Posts Tagged ‘Gifted’

11.17

Get Ready for the “Your Move” Ingeniosus Awards!

by Deborah Mersino

Giddiness is a state of mind. Right now, I have several endeavors causing me to feel giddy. Among them is a new awards program I’m readying to launch in 2012. The idea for this program came to me a while ago. We even had a #gtchat about various possible aspects of the social responsibility program geared to inspire gifted, talented, and creative students from all over the world to use technology and ideation for social good.

You may remember we tossed around several potential names for the program, including “Seeds for Social Good” and “Technovisionaries.” It wasn’t until today, though, that I decided to move forward. I was reading Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. With rapt attention, I devoured chapter after chapter and learned about Hsieh’s various entrepreneurial endeavors and how the name Zappos came to be (means “shoe” in Spanish with an extra “p” to avoid mispronunciation). Something clicked inside me and made me realize the time for this program is now. Since Ingeniosus means “talented and able” in Latin, I realized I already had a name.

The “Your Move” Ingeniosus Awards Program will commence in 2012, and planning is already underway. The global awards program will be housed on the Ingeniosus Web site. Stay tuned for a video announcement in mid-December and the official announcement in January.

This program will combine the best of 21st Century Learning, visionary thinking, entrepreneurial prowess and support, and socially responsible missions. I’m currently lining up judges, mentors, and sponsors for the “Your Move” Ingeniosus Awards Program, and yes, I’m giddy about the prospects.

Here’s to a satisfying year of igniting bright young minds with bursts of inspiration to benefit our collective futures!

11.17

Global Learning: A Central Element at this Atypical High School

Gatton - Global

by Corey Alderdice

A funny thing happened along the way toward building a STEM school. We knew the curriculum would include elements beyond science and math. Arts, humanities, language, and social sciences are at the heart of both our state’s pre-college requirements and any comprehensive curriculum. What we didn’t expect at the beginning was that study abroad and global learning would become a hallmark of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky. With the US Department of State and US Department of Education’s International Education Week slated for November 14-18, I want to share with you how global learning went from happenstance to a central element of our school’s vision for an atypical high school education.

Western Kentucky University, where the Gatton Academy is housed, launched a three-week January winter term in which students could pursue coursework, internships, and other learning opportunities. Because their peers in local high schools would be back in class shortly after the start of a new year, it seemed natural that Academy students would also return to their students at the start of a new year. The Center for Gifted Studies at WKU, with whom we share offices and history, takes middle and high school students to Europe each year. That open period in the calendar afforded us a unique chance to help students learn about the history, language, and culture outside of the context of a classroom setting. In that first year, twenty-eight students traded gray clouds and snowflakes for more hospitable environs throughout Italy. Since that time, winter trips have also included stops in Spain, Portugal, Greece, and France.

In 2010, China was added to that list as students participated in the WKU Chinese Flagship Program. Language Flagships are located at universities across the nation. A National Science Foundation grant allowed two students to conduct chemistry research in Taiwan that summer as well. Earlier this year, students conducted plant and wildlife research in the cloud forests of Costa Rice at Cloud Bridge Nature Preserve. This summer, a group of students studied literature in England, with our base of operations located at Harlaxton College in Grantham. Students also returned to China through a Confucius Institute program while others studied in China and Morocco through a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship, which is a competitive program available to all high school students. One student even parlayed her experience in South Africa into a global relief initiative that built a safehouse for women and children who have been abused.

Five years later, over half of the Gatton Academy student body will study abroad this year. By the time the Class of 2012 graduates, seventy-five percent of them will have been abroad at least once through an Academy experience.

Why would a STEM school—or any high school for that matter—place such an emphasis on global learning? Books like The World is Flat and China, Inc. remind us that the United States is not the only global power in the twenty-first century. The emergence of industry and technology in Asia, the growing need for a workforce that can communicate with Arabic nations, and continued appreciation of how the humanities shaped the West demonstrate the value of these courses and topics. Moreover, we believe that STEM learning is not an end unto itself. Discussing STEM in concert with language, cultural awareness, entrepreneurship, innovation and art results in students and citizens who possess broader critical reasoning and awareness that open further professional avenues down the road. The ability to place those studies not only in focus but also on the ground and in context causes their influence to resonate more fully with students. In the way that hands-on learning in laboratories connects students to the real-world aspects of STEM concepts, we hope students will immerse themselves in any subject that sparks their interest.

