Posts Tagged ‘Gifted’

01.28

New Beginnings and Heaps of Gratitude

By Deborah Mersino

{Taking a deep breath….slowly exhaling…} Earlier this week, I accepted an offer to become the new Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in Eugene, Oregon. It’s a role of a lifetime for me. Of course, saying good-bye to Ingeniosus and #gtchat makes me tear up…talk about overexcitabilities in overdrive {Shaking my head as I pay homage to Dabrowski}.

Please know I am already working with my Global #gtchat Sponsors to pass the baton, and am truly hopeful #gtchat will continue on without me. Global #gtchat really belongs to all of YOU, who have helped make it what it is today. Your verve, generosity, dedication, creativity, authenticity, and collaborative energy have propelled it forward every chat, every week, every month, and every year.

This has all happened quite suddenly; so, it’s a bit of a whirlwind in the Mersino household right now. We are driving out to Eugene, Oregon this Wednesday with the girls to find a rental home and look at schools. It’s hard to comprehend us moving in about a week and a half {Another deep breath in…exhaling…}!

As such, it may take a bit to flesh out the details of #gtchat amid travel, packing, and general moving chaos. Therefore, I especially appreciate your patience, as I look to lay the groundwork for continued global chats to benefit gifted learners and those who serve them. I will make an announcement about #gtchat just as soon as possible.

Collaborating with all of you these past three years has been such a privilege. I will never look at Fridays the same way again. You have enriched my life, my learning, my understanding, and my appreciation for global connections. With every blog post, response, update, retweet, reply, direct message, and fast-moving chat, you have ignited the power of digital communications for good and given me hope for the future of gifted learners throughout the world.

My passion for gifted education will not lie dormant! As many of you know, though, I am also passionate about 21st Century Learning and am utterly impressed with what ISTE has done and is doing internationally. I have had the good fortune of meeting with the Senior Leadership Council, which I will be joining, and the Marketing and Communications Division team members. The caliber of talent and drive at this organization is beyond inspiring. I feel quite fortunate!

Many of you have sent me kind wishes, notes, emails, and posts recently. My heart overfloweth with gratitude. As I travel down this new road, I will carry all of your goodness with me. {Packing it internally}. This will give me courage and conviction to step into the future.

Thank you all for being such an integral part of my life. Here’s to continuing advocacy, social responsibility, and collaboration ripe with ideation, compassion, and strategic vision to impart all that is good for learners everywhere {Smiling as I think of the continued influence you will all have…}.

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs

12.23

And the 2011 Global #gtchat Award Winners Are…

By Deborah Mersino

I’m pleased to announce the recipients of the First Annual Global #gtchat Awards! We celebrated the contributions of these linchpins during our final #gtchat of 2011 at noon (EST) today. Please join me in congratulating our winners and thanking these collaborators for their hard work throughout the year! Without further ado, here are your champions {cue applause}:

  • Global #gtchat Award for Most Devoted Participant: Jo Freitag, @jofrei, who gets up at 3/4:00 a.m. in Australia every week to participate in our noon (EST) chat!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Gifted News Postings: Lisa Conrad, @ljconrad, who is the gifted education news maven. She never fails to post timely, relevant links from around the world!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Passion: Krissy Venosdale, @KTVee, whose infectious energy blankets her blog posts & tweets. She’s a space-loving, White House-visiting tweep who puts students first!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Vision: Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, @TXGifted, who put Social Networking on the big stage at its Gifted 3.0 Conference and offered free Wi-Fi to all attendees.
  • Global #gtchat Award for International Impact: Tim Dracup, @GiftedPhoenix, who provides us with in-depth profiles of global gifted education centers & policy information regularly.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Levity in Life: Jen Torbeck Merrill, @laughingatchaos, whose authentic, brilliant, no-holds-barred look at life w/2E kids gives us hope.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Technical Prowess: Brian Housand, @brianhousand, who has been leading the way for 21st Century Learning & Gifted Education!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Best Blog: Ian Byrd, @ByrdseedGifted, whose humble, yet potent leadership has created a firestorm of support for gifted learners.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Homeschooling Leadership: Corin Barsily Goodwin, @GiftedHF, who has given homeschooling parents inspiration & resources galore.

And, last, but certainly not least…

  • Global #gtchat Award for Lifetime Inspiration & Impact: Carolyn K., @HoagiesGifted, who has paved the way for us all to collaborate. She’s the mother of connection! Her contributions for the past 13/14 years have provided the foundation for connectivity and hope. I admire her greatly!

Choosing was particularly difficult in several categories; however, I hope to honor additional worthy individuals in the years ahead! Congratulations again to this year’s winners. Thank you also to our Global #gtchat Sponsors, including @GattonAcademy, @GiftedDevCenter, and @TXGifted, and all the participants who have helped make #gtchat what it is today. Whether you are new to #gtchat or have been around since the first chat in January 2010, you matter!

Here’s to a powerful and impactful 2012!

12.19

5 Gifts from 2011; 5 Hopes for 2012

As we come to the close of this year, I find it particularly refreshing to look back and reflect on the many blessings, which have been bestowed on this community of impassioned educators, parents, and gifted education advocates. Here are just five of the happenings, which have brought me hope and renewed my belief in our ability to positively alter the future for gifted learners via digital media collaboration, the removal of walls, creative programming, and strategic communications and advocacy.

