Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

12.03

Texas Leads the Way with #TAGT2011

By Deborah Mersino

What a conference! For those of you who had the privilege of attending the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented Professional Development Conference, Gifted 3.0, I am hoping your time in Austin proved fruitful and inspiring. I certainly feel energized from the buzz created by the impassioned educators, administrators, psychologists, and parents who took part in this forward-thinking conference orchestrated by linchpin leaders, like TAGT’s Past President Michelle Swain, newly installed President Lynette Breedlove, Executive Director JJ Colburn, Associate Director Tracy Weinberg, Marketing & Communications Coordinator David Estlund, the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers!

Whether or not you attended this year, you will want to mark your calendars now for TAGT’s 35th Annual Professional Development Conference in Dallas, scheduled for November 28-30, 2012! It’s sure to be THE conference for visionary learning designed to serve and positively impact GT educators, administrators, parents, advocates, policy makers, psychologists, and students.

For those of you who are becoming cognizant of the rich Professional Development (PD) opportunities inherent in Social Networking year round, I encourage you to “dip that digital toe” (thank you Dr. Lynette Breedlove) into the water and begin exploring Twitter to create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN). If you didn’t attend a session on how to get connected, here is a written How to Tweet Primer, which will help get you started, so you can begin engaging with educators from across the world and even learn how to participate in #gtchat, the weekly chat on Twitter devoted solely to issues of giftedness.

Joel McIntosh, publisher of Prufrock Press, graciously put together a brief Guide to Twitter video prior to the conference. Wherever you live, it is worth checking out too.

I encourage you to continue utilizing the #gtchat hashtag when you are posting resources, questions, and/or thoughts about gifted education in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Additionally, I suggest using TweetChat to search for the LIVE #gtchat stream throughout the week and on Fridays, rather than simply searching for #gtchat in the Twitter Search Box. You can also try HootSuite and/or TweetDeck. See what you like best and determine what feels the most comfortable to you!

The LIVE Twitter feed in the Social Connections area right before #gtchat!

Remember, #gtchat takes place at noon (EST) and 7pm (EST) every Friday, which is 11am (CST) and 6pm (CST). Feel free to lurk and/or participate. Here’s a picture of the swanky Social Connections area at this year’s #TAGT2011, which was made possible by Adventures in Learning. It was packed during the LIVE #gtchat session!

If you have questions (big or small) in the days ahead, feel free to send me an email at deborah@ingeniosus.net. I will do my best to answer your question/s and/or find someone who might be able to assist. I do get hundreds of requests, so please be patient. There’s nothing I enjoy more, though, than helping gifted education advocates connect!

TAGT, the 2010-2011 Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor, and other sponsors, including The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado’s Summer Enrichment Program, truly make #gtchat possible. Their support allows me to serve as a connector year round; I cannot thank them enough!

For those of you who signed up to get updates following the conference, I will be sending out the next #gtchat NEWS in the next few weeks. This next issue will include links to gifted education blogs from around the world, links to suggested resources, and more! If you didn’t sign one of my sheets at the conference, feel free to subscribe to #gtchat NEWS by clicking here and looking for the “Subscribe to #gtchat NEWS” section on the lower, right-hand side of the page.

If you have reflections on the conference, favorite 21st Century Learning tools you may have discovered, and/or new inspiration from #TAGT2011, I encourage you to “Leave a Reply” below and/or post to Twitter using #gtchat and #TAGT2011. The learning from this year’s powerful conference can continue, as we all work to serve this critical population with zeal!

Lastly, I want to say again how honored I feel to be among such talented and creative individuals, who care so deeply about the needs of gifted learners. I was touched by the hospitality of Texans and also appreciate those of you from around the world who went out of their way to make new tweeps feel welcome on #gtchat. You’re helping to change the world for gifted learners one tweet at a time!

11.17

How Grade Skipping Changed Everything

speed limit

By Deborah Mersino

I’ve only been knee-deep in the world of gifted and talented education for 3+ years. Prior to that, my exposure was somewhat minor. I read scores of parenting books (some on gifted children), and we had both girls tested for programming at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. We also considered sending them to Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, prior to our move to Colorado. However, it wasn’t until this summer that we heard the words about our dd10 (dearest daughter who is 10), “She’s an excellent candidate for a grade skip, and she wants to…”

Then, a week or so later, the same scenario repeated itself with my younger daughter at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. “She, too, would be a prime candidate for acceleration.”

