means faster learning and learning at a higher level of complexity.

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    Creative Dissidents: Stop Shortchanging Talented Kids Who Challenge Us

    BY MARK PHILLIPS
    1/16/12

    A few years ago I spent time at Eagle Rock School, a wonderful school in Colorado for so-called "at-risk" kids from all over the country. I noticed that many of the best students were highly creative kids with extraordinary leadership, presentation and communication skills. Exploring further, I discovered that many of these same students had been in and out of two or three high schools prior to coming to Eagle Rock; in some cases voluntarily, in some cases not.

    Talking with the students, I became aware that each one of them could be described as creative dissidents, kids with high intellectual and/or creative abilities who were difficult for teachers to handle. The trouble they caused was not criminal but disruptive. This usually took one of two forms. One was active, such as sabotaging a class with wise-ass comments, or talking back continually to the teacher. Some, however, did it through relatively passive means, via sullen non-participation or other forms of quiet defiance. Not infrequently these students were also a challenge to their parents.

    These were not kids who needed a psychologist. Most of them were articulate, self-aware and positively provocative in their thoughts and feelings about our society. If they lacked anything before Eagle Rock it was: a) a supportive environment that engaged, encouraged and rewarded their spirits and their minds; b) teachers and administrators who didn't react defensively to their confrontational behaviors; and c) the skills to effectively assert themselves. In schools that they found discouraging, they didn't know how to respond in an effective way to improve their situation.

    Inviting the Outsiders In

    Our schools are reasonably good at identifying intellectually gifted kids but still fall far short in understanding, reaching and strengthening creative kids who are defiant or unreachable. Importantly, in failing these kids we greatly shortchange ourselves as a society. Many of these students are leaders at Eagle Rock, with the potential to play a similar role as adults. In their former environments, they were often lost and angry.

    There is usually an award for those who comply. High achieving, studious kids usually conform to the norms of the school and get rewarded. Our social leaders also usually do well, even when their academic work isn't quite up to par. Some creative kids don't do well in classes that they find boring and often hate rote learning, but their disengagement may not be coupled with defiance.

    But we generally do poorly with kids who talk back or sullenly withdraw. I've lost count of how many times I've heard a teacher say, "He's really bright, but he's such a pain in the ass." And teachers and parents who play strong authority roles have particular problems with these kids.

    Yet recent research shows us that teens who talk back and argue, if properly mentored, will emerge stronger than more compliant teens and better able to resist succumbing to peer pressure.

    At Eagle Rock and similar schools, the answer is in teaching these kids to effectively channel their frustration with the world (or at least "their" world) into effective ways of changing it. And it's also tough love, an environment that is high on support but sets very strict limits. Most importantly, there is patience and genuine compassion for students even when they are angry or withdrawn.

    Attitude Adjustment on Both Sides

    Much of this has to do with how we as educators respond to defiant students. Can we get past our own defensiveness and reach these kids? Years ago a wise senior colleague told me that when a kid is sullen, angry and pushing you away, that's often the time they most need your arm around their shoulder, when they most need your compassion. That's quite a challenge and calls for real strength on the part of the teacher or administrator.

    There are helpful hints about how to best reach these students in a number of books. Richard Curwin, Allen Mendler, and Brian Mendler's, Discipline with Dignity,3rd Edition: New Challenges, New Solutions, LouAnne Johnson's Teaching Outside the Box, and Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future, Revised Edition, by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern, can all be helpful.

    I think the key variable is not methodology, but rather teacher attitude and the ability to genuinely care about these students. Here I'm reminded of a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, in which he wrote: "How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are the beginnings of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave."

    Most of the students I interviewed would laugh to hear themselves described as princesses, but almost all would acknowledge that they'd been dragons. And contrary to the way many teachers and administrators react, these dragons need to be cared for and tamed, not avoided or slain. The cost is too great and the potential payoff too rich to not reach out to and engage these students.

    -----------------------------

    The Trouble With Bright Kids

    by Heidi Grant Halvorson 


    It's not easy to live up to your fullest potential. There are so many obstacles that can get in the way: bosses that don't appreciate what you have to offer, tedious projects that take up too much of your time, economies where job opportunities are scarce, the difficulty of juggling career, family, and personal goals.

    But smart, talented people rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they'll have to overcome lies within.

    People with above-average aptitudes — the ones we recognize as being especially clever, creative, insightful, or otherwise accomplished — often judge their abilities not only more harshly, but fundamentally differently, than others do (particularly in Western cultures). Gifted children grow up to be more vulnerable, and less confident, even when they should be the most confident people in the room. Understanding why this happens is the first step to righting a tragic wrong. And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.

    Chances are good that if you are a successful professional today, you were a pretty bright fifth-grader. You did well in several subjects (maybe every subject), and were frequently praised by your teachers and parents when you excelled.

    When I was a graduate student at Columbia, my mentor Carol Dweck and another student, Claudia Mueller, conducted a study looking at the effects of different kinds of praise on fifth-graders. Every student got a relatively easy first set of problems to solve and were praised for their performance. Half of them were given praise that emphasized their high ability ("You did really well. You must be really smart!"). The other half were praised instead for their strong effort ("You did really well. You must have worked really hard!").

    Next, each student was given a very difficult set of problems — so difficult, in fact, that few students got even one answer correct. All were told that this time they had "done a lot worse." Finally, each student was given a third set of easy problems — as easy as the first set had been — in order to see how having a failure experience would affect their performance.

    Dweck and Mueller found that children who were praised for their "smartness" did roughly 25% worse on the final set of problems compared to the first. They were more likely to blame their poor performance on the difficult problems to a lack of ability, and consequently they enjoyed working on the problems less and gave up on them sooner.
    Children praised for the effort, on the other hand, performed roughly 25% better on the final set of problems compared to the first. They blamed their difficulty on not having tried hard enough, persisted longer on the final set of problems, and enjoyed the experience more.