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!

10.19

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!

10.18

Q&A with Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, author of Bright, Talented, & Black

by Deborah Mersino

On October 7, 2011, Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, author of Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Learners, served as a Guest Expert on Global #gtchat. What transpired during that hour moved me immensely and also touched those participating in the chat.

Our discussion about identifying and serving gifted learners from Argentina to Somoa highlighted the fact that many of the challenges pertinent to African American gifted learners today mimic the issues faced by gifted and talented individuals of other races worldwide. We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. Davis with us, as she shared her perspectives on how educators, parents, caregivers, and advocates of Black gifted learners can foster more support for this critical population.

Whether you are a parent or grandparent looking to support your gifted learner or an educator or administrator who wants to better understand the specific needs of Black gifted learners, you will find this book and Dr. Davis’ Web site to be an essential guide chock full of relevant, timely information and resources.

It’s been a privilege getting to know Dr. Davis these past few months; I highly respect her work. Later this month, I will share a follow-up post, which will include a sampling of the online resources she shares in her book and a poignant poem by her daughter, entitled “I Am.” For now, though, please enjoy this Q&A with a true game changer, who is working tirelessly to ensure we support all gifted and talented learners worldwide.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

As a gifted education coordinator in local school districts and later as state department director I was in contact w/ many parents & educators who were concerned, as I was, that schools were not appropriately identifying and serving all gifted learners. Too many Black students, low income, and other diverse populations were attending schools wherein their strengths were going unrecognized and thus, the children were unchallenged and their gifts and talents wasted. I also realized after my interactions w/ so many parents over the years, that one of the reasons that more white students were being served was because of strong advocacy on the part of their parents. I knew that whenever I had a chance to write a book it would be for Black parents who needed to know more about gifted education so they too could become strong advocates and ‘push’ schools to do more for their high potential and gifted learners. The black community & educators also needed to know more about challenges these students face and how conditions could be improved in schools for the benefit of more students.

2. What are some of the most common challenges Black gifted learners face today?

There are three that always come to mind when this question is asked: 1) The first challenge is low expectations that many educators have for African American and other diverse populations simply because of their discriminatory behaviors/biases and lack of knowledge about the black culture. 2) The second challenge is related- teachers with minimal or no training about cultural diversity and how culture impacts the way students learn, how teachers lack understanding or experience with other groups and the strengths that culturally diverse populations can express in a culturally sensitive environment. 3) The third challenge is retention in gifted and advanced learner programs once identified and placed. Identifying students is a challenge, but without the right set of affective supports- many students will lose interest, feel out of place, and simply withdraw from services designed to prepare them for more challenging learning environments in high school and beyond. Supportive peer or cohort groupings of gifted learners from similar cultural groups have a strong impact on the retention of students in gifted and advanced learner programs. Engagement of parents & families also has a positive impact on student success and retention in gifted programs.

Bright Talented Black Book Cover

3. What do you hope parents will take away from reading “Bright, Talented, and Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners”?

I hope that this book empowers parents to become Advocates and Champions for their children and others like them. When we do see a population of black students identified for gifted programs, these students are still under-represented as compared to the general population. Nationwide, while black students represent 17-18% of the general school-aged population, they still only represent 8% of the identified gifted population. When parents are empowered to speak up for their own children, my hope is that they will do the same for others. Far too many students are languishing in classrooms everyday because their teachers don’t recognize their gifts or refuse to and that parents don’t have the information they need to make good decisions about how to get schools to address their child’s strengths and provide the right services for them.

4. What can parents, educators, and community members of all races do to better ensure support for this critical population?

Becoming informed is the first step, the next is forming community-school task force groups to look into why schools and school districts are continuing to overlook or under-serve these students. Community-school task force groups can be VERY effective if they hold consistent meetings, with deliberate agendas to probe the school district and use information from Bright Talented & Black and other resources to inform their goals and objectives.