My first reaction was, “Really? Are you serious?” For one, I thought acceleration was primarily geared toward early entrance to kindergarten and profoundly gifted kids entering college. Our two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were smack dab in the middle of elementary school. Did people really grade skip at this juncture? I had loads of questions:

  • How will we know if it’s the right decision?
  • What happens if one skips and the other one doesn’t want to?
  • What about the fact that one daughter doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of school? She’s not even getting top marks.
  • What about my perfectionistic daughter? Will it be too challenging for her?
  • What about socially? Are they mature enough to handle a skip?
  • Will the school be amenable? How do I even initiate the process of discussing acceleration?
  • Should we be concerned that there are equally bright students (perhaps even more advanced) in their current classes?  They do have peers. Shouldn’t they simply stay where they are?
  • Will they feel too much pressure? Is this just a novel idea that will wear off when the work seems harder?
  • What about learning gaps? What happens if they don’t know what they’re supposed to learn about Colorado history and/or certain science requirements?
  • What if they start and then hate it?

Thankfully, we got all of these questions answered and then some. Between Dr. Linda Silverman, Barbara (“Bobbie”) Jackson Gilman, and Kim Boham at the Gifted Development Center, we not only discussed each question thoroughly, but we also learned an extraordinary amount about research on acceleration, how vital it is for the students to initiate the idea (not parents), and how to advocate with the school to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Many of you have asked me to share a bit more about our experiences. I’m going to simply provide a brief summary. As you can imagine, every child is different, and every school situation differs as well. This is not meant to be an exhaustive testimony on acceleration, but rather an example of how it unraveled for one family – ours. My hope is that you may resonate with some of the questions and/or concerns we had and learn a bit more about how to explore this option.

Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned:

  • Comprehensive assessment and testing is essential. We were fortunate to have both girls tested at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. We started with a Needs Assessment. Then, the measures administered included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition (WISC-IV); Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III ACH), Self-Perception Profile – Ages 8-12, “What I Am Like”, Gifted Development Center Emotional Inventory, Characteristics of Giftedness in Children Scale, Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, Behavioral Checklist, Short Sensory Profile, Overexcitability Inventory for Parents (OIP). This is only a sampling of the tests/measurements available to families; these represent the customized recommendations based upon our girls’ Needs Assessments.
  • Having a psychologist who specializes in gifted learners is essential. Both our girls felt an immediate rapport with the testers. Given we have an introvert and an extrovert, I was delighted. Such camaraderie helped make the entire experience much more enjoyable. Both girls had fun, and my oldest even said, “Why can’t school be more like this?” Moreover, the amount of experience and discernment such experts bring can have a significant impact on the quality of the evaluation, recommendations, and consultation.
  • Proper assessment gives parents a clear picture of their student. As someone who is admittedly controlling, I thought I had a pretty good read on my girls. I was actually aghast upon looking at their WJ-III scores. “Really?” I thought. I was also surprised to hear some of the comments they both had made to their testers about school. Afterwards, we felt as if we had new lenses on, which would help us in the years to come.
  • Parents can discover hidden learning disabilities and/or minor glitches. We learned that both girls had small tracking issues with their vision, something that often goes undetected in regular eye exams. Both girls received referrals for visual-therapy. Parents of twice exceptional students benefit particularly from comprehensive assessments such as this.
  • The post-test consultation was worth its weight in gold. I found myself shaking my head in amazement as I learned new insights about their personality types, their strengths, nuances, outlooks on life and family, views on school, needs, and passions.
  • The Psychoeducational Evaluation we received allowed us to initiate discussions with our girls’ school in an ideal manner.

Iowa Acceleration Scale

In the days to follow, we contacted the school’s GT specialist, who offered to complete the Iowa Acceleration Scale for both girls. According to the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, the Iowa Acceleration Scale offers the following:

  • A more objective look at the student;
  • An analysis of the major factors to be considered in making a decision;
  • Guidelines for weighting the relative importance of the major factors;
  • Documentation of the student’s strengths and concerns;
  • A numerical range to guide the discussion and decision of acceleration; and,
  • A standard of comparison with students who have had successful accelerations.

Together with the Psychoeducational Evaluation provided by the Gifted Development Center, this tool accessed additional factors. After the specialist discerned that both girls were, in fact, good candidates, he scheduled a meeting with the school principal, the assistant principal, the school counselor, the District’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator, and our entire family.

We sat down in July with this group at the school and had an informal discussion about what the girls wanted and their concerns. Both girls readily stated they wanted to do a whole grade-skip. After discussing specifics, including dd10 going into Middle School instead of 5th grade, we came to a final decision.

In the weeks following, we had several conversations about next steps. It was then that the GT specialist suggested our dd10 take the end-of-year 6th grade Math assessment. Based upon her Woodcock-Johnson III scores, he and the principal thought she might benefit from a double-acceleration in Math. After taking the test, she was given the option to go from 4th grade math directly to 7th grade math; she chose to give it a whirl.