1. Global #gtchat continues to grow.

Our worldwide chat is now officially two years old! Congratulations to all of you who have helped make #gtchat what it is today. I continue to be overwhelmed by the devotion of participants who have made – or are just starting to make – #gtchat a regular part of their week and learning. Please join us for our last chat of 2011 this Friday, December 23rd at noon (EST), as we reflect as a community on “Progress Made in 2011; Hopes for 2012!” Global #gtchat will then take a holiday hiatus and resume its regular schedule on Friday, January 6th at noon (EST) and 7:00 pm (EST).

2. People throughout the world are recognizing the power of collaboration & digital platforms to benefit education.

This year, participants from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and all throughout the United States demonstrated the power inherent in sharing resources, dialogue, and ideation in real-time to benefit these learners and those who serve them. The Ingeniosus site drew a record 55,000+ unique visitors from 150 countries in 2011 alone for a total of 800,000+ hits to date. <=look what you’ve created!

3. I’ve had a dream come true.

When I participated in a Keynote Panel, moderated by TAGT President Lynette Breedlove, on the power of Social Media at the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented’s Gifted 3.0 Conference, I felt immensely privileged. Addressing 1,000+ educators and parents, I had a ball and was blown away by the amount of interest, enthusiasm, and dedication demonstrated by individuals hungry to tap new professional and personal development opportunities online. Hearing people I’ve never met scream down a hallway, “I just sent my first tweet!” with enthusiasm made my heart sing.

4. I’m honored to be working with three of the finest organizations devoted to gifted learners right now.

For 2011-2012, Global #gtchat Sponsors include The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky and the Gifted Development Center, as well as our new Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor, the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT). I also want to tip my hat to the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Northern Colorado for its support this past year; it was an honor to serve you!

5. I’ve offered Social Media Trainings/Consults to premier organizations in the United States this year.

Being able to debunk myths about the role of Social Media today, evoke an honest understanding of its power and capabilities, cull organizational findings via customized online surveys, and offer strategic communication and organizational recommendations to institutions and businesses serving gifted learners has allowed me to combine my knowledge and professional marketing experience in such a pragmatic way. When I see light bulbs going off and when I challenge organizations to view themselves in today’s environment versus “business as usual” I am able to see linchpins in action, which is satisfying beyond measure. Moreover, the Ingeniosus Authors Program launched in 2011 and has already started to gain momentum!

My five hopes for 2012 include:

1. Kicking Ingeniosus into full gear.

Ingeniosus is just three years old and is finally figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up – a leading global consulting firm dedicated to fostering connections to benefit gifted learners worldwide. In 2012, I plan to raise the ante on advocacy and programming, and also look forward to expanding the Web site, conducting more Social Media Trainings/Consults, securing additional Global #gtchat Sponsors, and growing the Ingeniosus Authors Program.

2. Being a productive rabblerouser.

I’m committed to continuing to ask hard questions and provoke thought, action, and change. Seeing that my CALL TO ACTION: Making Gifted Education Relevant Today and 10 Ways Social Media and the Web Are Moving Gifted Education Forward posts were among the top-read posts of 2011 has further ignited my commitment to stepping out. Even stumbling across this news from the Government of South Australia’s Department for Education and Child Development reminds me of the exponential power of our work. Casting fear aside, I want to be bold enough to foster new paths and enthusiasm for intelligent advocacy today, new forms of professional development (including digital swaps and real-time collaboration), and a blend of traditional PR and sage digital relations.

3. Speaking to 12,000+ individuals in 2012.

Educators, parents, and gifted education advocates are hungry for connection and learning. In 2012, I have a goal of speaking to 12,000+ people throughout the world via a variety of paid speaking engagements (in-person and Skype). Every person, every voice counts. Every parent who feels inspired, every educator who begins to incorporate more 21st Century Learning with his or her gifted students, every advocate who sees an avenue amid the Perfect Storm of gifted education matters. Every professor of gifted education who sees digital media as an opportunity and takes a risk, every gifted organization that asks itself how it needs to evolve to better serve, every parent who interacts more with local school boards, embraces their intense child, and partners more effectively with schools matters! Contact me if you want to help ensure this happens!

4. Launching the Ingeniosus “Your Move” Awards Program.

This may prove to be one of the most challenging, yet inspirational endeavors yet; however, I’m determined to find a way to birth the Ingeniosus “Your Move” Program into being and provoke young minds to tap digital tools for social good this year. I’m currently working to secure judges and sponsors for this program. Stay tuned for what I hope will be a powerful illustration of the potency of young minds utilizing today’s technology for good while supporting passion and learning with global connections.

5. Remembering always that each person is a part of the harmonious whole.

My life and work has been transformed because of you – yes you. If you’re reading this, if you have started to delve into the world of digital collaboration, and/or if you’re an advocate – young or old, then you have given my life immense purpose and supported my passion. Here’s hoping in 2012, I serve you – and those in your care — with fortitude as I do my part to honor the harmonious whole.

With gratitude,

Deborah Mersino

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.