Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

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!

09.18

When Ideas Spark

By Deborah Mersino

Be willing to fail. Magic just might happen. When reaching for something grand, failure is always a possibility. That possibility, though, should never derail simmering ideas from having the chance to fully ignite.

Unfortunately, in our society today, people still long for assurances. We want and demand straight lines, correct multiple choice answers, proficient stats, empirical research, and guarantees of success before we dive in, mix it up, get messy, fall down, stand back up, dance around the fire, and create with passion.

We’re afraid of all the things that could go wrong. We forget that bumps are inevitable, dips serve us powerfully, and failure – perhaps even getting burned – is always, always inherent in risk. We forget that if and when we fall down, we may just see situations anew and stumble upon new trajectories. One wrong turn may lead us to novel avenues, fresh thinking. And remarkably, sometimes our first, second, fifteenth or six hundredth try will actually work.

When our children, our students, our colleagues, our teachers, our politicians, our friends and family have an idea, do we immediately respond with, “That sounds fine and dandy, but…” or do we allow the flickering idea to flourish for a bit? Do we throw sand on the embers or add our own sparks of support?

I ask because right now we need idea generators. We need creative solutions. We need risk takers. We need spark plugs. We need you.

So the next time your right brain delights you with an idea, be kind to yourself and nurture the possibilities. All those left-brain, rational considerations will be addressed in due time. The warmth and glow of that initial firestorm, though, will be what gives you the strength and clarity for the long haul. Let’s.all.think.differently.

09.12

Take Five: Spotlight on Resources for Gifted Learners

By Deborah Mersino

On 09.02.11, our #gtchat session focused on five resources and sites resplendent with information and opportunities for educators, parents, and gifted education advocates. As promised, I am recapping the resources here. Please share these five finds with classroom educators, gifted specialists, administrators, friends, parents, students, and tech lovers. The links are live, so simply scroll over them to access.

{Drum roll, please….}

#1 – www.brianhousand.com

After you take a moment to appreciate the clever logo, dive into this site, designed by  Brian Housand, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. You’ll be happy you did. Many of you may know Brian from his novel presentations at NAGC, Confratuate, and Edufest (among others). This forward-thinking educator never tires of “exploring ways in which technology can enhance the learning environment” and “striving to define what it means to be creatively productive in a digital age.”

If you click on 2011, 2010, and/or 2009 on www.brianhousand.com, you will see just how busy this digital guru has been. Be sure to click on the “60 in 60” presentation in 2011, where Brian introduces “60 Sites in 60 Minutes.” And although you won’t hear Brian’s riveting dialogue, you will see some of the most current apps and sites worth exploring. You’ll also get a true sense of what the future of education could look like.

#2 – www.byrdseed.com

Perhaps one of the finest gifted education blogs available today, Ian Byrd crafts regular posts to stretch our thinking – and benefit the minds and spirits of gifted learners. Ian has taught in a gifted classroom since 2007 and was a GATE student himself from first through sixth grade. He’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after speakers for professional development in gifted education. To me, it makes perfect sense. This humble, yet wickedly creative soul has tenaciously devoted himself to making education come alive for gifted learners via sound gifted education practices mixed with relevant life and digital applications. More than 3,400 educators have already signed up to receive his free PDF entitled, “Improve Your Gifted Classroom: 7 Ways in 7 Days.” Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, resources, and/or fresh ideas, Ian’s blog and site will inspire.

#3 – www.everydayintensity.com

During our #gtchat session, I actually shared a different resource in this #3 spot, only to later realize the site had grown cobwebs {gasp} from being poorly managed. In its place, I’m pleased to highlight one of my favorite new streams, the Everyday Intensity blog, which I personally have delivered via email because it’s.that.good. Lisa Rivero has been a strong force for good via social media platforms this past year. She not only serves on the Board of SENG, but also teaches, writes books, and now pens a Creative Synthesis blog for Psychology Today.

In Everyday Intensity, Lisa asks,

  • Do you want to know how to live with more intensity?
  • Are you interested in finding and sharing resources that pertain to intense learners (children and adults), giftedness, creativity, and personal growth?
  • Are you looking for ways to learn about and discuss giftedness that move away from the gifted label?