    It's important to remember that in Dweck and Mueller's study, there were no mean differences in ability between the kids in the "smart" praise and "effort" praise groups, nor in past history of success — everyone did well on the first set, and everyone had difficulty on the second set. The only difference was how the two groups interpreted difficulty — what it meant to them when the problems were hard to solve. "Smart" praise kids were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective performers as a result.

    The kind of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children has a major impact on the implicit beliefs we develop about our abilities — including whether we see them as innate and unchangeable, or as capable of developing through effort and practice. When we do well in school and are told that we are "so smart," "so clever," or "such a good student," this kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't. The net result: when learning something new is truly difficult, smart-praise kids take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," rather than as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

    Incidentally, this is particularly true for women. As young girls, they learn to self-regulate (i.e., sit still and pay attention) more quickly than boys. Consequently they are more likely to be praised for "being good," and more likely to infer that "goodness" and "smartness" are innate qualities. In a study Dweck conducted in the 1980's, for instance, she found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up compared to bright boys — and the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.

    We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because bright kids are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be adults who are far too hard on themselves — adults who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

    Even if every external disadvantage to an individual's rising to the top of an organization is removed — every inequality of opportunity, every unfair stereotype, all the challenges we face balancing work and family — we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.

    How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the bright kids — and your belief that you are "stuck" being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. Which would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they're not.

    No matter the ability — whether it's intelligence, creativity, self-control, charm, or athleticism — studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort, and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a bright kid, it's time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve, and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.

    -------------------------------------

    Five myths about ‘gifted and talented’ students

    By Valerie Strauss


    L-R: Jawad Kamara, Madeline Ulmer, and Peter Moser form a study group during Rosalyne Cameron's 4th grade class for gifted students in Alexandria, Va. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)
    My colleague Kevin Sieff wrote about gifted and talented programs in this Washington Post story, which focuses on the racial enrollment gap. Even in school systems with a majority of African-American and Hispanic students, white and Asian students tend to dominate in G&T programs.

    The story raises a number of questions, including how students are chosen for these programs, and, ultimately, what gifted and talented means, and how to tell if a child really deserves the designation.

    There is a definition of “gifted students” that was developed in the 1972 Maryland Report to Congress, which was the first national report on gifted education. It remains the current federal definition, though states and districts are not required to use it:

    Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.

    The National Association for Gifted Children reports that about 6 percent of the K-12 student population in the United States are academically gifted, though no federal entity collects statistics on this and, frankly, that estimate is suspect given that there are different ways to define giftedness.

    There are plenty of myths about gifted and talented students. Here are some of them. You can find more here, at the association’s Web site, (and here).

    *Gifted students are so smart they can do fine on their own in school and don’t need help. And they always get great grades.

    This is wrong on several fronts. For one, gifted students often aren’t gifted in every subject. A first grader who can read a fifth-grade book and thoroughly understand it may not be able to write legibly. Even in those areas in which students have a gift, they need teachers who challenge them, though most teachers are not trained to deal with these students. A 1991 study showed that between 18 and 25 percent of gifted and talented students, most often from poor families, drop out of school. Unchallenged gifted students can get bored, or frustrated, or develop bad study habits.

    *Gifted students are good role models for other students and can provide a challenge for them in a regular classroom.

    Actually, students who aren’t gifted don’t much look to their gifted classmates as role models. Kids generally model behavior at which they believe they can succeed, and a student who struggles with algebra is not likely to try to emulate a student of the same age zipping through Advanced Placement Calculus. In fact, research suggests that a struggling student’s self confidence can be harmed by relying on, or watching a gifted student who is expected to succeed.

    *All children are gifted.

    Many and perhaps all children have some special gifts. But in an educational sense, most are not, meaning that they tend to be on the same level academically as their peers and do not have the ability to learn and apply what they know at a level far above their years.

    *Students with learning disabilities cannot be considered gifted and talented.

    Wrong. Some gifted students have various disabilities, including learning. Sometimes, a learning disability can mask a gifted ability in a child.

    *Gifted students develop socially and emotionally faster than other children their age.

    They don’t. Their social and emotional needs are the same as their peers, though because they are academically gifted, many adults make the mistake of thinking they are more emotionally mature than they are.

    -0-

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    Why mixed-ability classrooms are bad for everyone: A fable

    By Lisa Natcharian

    castle1.gif

    Once upon a time, in the kingdom of America, classrooms were divided into ability groups. Everyone who could learn quickly was encouraged to do so together, and those who needed extra help were given what they needed together. Each group was led by teachers who specialized in teaching that particular level, and the kingdom prospered.

    Things seemed to be moving along nicely from an objective point of view, until one day, the evil winds of change blew through the educational system. In the name of “self esteem” (which seemed to be a magical creature whom no one was able to see properly), the children from all levels of classroom were grouped together into one big room. Pleasant fairy godmothers (who, oddly, had very angry eyes) fluttered around the room cooing, “How lovely! Now no one will feel badly about themselves.”

    “Hmmmmm….” replied the villagers. “I guess you’re right,” they said slowly. It sounded like a good plan. Why would anyone want to purposely make a child feel dumb or slow?

    However, a few village parents raised their hands in protest. “Wait a minute,” they interrupted, in slight confusion. “Does this mean that my smart child will no longer be taught what he doesn’t know, only the things he already knows?”

    “Yes!” smiled the fairy godmothers smugly.

    “But, that doesn’t make sense! Why should my child be held back in order to make other children feel better about themselves?” the parents demanded, in dawning horror.

    “Silly villagers,” laughed the fairy godmothers. “Your children are already fine! We need to divert our limited resources to help those who are struggling! “ Behind their hands they whispered to each other, “What balls those villagers have, asking for more when their children already have so much! Geez Louise!”

