Monday, September 27, 2010

Things TED Taught Me … About Gifted Advocacy!

I’m a recent convert to TED talks. And a recent talk ‘caught my eye’. Chris Anderson, one of the suits at TED, presented a talk about global innovation and it exponential growth as the result of video becoming more widely viewed due to the expansion of bandwidth accessibility around the world.

I watched it once. Then I printed out (I know, old school) the transcript. Then I watched it again; and again; and again. My mind seemed to be racing! I felt like that old episode of Outer Limits where the scientists’ heads begin to look like cone-heads and they grow a sixth finger. The premise of ever-accelerating human innovation was certainly appealing, but that wasn’t what I was thinking about …

I was thinking about all the ramifications this talk had for gifted education and our gifted children. Certainly the world stands to benefit from this technology, but for the gifted … it’s like empowerment³!

Crowd-accelerated innovation” depends on a crowd, a light shown on that crowd to illuminate the most capable people in the crowd, and desire. In the past, it took years for innovators to be recognized and then to have their creations supported and distributed. Enter the Internet. Someone, perhaps your gifted child, has an idea and decides to make a video for You Tube. People view it … rate it, comment on it, link to it, tweet it, share it on Facebook. You get the idea. Chris Anderson called it ‘global recognition’. Suddenly, a crowd forms … on online community … and collaboration begins. As the crowd grows, the idea is shared, revised, and innovation occurs. The world is a better place.

The same could be said for gifted advocacy. One parent (@DeborahMersino) had an idea. She had seen the growth of a community of educators on Twitter. She decided to try moderating her own chat on Twitter for gifted education. Within weeks and then months, that one idea had grown into a global community! Parents, educators, advocates, consultants, and school psychologists were collaborating online around the world and around the clock on how to best advocate for our gifted children. And a funny thing happened on the way to the chat … they were discovering that what had once been thought of as isolated incidents surrounding various groups of gifted children were really a global phenomenon. Familiarity was breeding friendships and new approaches! Groups began to form on Facebook; encompassing the Global #gtchat group. And this was just the beginning, folks.

What about educating gifted kids? Story after story was related through various social media outlets by frustrated parents who seemed to be always headed to the next battle with school districts pleading for help for their gifted child. More often than not, the response was always the same … not enough resources, no interest in professional development for teachers, myth-filled excuses as to why gifted children could make it on their own. Yada, yada, yada.

Ah… but the newly developed video resources that were found on the Internet became game changers in the world of education. Forget lousy online classes that were simply a redo of correspondence courses from years past. Now, gifted students can sit in a classroom with a gifted facilitator or at home on their own computer and be taught by a world class educator face to face in real time. Location is no longer a concern. Ability grouping is automatic. Age is no longer a factor as students progress at their own pace. The cost of a college education can become affordable again (although someone will find a way to limit this, no doubt). Crowds begin to form. Light shines on the crowd. The desire to learn and innovate grows. The role of student and teacher blend into the beginning of a new type of learning from each other. History is changed forever.

This may sound like a pipe dream to some or the beginning of just another utopian novel, but the fact of the matter is that this is already happening and gifted children are standing on the precipice of a new day in their own education.

I will include a link to the TED talk for your viewing pleasure. I hope that it excites you as much as it did me. Perhaps you will gain insights that I have missed. I look forward to your comments!

Link - http://bit.ly/aWnyVH

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Group or Not to Group … That Is No Longer the Question!

Educational theories come and go. It’s a fact of life. We always hope that things are improving, but that is not the case when it comes to grouping students by ability. The dreaded ‘tracking’ misnomer is always drug out by opponents to this policy. But like it or not, ability grouping must be reconsidered. The sooner, the better. It doesn’t have to upset the entire system; just apply it to gifted students and case closed.

Why am I being so flippant about this? Because ability grouping already exists in our schools and society today for lots of other groups and I hear no complaints about them. We ability group athletes. The best players are on the starting line-up and everyone else sits on the bench. Start mediocre players and the fans would go wild! The coach would be gone before the end of the season. We ability group musicians in high school bands and orchestras. Students perform rigorous tests to gain the coveted ‘first chair’.