If you’re looking for wisdom and grounded insights, this site will open your eyes and evoke a sense of community and wonder. You’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement and shifting your thinking regularly. After all, isn’t that what the best blogs do?

#4 – www.activehistory.co.uk

Russel Tar (@RusselTarr) was one of the first educators I started following on Twitter back in 2009, and he’s still one of the best. Currently working as the Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, Russel has created the ActiveHistory site for teachers and students of World History, and he regularly offers up some of the best history resources on the planet. His site is chock-full of interactive simulations, decision-making games, self-marking quizzes, worksheets, and lesson plans designed to make education captivating.

ActiveHistory has received acclaim throughout the world. The New York Times, The Guardian and other major news outlets have praised the apps on the site, including his Head2Head Interviews, where students can have virtual conversations with historical figures like Hitler or King Henry VIII. Whether you want your students to compare and contrast the rise of power of Mao to Stalin, interview William the Conqueror or pass sentences on criminals living in the 19th Century, this site is for you. Even if you want to devise a new IB Study Unit on Pinochet, he’s got you covered.

Unlike all the other sites listed in this recap, ActiveHistory costs, but it is reasonable. While you can often get free resources from @RusselTarr on Twitter, he does require a small fee to access the full content of the site. Fees for a whole school run $150.00 US/$125 Euros. Single teacher access runs $60 US/$50 Euros. Please let me know if and when you start utilizing this site; I will gladly share your experiences – and those of your students – with others. Personally, I can’t wait to create an online book club in seconds…just one of the many activities available.

#5 – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers many vital opportunities for educators; however, not everyone may know about this laudable awards program for gifted students in grades 3 through 6.

Please note that the deadline for this year’s awards program has passed. I’m sharing this because I hope you will keep students in mind for next year!

Here’s what the NAGC site says about the awards:

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is pleased to announce the NAGC – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards program for the 2010-2011 school year. Originally funded by the Nicholas Green Foundation and NAGC, this awards program is designed to recognize distinguished achievement in academics, leadership, or the arts, in children grades 3 through 6. NAGC believes that the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards inspire children to achieve to their fullest potential, highlight high-ability students, and draw attention to the educational needs of our nation’s gifted and talented students.

The Nicholas Green Foundation was established by Maggie and Reg Green to honor the memory of their seven-year-old son Nicholas who was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting Italy in 1994. The Greens paired with NAGC to start the Distinguished Student Awards because they wanted to recognize young people who are: 1.) working hard to make the most of their lives to develop their unique gifts and talents and 2.) around the age of Nicholas at the time of his death.

One child in each state may be named a Nicholas Green Distinguished Student. Each winner receives a $500 U.S. savings bond and an NAGC Certificate of Excellence. Eligible students may be nominated by parents, teachers, students, or community/civic groups.
Thank you to NAGC and Maggie and Reg Green for this program.

So go to the NAGC site, print out the application information, and put it on your bulletin board as an encouraging reminder to think about possible student nominees for next year. During our #gtchat, educator Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) made this worthy suggestion!

That’s it for this recap; I appreciate you stopping by. My hope is that you will not only check out these resources regularly, but also will gladly share them with others. As always, I welcome your comments.

08.20

10 Ways Social Media and the Web Are Moving Gifted Education Forward

By Deborah Mersino

Amid early adopters, platform loyalists, time and budget constraints, enthusiasm, privacy concerns, real-time collaboration, media hype, avoidance, and resource-sharing, it’s clear that social media is not only alive and well and impacting the world of gifted education, but it is also truly shifting mindsets and creating opportunities.

Here are 10 ways social media and the Web are catapulting the gifted education movement forward. Some of these developments have been around for a while now; others depict social media’s current and future evolution relative to gifted, talented, and creative learners – and those who serve them. Thank you to those who have helped crowdsource many of these points.