    “But wait!” called out the parents, as the tittering group of fairies flew away. “That’s not exactly the way it is!!” But no one heard (or at least, they pretended not to). “Well,” the parents said to themselves sadly, feeling a bit like they were about to be put through the Salem witch trials, “I guess I’ll just have to supplement at home.”

    But as time went by, it became clear that the very changes that were meant to increase self esteem in the struggling group of children were, in fact, decreasing self esteem in both groups (struggling and advanced), AND test scores were dropping as well.

    “Nonsense!” shouted the fairies and their crew of glassy-eyed followers. “Grouping children by ability is unfair! It prevents all children from having access to all types of learning! AND…” they cried, pausing for effect. “It’s DISCRIMINATORY!” (They knew that using that word would get them a bunch more supporters, even though it wasn’t strictly true.)

    “Wait! Wait!” cried out the small, straggly group of parents of the bright children, as a mob of angry citizens moved menacingly toward the school. “No one is being denied anything! There are actually good things about grouping in the classroom! Everyone gets the attention they need, and can learn at their own pace! It’s all good!”

    “No grouping! No grouping!” chanted the mob, looking around for a lighter to get their torches going. (The kingdom had gone tobacco-free a few years back, and fire-starters were few and far between.) “Our children must all be treated equally! Equality above all! It’s the American way!”

    Things were starting to look ominous for the bright children and their families. Many of the children were forced to take on the role of junior teacher in their classrooms, and were stuck doing most of the work for their mixed ability groups. They began to miss out on opportunities to do accelerated or enriched work, and many of them lost interest in school. Some were forced to sit apart from the others and occupy themselves with busy work while the teacher taught a lesson they already knew, and some quit trying to learn altogether, angry that they were being taken advantage of by “free riders” in their groups.

    “But our children are gifted!” pleaded the parents. “They are capable of doing so much more than you’re allowing them to do! Please, just listen to us for a minute. You’ll see that our children have a lot to offer if you just let them learn.”

    But at the sound of the dreadful word “gifted,” the mob stopped listening altogether. “Boo! Hiss!” they cried, getting their peasant underclothing all in a tangle. “Stop calling your PERFECTLY AVERAGE child gifted! We know you’re just trying to make yourselves look like good parents, and we’re not falling for it!”

    “Ok, you people, get a grip. This is getting way out of control,” interrupted a small boy, who was smart enough to find himself a megaphone and move to high ground so everyone could see and hear him.

    The mob was caught off guard, and froze in mid-hiss to turn and see who dared to interrupt the emotionally-fueled scrum.

    “It’s clear that all of you parents are trying to do what’s best for your children. No one faults you for that. But to make a rational decision, you will all need to shut up and look at the clear facts. Never mind who “feels” this way or “thinks” things ought to be that way. Look at the research on the subject, and your answer will be clear.”

    With that, boy tossed his megaphone toward the fairy godmothers, and melted away into the crowd. Unfortunately, it clipped one of the ladies on the head, because she had shut her eyes and put her hands over her ears at the sound of the dreaded “G word” (that’s gifted, if you didn’t guess). The fairies were momentarily distracted.

    “Research? What research?” murmured the crowd. “I thought grouping kids together was just obviously the right thing to do,” they told each other. “When the smart kids are pulled out of the room to go work together, it makes the rest of the kids feel dumb, doesn’t it?”

    “Hear-ye, hear-ye!” called out the town crier, who was holding a very long scroll that the mysterious boy had slipped into his hand. “Listen all to the results of twenty five years of research on homogeneous classrooms!”

    What he said to the crowd that day was this:

    • Students grouped in lower and middle-level tracks learn the same amount as students of the same ability level who are taught in mixed classes, BUT students in the high-level tracks learn significantly more (up to an entire year’s worth of material) than students of the same ability level who are taught in mixed classes. In other words, grouping by ability does not decrease or harm the amount the average student will learn in a year, but it will significantly INCREASE the amount a bright student will learn in a year. Looked at another way, mixed level classes DECREASE the amount a bright child will learn each year. (Kulik, 1992b)

    • Rogers (1991) found that grouping by ability and offering enrichment “produces substantial gains in academic achievement, creativity and other thinking skills.”

    • Mixed ability classrooms do not increase self esteem in the average or struggling student. Rather, watching others learn at a faster pace on a daily basis serves to decrease self esteem in these groups. (Kulik, 1992a)

    • When high-ability students are pulled out of class to work with a gifted program, it gives the lower-ability students a chance for more attention from their teacher, and more opportunity to “shine” in the classroom. (Feldhusen, 1989b)

    • The self-concept of low and medium-ability students is actually higher when they are grouped in classrooms by ability, than when they are placed in mixed ability rooms. (Kulik, 2003)

    • Mixed ability groups tend to include “social loafers,” or students of a lower ability who prefer to take a passive role on the project and let the brighter students do the bulk of the work – then share the high final grade. Kerr (1983) found that some students “prefer to fail rather than carry a free rider and be [seen as a] sucker.”

    • High ability students are more productive when they are grouped together (Fuchs et al. 1998), and when low, medium and high ability students are grouped together, “the high ability student usually tutors the low ability student and the medium ability student is left out.” (Webb & Palinscar, 1996) This indicates that medium and high ability students learn better when grouped with students of like ability.

    The crowd fell silent, thinking about what this all meant. “Let me tell you what this all means!” called out the town crier, who was good at reading faces.

    “Based on these twenty-five years of research, the leaders in the field have concluded that students who are academically or intellectually gifted should spend the majority of their school day with others of similar ability and interests! (Thank you to Rogers and Kulik for this proclamation.)”

    “Nooooo!” yelled the fairy godmothers as one. “That’s JUST. NOT. RIGHT!” they growled furiously.