So, exactly what is ability grouping in relation to gifted education and why should you care? Simply stated it is the grouping and regrouping of students according to their present level of performance. It can reach across the curriculum or be applied to just one subject. It works, gifted students are happier and perform better, and regular ed teachers are free to spend more time with their other students. Win, win, win! Contrary to the popular belief that it fosters elitism, the opposite is actually true. The regular classroom is free of those students who always raise their hands first, always get the A’s, and always seem to be the ‘teacher’s pet’.

And consider this … how many regular ed parents would tolerate their children being placed in special education classes just so ‘those’ kids didn’t feel left out? That is exactly how a gifted student often feels in the regular classroom. And what does this say for ‘appropriate education’? Year after year of being forced to sit in classes covering material they already know. Year after year of being told not to work ahead, pay attention or worse … being told they are wrong when in fact they actually know the material better than the teacher. These students need to work in peer groups, engage in competitive learning situations, and be allowed to work independently.

The outcry of education reformers to stop the emphasis on standardized testing and placing so much value on test scores grows louder every day. This message holds special meaning for the gifted community. Most gifted students ‘top out’ on these tests and they don’t need to prove they’re smart. Why not tap their abilities by developing higher level thinking skills, contemplating solutions for complex problems, and encouraging them to work on global issues?

Do not be fooled by the rhetoric that everyone can achieve at the same level. It doesn’t happen, and it will prove to be more harmful to our society if we continue to turn a blind eye to the needs of our gifted students. These students must be allowed to soar as high as their abilities permit. They are humanity’s best hope for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Personal Note

Every once in a while, the consultant needs to seek advice (as well as solace). Although I am currently working on a new post, life has thrown some unexpected challenges my way as a gifted parent and my writing has been severely curtailed.

I have mentioned this before, but I've been very fortunate to find someone who coaches parents of gifted children. Her website can be found at http://www.deepwaterscoaching.com/index.htm . Some of the services include: developing parenting strategies that work for your children and honor who you are; support for the educational issues you face, including the identification process for your gifted children and making school choices; and overcoming the “Imposter Syndrome” and owning your giftedness.

When those times come that you just don't feel you can handle alone, please consider contacting DeepWatersCoach. It can make all the difference in the world!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Personal Branding and Your Gifted Student

A mention of student branding in a recent blog post brought sharp criticism from one reader. It took me by surprise. It became the only comment that I’ve not posted to date. Not because it was critical, but because I thought it was so off the mark. I’ve been contemplating a response ever since.

We live in the 21st century; well, at least most of us do. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and its influence on our lives will only continue to grow. How well we and our children interact with this new media will have a profound impact on how we view others and how they view us. Creating a self-designed image that portrays an accurate picture of oneself can only be done through a process of self-reflection. I like to refer to this as the Polonius factor … ‘to thine own self be true’. Projection and refinement throughout life will one day become second nature.

There are many reasons why a parent should guide their child through this process. Perhaps the most important consideration is that if you don’t do your own branding, someone else will. The reader who found my suggestion so abhorrent seemed to think that branding meant creating a ‘cookie cutter’ image of oneself in order to impress colleges and university admission officers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Truth, in fact, is the most critical part of personal branding. Creating a false image will only result in harming future job prospects and interpersonal relationships. In essence, we are returning to the days of Protagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle when introspection was thought to enrich one’s life, encourage goal setting, and ultimately aid in accomplishing those goals.

Personal branding is a process that may begin any time, but usually not until the teen years. Gifted students will probably begin to ask the pertinent questions such as what are my strengths, my weaknesses, my passions, and my goals sooner than their age-peers. The answers to these questions will help your child begin to formulate the direction they want their life to take; a.k.a., “what do I want to be when I grow up?” This should culminate in the formation of a plan to accomplish goals set during the branding process, and allow for positive steps to be taken to meet these goals.

And what about social media? Through outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, students begin to develop networks of people who share their interests, values, and goals. Connecting with people they meet in school, at camps and conferences, or at social events, and developing relationships can reap many benefits in an increasingly disconnected world. Instead of restricting access to these networks out of fear of what might happen, parents are in the unique position of helping their children to become responsible digital citizens as well as informed citizens who can interact objectively online. Through responsible parenting, you can gain their respect and trust as you act as their personal guidance counselor and partner with them to understand the Internet and how it will affect their lives.

Whether you are a young parent or an older parent, educate yourself about social media and personal branding. Guide your child in a direction that reflects the values you hope to instill in them. It is a brave new world out there and they will thank you one day for being there with them to ensure that their world reflects utopia rather than dystopia.