Should you have additional ideas to offer, please “Leave a Reply” so others can benefit. If you’re a parent, educator or organizational leader who is just getting started online, welcome! I’m hoping this post inspires you to delve in further. As always, feel free to contact me with your questions and/or consulting needs. Here we go!

1. Down come the walls

Scholars, gifted education specialists, classroom teachers, administrators, parents, counselors, authors, and advocates are communicating outside of their long-standing silos, which is igniting newfound learning and compelling action.

2. Up comes the engagement and true collaboration

Like never before, you will find parents helping parents, teachers supporting parents, parents enlightening teachers, psychiatrists answering parents’ questions, authors asking for input on new books, journalists finding sources, and teachers sharing ideas online with verve.

3. Read all about it

Access to scholarly articles, resources, videos, podcasts, blogs, and news about the gifted movement is allowing more immediate response and action, especially relative to advocacy.

4. Options galore

Whether searching for homeschooling resources and/or garnering assistance with a passion or specific subject area, open-source and distance learning opportunities continue to give gifted, talented, and creative learners more opportunities to learn 24/7 – often in collaboration with other learners throughout the world.

5. Dialogue develops

Real-time chats, like #gtchat on Twitter, continue to boost understanding among varied audiences and remind us all that gifted learners and those who parent and serve them need and deserve ongoing support. Gifted organizations can – and should – begin planning now for virtual conferences to reach broader audiences cost-effectively and efficiently. And while online discussion platforms have served powerfully for years, we’ll continue to see significant growth in this area and other online parent forums in the years ahead.

6. Facebook groups and Google+ Circles provide ideal platforms

Everyday, these tools allow for audiences to witness and participate in Q&A sessions, professional development, and curricula sharing across the globe.

7. Images create momentum and memories

YouTube, Flickr, video blogs, Skype, and Google+ Hangouts are bringing the power and benefits of gifted education and peer interaction to life.

8. Community comes home

Whether a parent or teacher is looking to connect with others about issues of twice-exceptional students, dual-college enrollment, camps for profoundly gifted learners, and/or students in rural areas, today’s social media platforms are making finding one’s tribe not only possible, but also convenient and rewarding.

9. New Zealand informs New York and vice versa

No longer bound by geography, gifted educators, parents, policy makers and advocates are sharing knowledge, resources, and insights globally.

10. Socratic Seminars in Google+ Circles

We’re just at the beginning of transformative learning. Educators at universities and high schools are already seeing the power of shared learning through social media tools. Group projects and real-time dialogue between professors and students, mentors and students, and learners from different countries will continue to ignite ideation and solutions. Here’s just one of hundreds of examples of an organization recognizing the need to “get it” soon: Stanford University GSB Seeking Social Media & Email Marketing Manager, Marketing & Communications.

No Limits

What impresses me most is the intense commitment shown by teachers who are creating, sharing, and applying the latest social media tools and apps to their curriculum. Parents and students are just now seeing the seeds of true engagement. And we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

As more private gifted schools, gifted nonprofits, publishers, and psychiatrists adjust their views of social media, they will stop “marketing” to target audiences and begin engaging them. They will cross the aisle to communicate with other fields. They will tap advertising and online sponsorship options instead of simply signing up to be a vendor at a traditional, in-person conference or expecting others to manually visit their Web site without interaction. Those who don’t may soon find themselves struggling, wondering why conference attendance rates, revenues, and donations are down, and/or finally realizing they’re becoming obsolete despite long-standing leadership in the past.

It can be hard sometimes to fully comprehend the complexities inherent in the intersection of social media, education, and marketing. Leaders who see behind the predominant myths and embrace the possibilities truly will be the ones shaping the future. Here’s to all of you who are open to seeing these new realities!

07.19

Waiting for the Jeff Fesslers of the World

By Deborah Mersino

One of my favorite aspects of social media today is the real-time dialogue taking place between educators, parents, advocates, and influencers of education. Over the course of the past 24 hours, a conversation thread on my personal Facebook page blew me away. What started out as a debate about whether or not Waiting for Superman deserved a place on this “Must-Read Books on Education” list quickly morphed into a detailed and impassioned discussion about the state of public schools in the United States.