    “Actually,” replied the town crier, who was in fact, the little boy’s dad. “It makes perfect sense. Let me tell you a little story about a girl who was learning to swim.

    “Little Matilda went down to the swimming hole one day to swim laps with her twin brother, Archibald. Although they were the same age, Matilda had only learned to swim that week, while her brother had been swimming for three years already. Their swim coach happened to be picnicking on the bank of the water, and set them a task to swim the same number of laps at the same pace.

    “This proved to be a problem. Matilda struggled to keep up with her more experienced brother, and he was forced to slow down to match her pace. By the end of the afternoon, both Matilda and Archibald were feeling very cranky, neither one of them having had a fulfilling exercise experience.

    “Their coach, being an observant fellow, called out that he was sorry he had set them this impossible task. ‘I can see that you both would have been happier to swim at your own pace,’ he told them. ‘Archibald, if you had swum faster, you could have improved your stamina, and Matilda, if you had swum slower, you could have improved your technique. You would both be proud of your accomplishments, and neither one of you would be as resentful of the other as you are now.’ Then, the coach declared that henceforth, every child would be allowed to swim at their own pace, with companions whose skills matched their own. And everyone lived happily ever after.”

    Excited murmuring swept the crowd. “Do you think it could work?” they asked each other. “This might be the answer we’ve been looking for!”

    In short order, the king decreed that all the kingdom’s schools should group their students by ability, and banished the fairy godmothers to the nursery schools, where they were given the job of identifying gifted students and providing enrichment projects for them.

    From then on, life sailed along smoothly in the kingdom, and it was all thanks to one little boy and his dad who stood up and spoke against the prevailing wisdom to show folks that things aren’t always as they seem.

    -----------------------------------


    Preschool Behaviors in Gifted Children
    Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D., Author of '5 Levels of Gifted'

    When very young children demonstrate precocious behaviors such as seeming to understand words and adult conversations that are beyond their years, or strong interest in things and topics that generally interest older children, their parents may wonder if their baby or preschool child might be gifted. Below are some guidelines to help you know if you have a gifted child. The earlier any of the behaviors, the more likely the child may be highly to exceptionally gifted. These lists are merely guidelines; not all behaviors need to be present to indicate probable gifted-level intellect.

    Birth to 4 months:
    • Makes eye contact soon after birth and continues this interaction and awareness of others
    • Makes eye contact while nursing
    • Does not like to be left in infant seat 
    • Almost always wants someone in the room interacting with him or her
    • Very alert; others notice and comment

    4 months to one year:
    • Seldom “mouths” toys
    • Shows purpose with toys, seldom destructive or arbitrary
    • Pays attention when read to or watching TV
    • Plays pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo
    • Waves bye-bye, says ma-ma, dada, and bye-bye
    • Follows directions, doesn’t miss a thing, knows what’s next in routine

    One year to 18 months:
    • Obvious interest in competence; has “fits” when not permitted to do it himself (or herself)
    • Long attention span
    • Obvious interest in letters, numbers, books, and talking
    • Surprisingly good eye-hand coordination for shape sorters, putting things in and taking things out
    • Uses puzzles and toys that are beyond stated age level
    • Does not chew on or tear books
    • Tries hard to please; feelings easily hurt

    18 months to 2 years:
    • Talking, clear understanding of others’ talk
    • Knows many letters, colors, and numbers. The brightest gifted children often know how to count and organize by quantities, know many colors and shades, and know the alphabet in order or isolation. This is at their insistence, not parental drill.
    • Tenacity; needs to do it own way and not done until they are done
    • Not easily distracted from what they want to do; don’t even try tricking them with distraction
    • Can sing a song with you, knows all the words and melody
    • Clearly exhibits a sense of humor beyond typical “bathroom humor”
    • Although active, activity is usually very purposeful and important to the child
    • Interest in activities, machinery, and implements that are complex and maybe delicate, e.g., CD player, computer. Can handle them well, if allowed.
    • Bossy; quickly lose interest in any children who cannot do what they want to do.
    • Grandparents or other family members may have started to complain that your child is willful and perhaps spoiled
    • Drawing and identifying what they’ve drawn
    • Stacking block towers of 6 blocks or more
    • Recognizing basic shapes and pointing them out elsewhere
    • Notice beauty in nature
    • Attention to the feelings of others
    • Need to know “why” before complying

    Two to three years:
    • Excellent attention for favorite TV or videos
    • Shows tremendous interest in printing letters and numbers 
    • Will catch your mistakes, hold you to your word, and not forget promises or changes of plans. 
    • Easily frustrated with own lack of ability, seems to obsess on some things
    • People outside the family start to comment on how smart your child is
    • Child has trouble playing with other children same age, prefers adults or much older children but is not a lot of fun for them because child is still too immature
    • Throws fits or tantrums especially when thwarted in doing something his or her own way to completion
    • Can play with games, puzzles, and toys that state an age range twice their own or more
    • Early reading, e.g. know most store and street signs, recognize many names, labels and words in print
    • Most tantrums precipitated by lack of adult respect or understanding; child is more likely to cooperate than simply comply with adult demands
    • Highly competitive

    Three to four years:
    • Highly inquisitive
    • Highly talkative
    • Increasing interest in books and reading and finding answers there
    • Love to debate and reason and argue
    • Can do many things on the computer
    • May become fearful of what they don’t understand, tend to think ahead and worry
    • Show interest in how and why; ask questions and listen to answers unlike most age-mates
    • Interested in strategy and application of rules; dismissive and annoyed at others who don’t “get it”
    • Bossy
    • Creative
    • Cleverly manipulative
    • Perfectionistic, even obsessive about developing own skills

    Four to five years:
    • Many start reading simple books then chapter books almost spontaneously before they are five
    • Show interest in mature subjects but can be frightened by their own lack of perspective (e.g., natural disasters are both fascinating and frightening)
    • Intuitive grasp of numerical concepts and mathematic reasoning; many can effectively compete with older children and adults in board and card games
    • May start to question the meaning of life, their own worth, etc.
    • Huge vocabulary, huge memory for facts, events, and information
    • Increasingly facility with computers and keyboarding, video games
    • Obvious abstract reasoning ability, love of concepts and theorizing; philosophical and speculative
    • Great need to engage others in meaningful and intelligent conversation about the things that interest them (the children, not necessarily the adults)

    Summary: Gifted preschool children tend to initiate their own learning. In fact, their curiosity is one hallmark of their high intelligence. Although strong parental or preschool involvement and instruction can support any child’s acquisition of academic skills, highly intelligent children will gain those skills—and more—at a noticeably faster rate than children who are less intelligent.