5. If a parent is concerned about their child or teen potentially underachieving, what can they do?

Underachievement is often difficult to spot. It is more than your seeing a ‘dip’ in school performance. Underachievement can have many causes, student-teacher relationship, school environment, the student’s own internal motivation, peer relationships and home issues are just some of the triggers. What is a bit tricky, however, is that some students may be getting ‘good grades’ and still underachieving, because the coursework lacks challenge and is too easy. Thus, those students may also be underachieving because of low level expectations and coursework.

When a parent realizes that a student who was once very satisfied and motivated by the school experience loses that motivation and satisfaction…the first step is to talk with your child. As a matter of fact, in research studies, high achieving Black students report that at home they talk frequently about school related matters, values, traditions and that their open honest conversations assist in keeping them focused in school. Accusations of the teacher, school, and student are not beneficial. But, a frank honest conversation about what is happening at school will usually reveal some clues. A meeting with the teacher(s) or counselor is also helpful. There are a number of excellent books to assist parents with tackling underachievement. I list many of those books in the Appendix of Bright, Talented & Black. Other resources can be found at the Social-Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) organization’s website.

6. How have your own experiences influenced your insights and advice?

My experiences as a student, parent, and educator taken together have enabled me to look at the issue of under-representation of Black students in gifted programs from many viewpoints. While my schooling took place many years ago, I was accelerated and grade-skipped during elementary school and for the most part, challenged across content areas. Later, in high school, I was bored and unchallenged- It was through the arts and leadership experiences that I had opportunities to stretch and have a more enriched experience. As a parent, I went into parenting then as a strong advocate, but not only for my children, but for others as well. I took advantage of numerous opportunities to initiate new programs that would serve more students and provide enrichment as well as acceleration for them. Working at the state department and seeing gifted education from a broader perspective did the most to inform my insights. It was through my work at the state level that I came to understand more fully what disadvantages some children had simply because of their ethnicity, their geography/location, or their income. Clearly, more work had to be done and I committed myself to devote my career to opening access and opportunities for students whose needs were not being met in schools in varied settings.

7. Although the title says it’s a guide for families, “Bright, Talented, & Black” is highly relevant for educators as well. What do hope educators will take a away from this book?

I do hope that educators will use this book as a resource guide to help them become more familiar with the intellectual and affective needs of African American gifted learners. I also hope that the book will provide resources, strategies and programs they might utilize locally in developing improved services options for these children and others whose needs are currently not met in gifted programs. I believe that Bright, Talented & Black while written with the African American community in mind can serve to enhance understandings of the nature and needs of all gifted children. With that in mind- I think that educators will find this a useful tool that they want to be sure to have on their bookshelf and one that they will gladly refer to others.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would just like to say in another generation, I do hope that we can ERADICATE the whole notion of under-representation from our educational jargon. Identifying the gifts of learners from all ethnic groups is critical to our survival as a nation and as individuals. We can no longer afford to waste anyone’s gifts and talents. The cure to cancer, AIDS, the nation’s economic dilemma, development of an educational model that is efficient, effective & equitable, and the end to the energy and ecological crisis lie in the mind, heart and soul of a gifted learner somewhere right now. No one knows who that gifted learner may be, what neighborhood they may come from or what hue their skin may be, or how much money their family may have. But it is our shared obligation to seek them out, nurture them and provide options for the development of their ideas.

About Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D.

Dr. Davis is an assistant Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she teaches undergraduate & graduate courses in Diversity Education & Gifted Education, respectively. She began her career in gifted education as a local coordinator in Virginia and eventually served for five years as State Specialist for Gifted Programs, K-12 for the Commonwealth of VA. As a sought-out expert in the area of Diversity in Gifted Education, Dr. Davis has provided services to districts across the country, in the Caribbean and South Africa. She holds two degrees (Masters and Doctorate) in gifted education from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, and is currently serving Co- Chair of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Diversity & Equity Committee. Dr. Davis also writes a column for Teaching for High Potential, a publication of the NAGC and is co-editor of MOSAIC, the Special Populations Network newsletter for NAGC. Most recently, Dr. Davis was named to the Advisory Board of Gifted Child Today, a practitioner-oriented peer reviewed journal with the largest subscription base of any gifted education journal in the nation. Dr. Davis is married, has three adult children, and shares four grandchildren with her husband.