We’re now several months into the school year, and I must say, the grade skips have had such an extraordinary positive impact on both girls. We’re fortunate that the receiving teachers welcomed the girls with open arms and understanding. The principal,  GT teacher, GT coordinator, and counselor proved so supportive and insightful. The adjustment has been much smoother than I anticipated. DD10 has confidence navigating the halls of middle school and has made good friends. She even went to her first dance right before Halloween! DD09 has finally gotten comfortable with not immediately knowing the answers in class and is developing much more of a growth mindset. She says this is her favorite year of school by far.

I realize we’re fortunate. Not all administrators and classroom teachers are familiar with the empirical research on acceleration. My hope is that this post might open a few minds. There will always be those who argue, “But you’re giving up a whole year with your kids!” and “They won’t have their driver’s license at the same time as other kids.” I feel more calm about our decision than ever.

Thanks to the experts at the Gifted Development Center and the girls’ school who guided us, I’m now aware of the dangers of not grade skipping students with certain profiles. Breezing through coursework without being sufficiently challenged and potentially losing interest in school altogether can prove debilitating – and even toxic – later on in life.

Here’s to promoting  a love for learning with no limits. Here’s to the psychologists, gifted specialists, and administrators who take the time to learn about the research and the cognitive and social-emotional needs of these learners. You’re impacting our collective futures, and I, for one, am utterly grateful.

11.17

Are You a Visual-Spatial Learner?

picture in mind

By Deborah Mersino

I remember vividly the day my daughter at age 4 said spontaneously, “You know Mom, when you want to remember something important, you just need to take a picture of it with your mind. Then, you can keep it forever and go back to it whenever you want.”

At the time, I had never heard of the term visual-spatial learner (VSL), nor did I understand the essential implications for supporting students who think in images at school and at home.

In her book, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD, writes about this learning style in detail. Silverman, a licensed psychologist who directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, explains that “…the way VSLs learn is upside-down: easy material is often hard for them and the hard subjects are easy.”

In describing how society views these individuals, she says, “…right-hemispheric giftedness turns all of our preconceived notions of “smart” upside down. Visual spatial-learners usually don’t conform to the typical notions we have about bright people. We rarely think of them as gifted children. Yet, in adult life, it is visual-spatial reasoning that leads to true genius: scientific and technological breakthroughs, innovative forms of art, inventions, new perspectives in every field, and visionary leadership. Sounds like something we should know about, right?

Silverman’s colleague Betty Maxwell summarized it this way:

  • There appear to be two major ways of learning: auditory-sequential (more left-hemispheric) and visual-spatial (more right-hemispheric). Auditory-sequential learners are good listeners, learn well in a step-by-step process, tend to be rapid processors of information, and are generally able to express themselves verbally. They are often able to compartmentalize their reasoning from their emotions.
  • In contrast, visual-spatial learners are excellent observers, comprehend holistically – may have a sudden “Aha!” understanding that leaps over steps – appear to think in images, may need translation time to put their ideas into words, and sometimes have word retrieval problems. Their thinking and emotions are very intertwined.

So, why then should we learn more about visual-spatial learners? Neither learning style is better than the other. According to Silverman, “Some of my highly gifted, complex friends find this dichotomy too simplistic. Maybe it is. I certainly don’t mean to imply that people are completely one or the other. I see each pair of the characteristics as a continuum, and I believe we are all a mixture of both.

“More teachers need to be able to spot visual-spatial learners, so that their special talents can be developed,” says Silverman. “Validation studies we conducted with middle schoolers suggest that approximately one-third of the school population are probably visual-spatial learners! Their numbers are growing and we simply can’t afford to ignore them any longer.”

Do you think in images? Are you a visual-spatial learner?

Are you ready to discern whether your student is a VSL? Whether you’re a VSL? Click here for the Visual-Spatial/Auditory-Sequential Identifier.

Then, to learn more, visit http://visualspatial.com/. This site, which will be redesigned soon, is chock full of useful information for teachers, parents, psychologists, and administrators. I also highly recommend the book, “Upside-Down Brilliance.” It’s now available for purchase via the Australian Gifted Support Centre. Click here for the order form (it’s a bit tricky to open; you’ll need to right-click and save).

Upside-Down Brilliance

It’s worth it though. This book provides specifics on all things visual-spatial, including assessment, twice-exceptional students, the inner world of introverts, the challenges of parenting a visual-spatial learner, teaching techniques that work, and what it means to be a visual-spatial adult. I could not put it down.

When I saw one of the cartoons in the book, with a teacher asking a student this question, “You mean to tell me that you can do this complex math problem, but you can’t tell me what day follows Tuesday?” I smiled and thought of my daughter. She makes more sense to me now. And isn’t that what the best books do? Expand our knowledge and understanding?

Here’s to visual-spatial learners everywhere; after all, you do make the world click!

10.20

An Invitation to Austin: Guest Post by TAGT President Michelle Swain

Michelle Swain

By Michelle Swain, 2011 TAGT Executive Board President

As President of the Executive Board for the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, I would like to invite all of you to my home town of Austin for our 34th Annual Professional Development Conference. The TAGT staff and Local Arrangements Committee have done an amazing job putting together another wonderful conference with some of the best presenters and exhibitors in the nation!