    ----------------------------------


    Prologue

    The Empire Strikes Back: Redefining the Role of Gifted Education in the 21st Century

    Joseph S. Renzulli

    Abstract

    Many national education leaders and politicians characterize the current challenges facing our schools as a crisis in the American education system. The methods that have been adopted, in recent decades, to address the achievement gap that exists between advantaged and disadvantaged students have produced flat-line academic growth among the most able students, rampant boredom, and public dissatisfaction with an education system that is immune to anything but the superficial trappings of change. Reform initiatives in the educational system have consisted of structural changes, primarily, and have not produced the anticipated positive results. Current learning theory indicates that student engagement and an inquiry-based, inductive pedagogy are the keys to higher achievement.

    To effect real change will require a recognition of and attention to the achievement-gap problem and a meaningful application of rapidly advancing technology. While technology has radically changed everyday life, in education, the applications are little more than electronic functions of the drill-and-practice forms of teaching. An engagement oriented pedagogy—beyond online worksheets and online encyclopedias—must be able to address students’ strengths, match resources to students’ personal profiles through imaginative uses of technology, and provide appropriate teacher training. Students need to learn not only the basic skills but also the technological skills of inquiry that will create the motivation and engagement largely lost by rigidly prescribed curriculum and learning that has minimized the sheer joy of discovery.

    The Three-Trillion Dollar Misunderstanding

    How did we get into this mess? Why hasn’t the estimated three trillion dollars spent on school reform since the 1960s made more of an impact (Miami-Dade County Public Schools, 2008)? We’ve tried just about everything— smaller schools, year-round schools, longer school days, single-sex classes, after-school
    mentoring, school uniforms, vouchers, charter schools, school-business partnerships, merit pay for teachers, paying students (and even parents) for higher scores, private management companies and for-profit schools, takeovers by mayors and state departments of education, distributive leadership, site-based management, data-based decision making— and just about every scheme imaginable into
    which someone can insert the words “standards- based,” “accountability,” or “brainbased.” Additionally, every buzzword in a profession that already thrives on too much jargon, eventually, creeps into the repertoire of policymakers, shifting the focus off student needs and appropriate pedagogy for meeting
    these needs and onto inflexible bureaucratic solutions that ignore individual learning needs. All of these suggested solutions, usually launched with much fanfare, endless and usually mind-numbing workshops for teachers, and little, if any, research or track record for success, have been offered as silver bullets that can “save” our schools and raise the test scores of our lowest-achieving students. The sad fact is that these schemes simply have not worked!

    What do all of these reform initiatives have in common? Most are built on structural changes, designed by well-intentioned policymakers or agencies (usually far removed from the classroom), and calculated to have an impact on entire school districts, states, or even the nation. More important, however, is that these structural changes have drawn mainly upon (and even forced) a low-level pedagogy that is highly prescriptive and didactic— approaches to learning that emphasize the accumulation, storage, and retrieval of information that will show up on the next round of standardized tests. We have become so obsessed
    with content standards and test scores that assess mainly memory that we have lost sight of the most important outcomes of schooling—thinking, reasoning, creativity, and problem-solving skills that allow young people to use the information driven by content standards in interesting and engaging ways.

    Are There Reasonable and Practical Alternatives?

    Over the past decade, the mainstream diet for the majority of low-income and struggling learners has been dominated by a remedial and compensatory pedagogy that has not diminished the achievement gap, but, as research has shown, has actually contributed to its perpetuation (Ford, Howard, Harris & Tyson, 2000; American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2004). Many of these programs are designed to find out what a child can’t do, doesn’t like to do, and sees no reason for doing, and, then, teachers are told to
    spend the majority of classroom time beating him or her to death with it. This pedagogy of prescription and practice simply hasn’t worked! Documentation of this failure is plainly evident in one national report after another (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2005; Center on Education Policy (CEP), 2008), and, yet, we continue our search for yet another quick fix through structural rearrangements of schools, rather than through alternative pedagogical modifications that deal directly with the enjoyment, engagement, and enthusiasm that result from a more inductive and investigative brand of learning. The solutions offered, by whatever new names we give them (e.g., competency-based, outcomes-based, standards-based), are always reiterations of the same pedagogy—the same drill-and-practice model for learning that simply has not worked. Furthermore, the universal criterion for accountability always remains the same, again with new names given to the same old achievement tests that mainly measure memorized factual information. It is the singular reliance on these tests for accountability, at the exclusion of other important performance-based outcomes, which forces the pedagogy of prescription, a pedagogy that drives good teachers from their profession and that lobotomizes those teachers who remain.
    Is it any wonder that some of our very best teachers are fleeing urban schools where prescription has become the almost universally practiced pedagogy?