The Facebook entry most recently posted by Jeff Fessler*, a public school educator and teacher of the year in the 10th largest district in the country, prompted me to write this Ingeniosus Blog post. Fessler, who is nationally board certified and has trained hundreds of teachers in schools across the country, offered his portrayal of the current state of public education. *Full disclosure: Jeff Fessler is my cousin; however, given his credentials, I would have likely responded with a post like this regardless. His testimony is well worth reading:

It’s impossible to find solutions to our educational challenges by demonizing public schools, championing their privatization, or leaving the voice of educators out of the dialogue–all of which has happened through movies like Waiting for Superman, and through the reprehensible actions of our politicians.

I’ve worked in more than 100 schools across the country either as a trainer or teacher, and I can honestly say that the teachers are NOT the root of the problem. Sure, there were weak teachers (just like there are weak doctors, lawyers, and police officers) but they were certainly in the minority. The root of the problem was, and still is, the NCLB effect (so beautifully described in Kelly Gallagher’s book “Readicide”): (1) Measure student progress levels on high stakes tests every year supposedly to ensure proficiency (2) Rather than test for depth, the high-stakes test value narrow thinking, using multiple choice questions (3) Since an educators’ worth is determined by these tests, teachers are forced to narrow the curriculum to raise scores, usually with intense pressure from administrators and their school district (4) Subjects that aren’t tested disappear (social studies, foreign languages, the arts), worksheets replace novels, lectures replace meaningful projects and field trips, and test prep dominates the schedule (5) struggling students are overwhelmed and unmotivated, average students have no reason to rise above, and high achieving students are bored. Students begin to hate school. (6) Students take the test. Low performing students do poorly. Most average and high achieving students pass, although they’ve missed out on a rich, deep curriculum–like the ones used by countries such as Finland (7) Schools with mostly high income students and without minorities generally do well, schools with mostly low income students or minority students generally receive low test results, are threatened with sanctions, and may be given money…for test prep. These schools are under the gun to produce higher results, so more focus is put on test prep and a narrow curriculum. They basically intensify the failed approach they used the first time, expecting better results.

This is the world we live in as educators. And yet it’s public school teachers who take the blame for the ills of education. Do you realize that for me to use the out-of-the-box approaches I used in my classroom, I had to do so covertly? My research-based approach–arts integrated instruction, service learning, cooperative learning, using novels–was directly at odds with what my district and administrators required! I took a huge risk doing what my educational background and training told me was best for my students. Even more telling: I polled the other 60 teacher of the year winners from the other Florida school districts, and 75% said they also defied their district and administrators’ requirements. Isn’t it ironic that the teachers selected as the very best from their district didn’t follow district protocol? Not many teachers are willing to take that risk, and I can’t blame them. It’s what our legislators have forced us to do, and we are trapped.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many politicians and corporations use NCLB in an attempt to weaken public schools and bolster their case for privatization. Much money is made by the companies who operate charter schools and private schools, and much more money can still be made. NCLB has also given rise to a whole new industry that creates and scores tests, provides test prep materials and training, and so on.

So instead of focusing on the real problems, we get smoke and mirrors…blame lazy teachers, tenure, the unions, teacher benefits, blah, blah, blah. The so-called governor of my own state recently passed legislation that eliminated tenure, ties teacher pay and evaluation to the state test, and deducts money for retirement from my salary (which has not seen a raise in 5 years, mind you)…all without consulting a single educator. His education transformation team included just 1 real educator (I don’t count Michelle Rhee since her 5 weeks of Teach for America training hardly qualifies her as an educator). His current state school board, which guides education policy for the entire state, currently includes not one educator.

Unfortunately this has all taken a toll on my desire to remain an educator in the U.S. I’m currently securing a position at an international school where I can teach with passion and without hiding what I do. A cop-out? Maybe, but my mental health is important to me!

So, if the Jeff Fesslers of this world are leaving their beloved profession here in search of overseas opportunities, what does that say about our country’s educational future? How long will we wait? Until it’s too late? As always, I welcome your comments, perspectives, and input.