Education Opinion

NAGC 2010 Day 3

By Tamara Fisher — November 12, 2010 7 min read
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Oh, it has been a loooooooooong and amazing day here at the NAGC convention! My brain is a little foggy after such an intense day, so I hope this all comes out right :o) Here’s the scoop on Day 3:

1) The early hour of 7:00 a.m. saw myself and about 70 other leaders from NAGC’s state affiliates (our state GT associations) gathering for a breakfast meeting/discussion. This yearly event affords us an important opportunity to meet those from other states who do what we do, share ideas, and hear from NAGC leaders about topics relevant to us on a state-affiliate-level.

2) Three mini-keynotes were offered during the second session and I chose the one on using technology to differentiate for gifted learners. (The other two were on creativity and best practices for working with underrepresented youth.) The tech mini-keynote consisted of a panel of four well-known individuals from the field of gifted education who each also have an excellent background in technology and its possible uses with gifted students. Brian Housand, Kevin Bosnoy, Jann Leppien, and Del Siegle enlightened us with thought-provoking discussion about the potential and the implications of expanded tech use for gifted learners. In addition to cautions about falling prey to “the foolishness of toolishness” and to remember to teach our students that there are dark alleys on the internet as well, they offered a wonderful array of digital tools that teachers can use to assist in their aim of differentiating classroom content, process, and product. My favorites:

Kahn Academy, an online and open source project that allows for user-paced learning.
OpenCourseWare Consortium, a collection of online knowledge and courses made available by colleges and universities from around the world.
MusicMasterWorks - You sing into the computer’s microphone and it writes the notes for you!
SocialGo - Build your own social networking site! For example, you could create a closed-community for the gifted students in your school or GT program, a place for them to interact outside of school.

I got a kick out this little moment during the mini-keynote. Here is panelist Del Siegle, whose first career was as a photojournalist for a newspaper in Montana, stepping out of his panelist role and into his photographer skin:

My FAVORITE moment of this mini-keynote was the following slide created by Brian Housand:

3) Next I attended a session by Kristen Stephens of Duke University about student products. She made an important point about product development being a means of acquiring and developing 21st Century Skills (things like creativity & innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking). She talked about the value of assessing not just the student’s product, but also the *process* undergone to create that product. I completely agree with the point she made that as teachers we are often so concerned about product that we neglect the importance of process... and in turn our students pick up on this and will neglect or ignore their process, focusing only on the minimum-necessary-for-the-best-grade bells and whistles while ignoring the multitude of steps that make up the successful creation of a relevant and innovative product.

4) Lunch found me wandering the Exhibit Hall where I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Hoagies lady (“all hail the Hoagies lady!”). I also discovered Scopey the Dog, the coolest little interactive book ever! Your young scientists will be hooked! An additional fascinating find was Donate a Wrinkle, an online platform whereby students can not only post their work (products) online and receive feedback from peers and teachers, but they can also receive feedback from professionals and experts in the field! Donate a Wrinkle has been created by a former teacher of the gifted and her son.

[I also locked horns with another-vendor-who-shall-remain-nameless and got my notoriously low blood pressure up a bit. Great products... but wacky, classroom-UNfriendly marketing... at a teacher convention, no less!]

5) You might recall that I told you last year about a revolutionary professional development format for the delivery of gifted education content and philosophy to teachers in Illinois (created in part by one of my UConn classmates, Diane Beedy, together with Bertie Kingore and many others). What was originally envisioned as simply a means of providing PD to Illinois teachers has been seen for the potential I knew it had a year ago - and come January it will be available for ALL! It is 45 hours of very high quality PD in gifted ed and is adaptable (depending on the teacher-learner’s needs) to face-to-face delivery, digital delivery, or a combination of both face-to-face and digital delivery of the modules. It includes two texts and a flash drive with all content, activities, materials, and resources. It even includes an option for closed-captioning for those who need it. After piloting and implementing over the last year, the creators have found a higher rate of actual implementation of differentiation and other support-for-gifted strategies in the classroom compared to traditionally-delivered PD. It’s so different that once again words fail me in trying to describe just how amazing and revolutionary it is. I encourage you to look at their PowerPoint, which will be available here in NAGC’s Live Learning Center in a few days. Check back if it’s not there right away. They probably have to wait until the conference is over before posting all the handouts. (You might have to sign in with your last name and NAGC membership #, and unfortunately, it may only be available for those who actually registered for the conference - including the virtual conference). In January, you’ll be able to find and purchase this amazing opportunity through Professional Associates Publishing. Finally, a PD format for gifted ed that practices what we preach when it comes to differentiation. The training itself models what is being taught.

6) Next was an enjoyable hour of enlightened ideas presented by Joe Renzulli. He wowed a standing-room-only crowd with a thought-provoking presentation on his Operation Houndstooth, an examination of what makes the difference in whether a gifted individual uses his/her talents for good or for evil. Among the details that make a difference: optimism, courage, passion for a topic or field, sensitivity to human concerns, physical/mental energy, and vision or a sense of destiny.

7) Witnessed a flash-mob-dance in the Exhibit Hall! I’ll post a link when the video gets uploaded by NAGC.

8) Saw teachers testing out brain games.

9) The final session I attended today was on Credit Flexibility. I will definitely be covering this topic in more depth in the coming weeks. I somehow discovered something about this recently and was so excited to see a presentation on it! Credit Flexibility is happening in all Ohio high schools due to a law passed by the Ohio Legislature a couple/few years ago. The law states that Ohio high schools have to allow flexible means for a student to earn credit, including receiving credit for “simply” being able to prove mastery of the content even if they’ve never taken the class. I told my high school class about this a week or two ago and they were drooling with excitement over the possibilities. This means that earning credit in Ohio high schools is now being based on demonstration of competency and mastery, not on reaching a minimal standard after sitting one’s butt in a chair for 180 days. This concept is exploding the box of education. It is the free market for education! A student can test-out of a class and receive credit for having proven mastery of the content. It’s credit for KNOWLEDGE and learning, not credit for being present a required number of hours. Many students still take “traditional” classes to earn their credits, but students now ALSO have the option of earning those credits through a multitude of other means. And it all applies to high school credits, not high school students - which means any student of any age who is able to demonstrate high-school-level mastery and competence in that subject receives credit. (Now my middle school students are drooling...!) Here is one Ohio district’s plan for implementation. Credit Flexibility is a complex but very intriguing option and I look forward to opening the window wider for you on this topic in the near future.

10) Eight of my UConn Masters program classmates are here, the largest number of us that have been together since our graduation in 2004. We gathered for dinner together and then enjoyed time at the UConn party. I’m so blessed to have had them for classmates! What an inspiring, hard-working, thought-provoking, innovative group! (Yes, I know one is missing from the photo...)

Join me here tomorrow for a report on Day 4! :o)

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.