    Learning Theory 101: The Short Course

    All learning, from diapers to doctorate, exists on a continuum ranging from deductive, didactic, and prescriptive, on the one hand, to inductive, investigative, and inquiry-oriented, on the other. Students who have not achieved are subjected to endless amounts of repetitious practice material, guided by the didactic
    model. Then, when scores do not improve, we often think that the obvious solution is simply to redouble our efforts with what has been popularly called a “drill-and-kill” approach to learning: an approach that has turned many of our schools into joyless places that promote mind-numbing boredom, lack of genuine student and teacher engagement, absenteeism, increased dropout rates, and other byproducts of over-dependence on mechanized learning. Proponents of popular, but highly prescriptive, reading programs frequently boast about test score gains, but the endless drill and practice only prepare students for taking tests correlated to the worksheets rather than actually learning to read, let alone enjoying reading and making it an important part of their lives (Reis et al., 2004). Many students subjected to over-prescription never pick up a book on their own, a sad commentary on how we have messed up the teaching of reading by turning it into the teaching of test taking. With this kind of a track record, shouldn’t we be smart enough to blend the benefits of an inductive and investigative pedagogy into a system that has mainly failed our at-risk populations, and shouldn’t we also be smart enough to note the rising dissatisfaction of middle-class parents whose children are also becoming subjected to the same drill-oriented, test-prep curriculum? One high-school student recently described her Advanced Placement (AP) courses as “…nothing more than high speed test prep.” Two Ohio students, from an affluent school district, wrote in a letter to their governor, “Schools once renowned for their unique learning programs are becoming nothing more than soul-less factories that churn out those that can excel at standardized tests, while discarding those who can't.” Is it any wonder that a parent from a high-status community speculated that there was, indeed, a sinister conspiracy afoot to close the achievement gap, and the conspiracy consisted of dragging down the scores of high-achieving students!

    Research on the role of student engagement is clear and unequivocal. High engagement results in higher achievement, improved self concept and self-efficacy, and more favorable attitudes toward school and learning (Herrington, Oliver & Reeves, 2002; Ainley, 1993). There is a strong body of research that points out the crucial difference between time spent and time engaged in school activities. In the recently published international PISA study (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2007), the single criterion that distinguished nations with the highest and lowest levels of student achievement was the degree to which students were engaged in their studies. This finding took into account demographic factors, such as ethnicity and the socio-economic differences among the groups studied.

    The Most Important Outcomes of Education

    The pedagogy of prescription has, perhaps unintentionally, but, nonetheless, clearly demonstrated
    that it has withheld from low-income children the exact kinds of thinking skills that are necessary for successful participation in today’s higher education and our growing global economy. The word “perhaps” is used because I don’t think there is a clandestine conspiracy on the parts of policymakers and the textbook and testing cartel to keep low income children poorly educated, thereby, limiting access to economic mobility. Make no mistake—neglect, mismanagement, and a lack of courage to challenge unsuccessful practices is the equivalent of a bonafide conspiracy. If failed approaches have continued to produce dismal results, perhaps, it is time to examine a counter intuitive approach based on a pedagogy that is the polar opposite of that used by Pavlov to train his dogs! Accountability for the truly educated mind in today’s knowledge-driven economy should, first and foremost, attend to students’ ability to perform the following operations:

    • plan a task and consider alternatives;

    • monitor one’s understanding and the need for additional information;

    • identify patterns, relationships, and discrepancies in information;

    • generate reasonable arguments, explanations, hypotheses, and ideas, using appropriate information sources, vocabulary, and concepts;

    • draw comparisons and analogies to other problems;

    • formulate meaningful questions;

    • apply and transform factual information into usable knowledge;

    • rapidly and efficiently access just-in-time information and selectively extract meaning from that information;

    • extend one's thinking beyond the information given;

    • detect bias, make comparisons, draw conclusions, and predict outcomes;

    • apportion time, schedules, and resources;

    • apply knowledge and problem-solving strategies to real-world problems;

    • work effectively with others;

    • communicate effectively in different genres, languages, and formats;

    • derive enjoyment from active engagement in the act of learning; and

    • creatively solve problems and produce new ideas.

    These are the student-engagement skills that grow young minds, promote genuine enthusiasm for learning, and, as our research has shown, increase achievement (Renzulli & Reis, 1985). Although student engagement has been defined in many ways, I view it as the infectious enthusiasm that students display
    when working on something that is of personal interest in an inductive and investigative manner. It takes into account student learning styles and preferred modes of expression, as well as interests and levels of knowledge in an area of study. It is through these highly engaging approaches that students are motivated to improve basic skills and bring their work to increasingly higher levels of perfection. True engagement results from learning activities that challenge young people to “stretch” beyond their current comfort level, activities that are based on resources and methods of inquiry that are qualitatively different from excessive
    practice. Our research has shown that teaching students to think critically, analytically, and creatively actually improves plain, old-fashioned achievement (Renzulli & Reis, 1997; Renzulli, 2008). Our guiding principle in this kind of learning is simply “No Child Left Bored!”

    Moreover, the key role of engagement cannot be over-emphasized for students whose achievement has been hampered by limited experiences, resources, or supports. In a longitudinal study comparing time spent versus time engaged on the achievement of at-risk students, conventional instructional practices were found to be responsible for students’ increased risk of academic delay (Greenwood, 1991).

    Another study reported important differences in achievement outcomes favoring engaged over disengaged students of similar ability (Greenwood, 1991). Hours of drilling on American College Testing (ACT) questions in Chicago high schools may be hurting, not helping, students’ scores on the college admission exam, according to a study released recently by a university-based research organization (Samuels, 2008). The Consortium on Chicago School Research (2008), based at the University of Chicago, found, in their 2005 report, that teachers in the 409,000- student district would spend about one month of instructional time on ACT practice in the core classes offered during the junior year. The ACT scores, however, were lower in schools where Grade 11 teachers reported spending 40% of their time on ACT-test preparation, compared to schools where teachers devoted less than 20% of their class time to this activity. The boredom factor was cited as an explanation for this seemingly counter intuitive finding.