We are so excited for you to experience the many presentations, activities, and events all focused on gifted and talented children, and to take advantage of the opportunities to learn, network, and re-connect with friends. We encourage you to come enjoy the Austin lifestyle and experience the many restaurants and live music venues during your evenings. We hope the Annual Conference is one of the highlights of your year and that each of you will take your new knowledge and insight home to share with students, teachers, parents, and colleagues.

Austin

Our conference theme this year, Gifted 3.0, has multiple meanings. This is a time of new frontiers for education. Schools will be implementing new state assessments under new financially-influenced conditions and new accountability systems. Educators, parents, and students continue to explore new technology and applications which influence how we teach and learn. The gifted community is also exploring new and better ways to identify and serve gifted students, using what we know from the Texas GT Equity initiative and research from the field to expand opportunities to traditionally under-represented populations. All of these meanings converge in the theme and are reflected in the presentations you will enjoy during your time in Austin.

This year’s conference promises to be an outstanding experience, with the return of many valuable activities and events and a few new changes. We begin the conference on Wednesday with conference institutes, in-depth study of topics of interest over three to six hours with experts in the field. Wednesday evening we host the open house for parents, allowing the opportunity to access the exhibit hall and free mini-sessions of interest.

Thursday morning, Dr. Bertie Kingore, TAGT 2011 President’s Award recipient, will enrich us with her wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of gifted education in our opening general session. Friday morning, we will engage in a panel discussion on social media technology with Deborah Mersino, Ian Byrd, Joel McIntosh, and TAGT President-Elect Dr. Lynette Breedlove, followed by a live session of the international Twitter sensation – #gtchat! Friday afternoon we are hosting the Curriculum Potpourri. What an exciting way to bring the conference to a close!

Another new feature this year is a special conference-within-a-conference for psychologists, counselors, and others interested in the identification and assessment of gifted youth. Titled Testing the Gifted in the 21st Century: Looking Forward, this event features many leaders in the field, including Dr. Linda Silverman, Dr. David Lohman, Dr. Susan Johnsen, Dr. John Wasserman, Dr. Jack Naglieri, Dr. Joyce Juntune, Dr. Paul Beljan, and Dr. James Webb. Over the three days, it will be possible to earn as much as 15 hours of professional development credit. This training is co-sponsored by Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), an approved provider of continuing education for psychologists by the American Psychological Association.

We hope you are able to attend TAGT’s 34th Annual Professional Development Conference and we know the time you spend here will enrich both your personal and professional life. We sincerely appreciate your support of both TAGT and gifted children.

10.19

TAGT Signs On as Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor!

#gtchat Sponsor logo

By Deborah Mersino

Global #gtchat just got a boost. Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) has signed on as a Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor for 2011-2012!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the work of TAGT, I encourage you to visit the TAGT Web site and check out its upcoming 34th Annual Professional Development Conference, which will take place this year in Austin, Texas from Nov. 30th to Dec. 2nd. Tomorrow, TAGT Executive Board President Michelle Swain will share a Guest Post on the Ingeniosus Blog with all the details on this year’s Gifted 3.0 theme and conference offerings. It’s just around the corner, and it’s all about connections; I could not be more enthused!

According to TAGT Executive Director JJ Colburn, “The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) is thrilled to sign on as the 2011-2012 Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor, and we look forward to working together to connect our community. TAGT has been exploring strategies to expand our online presence and #gtchat is a proven leader in providing services to and collaboration between educators, parents, advocates, and gifted learners. Innovative, relevant, and engaging are words that embody the purpose of TAGT and also describe perfectly the endeavors of #gtchat, making this relationship a natural fit.”

The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) is the nation’s largest state advocacy group of its kind, providing more than 2,500 engaged and diverse members a forum for exchanging ideas and information about the education of gifted learners. Chartered in 1978, this non-profit organization leads the way in creating and offering meaningful resources to benefit the gifted community. TAGT’s mission is to connect and empower educators and parents to meet the unique social, emotional, and intellectual needs of gifted and talented students, and it carries that mission out by providing relevant, innovative educational services, programs, and resources.

What a privilege to have TAGT step up and recognize the power of #gtchat and collaborative online platforms! TAGT’s Lead Global #gtchat Sponsorship will support the upcoming expansion of the Ingeniosus Web site, including the addition of an Ingeniosus Parent Portal and an Ingeniosus Educator Portal. Moreover, this sponsorship will help ensure Global #gtchat continues to be a source of education and inspiration for the thousands of parents, administrators, educators, psychologists, and gifted education advocates who make up our growing community. Here’s to positively impacting the lives of gifted and talented learners in the year ahead; thank you, TAGT!