    Although focusing on the engagement oriented operations, listed above, may be counter intuitive to the “more-practice-is-better” pedagogy, we need look only at the track record of compensatory learning models to realize that we have been banging our collective heads against the wall and following an endless
    parade of failed reforms that have been forced through the schoolhouse door by people far removed from classrooms, schools, and local-level decision makers.

    How did we allow committees of bureaucrats to write endless lists of content standards without equal or even greater attention to standards for good thinking and the kinds of authentic assessment that shows how good thinking is demonstrated? How did we allow textbook companies to stuff their books with
    increasingly monotonous practice materials that prescribe and dictate what teachers must do every minute of the school day? And how did we give the test publishers the gun that is held against the collective heads of every superintendent, principal, teacher, and student in the nation? Even state education commissioners,
    some of whom are responsible for buying into various silver-bullet solutions, are now being “held accountable” for low scores in their states.

    If we are going to break the stranglehold that the perpetrators of failed practices have had on our schools and the lives of children, we need some leaders at all levels—federal, state, and local—courageous enough to explore bolder and more innovative alternatives that will provide all students with highly enriched learning opportunities typical of those in the nation’s very best public and private schools. This is not to say that we should abandon a strong curriculum that focuses on basic competencies, nor should we forget to demand accountability data to evaluate returns on investment for alternate approaches to addressing the problem.

    We need to move the focus away from memorizing content and toward the kinds of thinking skills or operations mentioned earlier. We also need to develop accountability procedures (not just tests) that show us how well students are learning to apply their thinking to authentic problem-solving situations. This kind of accountability may not put the bubble-sheet companies out of business, but it will help force the issue of building a richer school pedagogy.

    We also need to infuse the curriculum with a series of motivationally rich experiences that promote student engagement, enjoyment, and a genuine enthusiasm for learning. Common sense and our own experience tell us that we always do a better job when we are working on something in which we are personally engaged— something that we are really “into” and that we truly enjoy. How many unengaged students have you seen on the school newspaper staff, the basketball team, the chess club, the debate team, or the concert choir?

    Their engagement occurs because these students have some choice in the area in which they will participate; they interact in a real world, goal-oriented environment with other like-minded students interested in developing expertise in their chosen area; they use authentic problem-solving, interpersonal, and creative strategies; they produce a product, service, or performance that is evidence of the level and quality of their work; and their work is brought to bear on one or more intended audiences other than, or at least in addition to, the teacher (Renzulli & Reis, 1985). The engagement that results from these kinds of experiences exemplifies the best way to approach joyful and engaging learning, one that differs completely from the prescriptive and remedial education approach to learning that is common in low-income classrooms.

    Is There a Way to Make Real Change Rather than the Appearance of Change?

    Recognition of the achievement-gap problem and the effect that failed solutions have had on schools that serve all of our young people has resulted in some very predictable activity. The usual national commissions and new rounds of federal, state, and foundation reports calling for “bolder and broader approaches” have, at least, recognized the existence of the crisis facing our schools, but we must be cautious of looking for approaches that emphasize the same structural solutions without primary consideration to the pedagogy that is at the core of any sustentative changes in learning. We must also be cautious about seeking solutions from the same people and practices that caused these problems in the first place.

    Requiring all students to take x number of courses, raising passionate calls for more teacher and administrator training, demanding a more rigorous standards-based curriculum, extending the regular school day and year, providing tutoring and homework helpers, and conducting summer school will not bring about sustainable change unless we change how teaching is done.

    Three Strategies for Creating a 21st-Century Pedagogy

    To a large degree, we have become what our technology has made us. We began communicating more effectively because of inventions such as the telegraph, the telephone, and the Internet, and because travel became faster and more efficient with the inventions of the steam engine, the airplane, and jet engines. In his book, The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America (Klein, 2008), Klein documents the well-known, economic principle that supply creates its own demand. Education changed dramatically when the technology evolved from books that only families and schoolmasters had in hand to textbooks from which all students could learn simultaneously. When schools gained the technology of copy machines, easily reproducible workbooks and practice materials became a mainstay of the learning process. This technology has driven both what and how young people have learned for most of the past and present century. Students memorize factual material and engage in endless practice simply because such material is available. Supply creates its own demand!

    Almost every area of modern life has made imaginative uses of technology, while, in education, we have settled for electronic applications of the same old technology that did not differ pedagogically from standard drill-and practice forms of teaching (e.g., online worksheets). These early generations of educational technology may have given teachers some extra “helpers,” but, because they were based on a knowledge-acquisition pedagogy, the skills that students need for success in the 21st century are still only by-products of present- day models of teaching and learning. How can we bring about the changes in the engagement-oriented pedagogy necessary to turn things around? Although I will not argue that technology without planned teacher involvement and technology-savvy teachers is the answer to our prayers, we now have the next generation of education technology that can give teachers the tools to do several important things to promote high-engagement teaching and learning. We must, however, be careful not to use this technology to recreate electronic forms of the same old pedagogy upon which we are trying to improve. This technology goes beyond the online worksheets, electronic encyclopedias, and online courses that were the earliest applications of technology for classroom use.

    Although it may sound like a cliché, the advent of the Internet and easy access to most of the world’s knowledge by young people is literally changing the time-honored learning theories that have guided curriculum and instruction for several centuries. Teachers and textbooks are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge, and the old curriculum paradigm that consisted mainly of to-be-presented knowledge is giving way to, what I call, just-in-time (JIT) knowledge—the knowledge that students seek out when it is necessary to solve a problem, whether posed by the teacher or self-selected by a student (or small group) due to personal interest. Students will obviously need to learn the basic skills of the three Rs, but they will also need to learn technological skills of inquiry in order to make efficient use of JIT knowledge. Among these skills is the ability to

    • identify trustworthy and useful information,

    • manage overabundant information selectively,

    • organize, classify, and evaluate information,

    • conduct self-assessments of web-based information,

    • use relevant information to advance the quality of one’s work, and

    • communicate information effectively in various genres and modes of expression.

    This use of JIT knowledge is the paradigm that is available to all young people, and it will create the motivation and engagement that has largely been lost by a to-be-presented curriculum and a brand of learning that minimized the sheer joy of finding out things on one’s own.

    So, let us now look at three applications of this new generation of education technology to
    modern-day learning.

    Assessment of Student Strengths

    The first innovative use of this next-generation technology is that teachers can now get a comprehensive look at all the major characteristics of their students, characteristics that go beyond simply knowing about their standardized achievement test standings. Using a computer-generated student profile, developed at the University of Connecticut, we are able to provide information quickly and easily about student interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expression, as well as about student perceptions of their strengths in the traditional, academic subject areas (Reis & Renzulli, 2008). The simple assumption underlying the use of this technology-generated profile is that the more teachers know about these learner dimensions, the better able they will be to make decisions about what materials and activities have the highest potential for engaging the learner.

    Matching Resources to Student Profiles

    Although differentiation is an important, contemporary goal of much of today’s efforts to make learning more meaningful for young people, the sad fact is that most teachers simply do not have the time to seek out the resources that can accommodate the varied learning needs of an increasingly diverse school population. The second way technology can affect pedagogy is by giving teachers easy access to the wealth of enrichment and engagement-oriented material that is available through the Internet and through materials and activities that have been purposefully selected and placed into easily assessable databases.

    Now, let’s examine the “magic” of combining these two uses of technology. Through advanced programming techniques, a search engine can examine thousands of multiply classified,1 high-engagement resources and match these resources to information about learner characteristics revealed in student profiles. This tool provides teachers with the means for true differentiation based on individual student profiles, with the computer doing the heavy lifting! In view of the number and diversity of young people that teachers must deal with every day, it would be impossible to achieve this kind of personalized learning
    without the use of technology. What is even more important is that the easy availability of highly engaging resources, in combination with the matching capability of the technology, “forces” the kind of engagement-oriented pedagogy with which we are trying to infuse the curriculum.

    Teacher Training

    The recommendation is to reexamine the ways that we train teachers, especially already employed teachers who have not had access to the technology courses now routinely available in most undergraduate teacher-training programs. Research shows that most schoolbased professional development that is occasional or short-term has little or no effect on teachers’ classroom behaviors, and most teachers can tell their own horror stories about sitting through endless hours of “spray-andpray” workshops. Never-ending lists of glittering generalities, flashy slide shows, flavor-of the-month innovations, and strategies with no
    research support are paraded out by seductive speakers. I have no argument with a certain amount of professional development in both general and content-specific teaching strategies.

    All teachers should be constantly improving their subject-matter competencies, but the focus of professional development in a technology-driven pedagogy should be on strategies that allow teachers to help young people master the already-mentioned technological skills of inquiry. The acquisition and application of these skills will turn our teachers into the proverbial “guides-on-the-side” rather than simply traditional disseminators of information, which have characterized so much of our education
    system in pre-technology approaches to learning. This transformed role of teachers and approaches to instruction will bring about the sought-after differentiation and changes in engagement and motivation that have eluded us in reform efforts thus far.

    National Resolve and Bold Action Needed

    Many national education leaders and politicians characterize the current challenges facing our schools as a crisis in the American education system. It will not be easy to turn around a school system whose leaders have made massive financial and policy investments in one particular brand of learning, nor will it be easy to circumvent the powerful influence of the textbook and test-publishing industries that have thrived on a prescriptive curriculum and standardized-test-driven approaches to accountability. However, a gentle
    and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, approach to school reform is possible if we begin to take advantage of the remarkable advances that have taken place in information technology, advances that have brought within reach the equivalent of a dozen teaching assistants in every classroom, all day, every day.

    This technology now makes it possible to assess students’ interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expressing themselves quickly and easily. What formerly took teachers weeks or even months to learn about student strengths can now be assessed in less than an hour, through computer-generated profiles. Powerful search engines can examine thousands of high-end learning resources that are matched to individual student profiles.

    True differentiation, much talked about but seldom achieved, can take place if we can let the technology do the hard work of finding and matching resources that are engagement oriented rather than practice oriented.

    Leon Lederman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, recently said, “Once upon a time, America sheltered an Einstein, went to the Moon, and gave the world the laser, electronic computer, nylon stockings, television, and the cure for polio. Today, we are in the process, albeit unwittingly, of abandoning this leadership role” (Berger, 1994). Every school and classroom in this country has in it young people who are capable of continuing this remarkable tradition of discovery and invention. The tradition, however, will not survive without a national resolve and bold action on the parts of policymakers at all levels to change the pedagogy that drives instruction in classrooms that serve all of our young people. You don’t produce future scientists and inventors, such as Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison, Sally Ride, or Marie Curie, by forcing them to learn in a one-size-fits-all, drilland-practice curriculum or by spending hundreds of hours preparing for state achievement tests. You don’t develop the potential of thousands of Leonard Bernsteins, Aretha Franklins, or Miles Davises without providing them with highly engaging opportunities in music that typically are only available in out-of school opportunities and mainly to the children of the well-to-do. You don’t develop world leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Golda Meir, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mahatma Gandhi, by having them memorize endless lists of facts that today’s technology-savvy kids can find when they need them with a few clicks of the computer keyboard. You also don’t produce the next generation of talented writers, such as Rachel Carson, Langston Hughes, and Tennessee Williams, by having them spend endless hours completing mindless worksheets in preparation for the next round of state mastery tests. It is only through expanding our pedagogy, engaging all students, and making imaginative uses of technology that America’s schools will be able truly to engage our children and develop their creative potential, as well as their love of learning.

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