Giftedness in Early Childhood: Touch Technologies and Educational Apps

TECHNOLOGY-CHILDREN-facebook (1) Touch Technologies can provide unique and rich educational opportunities for gifted children when used to bridge for the gifted child’s asynchronous development. Young children who are cognitively advanced often experience deep frustration when they can visualise what they want to achieve and yet cannot create it. This can result in meltdowns of mammoth proportions.

One  major benefit of Touch Technologies is that they enable a child to gain early access to educational material once considered beyond his/her competency due to his/her fine motor development, for example a young child manipulating a mouse and computer keyboard. While these technologies may provide a solution they can also present parents with a conundrum. How do parents discern whether the software being utilised is indeed a good educational fit with their gifted child’s learning needs? App selection need not be a hit and miss affair.  

Educational Apps can be plotted along a continuum from Instructive, through Manipulable, to Constructive (Highfield & Goodwin, 2012).This continuum provides insight into the level of cognitive engagement and higher order thinking skills required when using the Apps for purposeful learning.

Instructive Apps, for example, Maths Bingo and Counting Caterpillar, predominantly focus on drill and practice and tend to require low levels of cognitive engagement. Usually presented in game format they are colourful and considered to be fun, these generally have high appeal. These ‘game’ Apps have a mission and goals and offer extrinsic rewards (reaching higher levels). They are mastery based and are useful for some students who are seeking to gain proficiency in an area.

Manipulable Apps, for example, Toontastic and Pirate Treasure Hunt, tend to lead children in guided discovery, they allow for multiple responses and provide opportunities for choice. These Apps provide for moderate levels of cognitive engagement and tend to be quite addictive as they give instant feedback.

Constructive Apps such as, Book Creator, Story Kit, Drawing Pad, iMovie, and Explain Everything, are creative and open-ended and allow users to create their own content or digital items. These Apps require high cognitive involvement, and tend to have limited extrinsic rewards. A child who engages in learning without the expectation of extrinsic rewards does so for the sheer enjoyment of learning.

The short video on Instructive Apps provides further detail on the continuum proposed by Highfield and Goodwin (2012).   

Analysis of the top 10 paid ‘Education’ Apps over an 18 month period in three countries (United States of America, United Kingdom and Australia) revealed that there was a predominance of instructive Apps (75%), with a further 23% being manipulable and only 2% being constructive. This has implications for young gifted learners. Parent knowledge on the types of ‘educational’ Apps will be crucial to discern which Apps are likely to provide meaningful learning opportunities that are a good educational fit for their children.

References

Goodwin, K., & Highfield, K. (2012) iTouch and ILearn: An examination of ‘educational’ Apps. Paper presented at the Early Education and Technology for Children conference, March 14-16, 2012. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photocredit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1162425/thumbs/o-TECHNOLOGY-CHILDREN-facebook.jpg

This is a post for the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week blog tour http://ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/1104/

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By giftedsue

Unleashing Potential: Personal Interest Project

Awake the Sleeping Dragon

Sleeping_Dragon_by_Airdin

Linda Silverman (2013) in her book Giftedness 101  refers to giftedness as a “sleeping dragon”. She explains that:

There is more to some people than meets the eye. When one knows what to look for,

giftedness appears in unanticipated places, expressed in unexpected ways…If one

notices that there is something special about a child and conveys a glint of recognition,

the sleeping dragon within may awaken and begin to breathe fire into this little person’s soul.

(Silverman, 2013, p. 2)

It seems to me that many parents yearn for this recognition for their child at school. For just ONE teacher, to recognise the spark – the sleeping dragon, in their child. It is when the dragon is awakened that the passion for learning is ignited and reignited. A passion that fuels the child’s very existence at school. Rousing the dragon from slumber, through recognition of a child’s strengths is a transformative experience for the child in particular, but also for parents and teachers.

I believe that school can be transformed into a place of purpose and connection, where a child feels acknowledged, listened to, and valued, and it is these aspects that facilitate engagement. Transformation may not apply to all aspects of school life, and some of our gifted children have gifts and talents in domains that are not within the realm of school development, however, encouraging a child to grow his or her area(s) of strength wherever possible, is often the magic that awakens the dragon. Acknowledgment, appreciation and use of strengths, may unleash endless possibilities.

I’d like to share with you the story of one such dragon awakening. Just before Christmas in 2013, a young man, at 16 years of age achieved a dream – the launch of his first novel.  His road at school, like many gifted young people, had not been smooth. A complex young man who displayed multiple overexcitabilities, always preoccupied in class, his nose in a book, or his mind elsewhere. Never entirely present within the classroom he’d miss instructions and ask questions or demand explanations within seconds of a concept being discussed at length. Everyone else knew what to do and where to go, he was the exception. A young man clearly out of step. He just never seemed to listen, was distracted and preoccupied.

His questioning showed a line of intensity the teacher said he could not fathom. However, one aspect the teacher recognised was the young boy’s passion for reading and writing. In a quiet moment one day teacher asked the young boy, then in Grade 3, what he would like to be and do when he was older. Without hesitating the student declared that all he wanted to do was to be an author. He was, he said, ‘born to write.’ With writing talents that way surpassed his peers, the teacher seized on this opportunity. He  provided the student with an opportunity to complete a personal interest project. No surprises that his self-selected topic was “How to be an Author.”

Within days the student returned with a piece of cardboard on which information was randomly pasted. The heading “How to be an Author” in large black letters. He was, he declared ‘finished’. The teacher read the ‘poster’, a clear cut and paste from the land of Google. Taking the student aside the teacher discussed the project and told him that the piece of work was not ‘finished’ it was a draft. The teacher added that it could not be considered an authentic learning experience because the student had not communicated with any authors nor had he  provided any of his own creative writing. He recalled that the student seemed somewhat abashed and looked crestfallen but was willing to listen to further possibilities in the learning experience. The teacher then explained that his role as a teacher was a support role. He was there to help the student take the next step towards achieving his dream of becoming an author. Clearly the student’s job was not done! The teacher suggested that if the student had a genuine desire to write he would need to contact an author who wrote for the age group that most appealed to him, indeed the age group he wanted to write for when his dream became a reality. There was to be no Googling answers to his questions, they needed to be posed directly to a published author.

With much sighing the student selected a well known children’s author. Mum became enrolled in monitoring for safety as the student approached the author via email.What followed was months of emails between student and author. The project developed into a process journal and narrative study into the intricacies of the writing process. The culmination of the project was a presentation to a group of interested peers and a handful of adults who formed an interview panel to question the student on his findings. Having an authentic audience to present work to was considered an all important facet for the teacher and so the young student was encouraged to invite the author to the presentation. The student’s joy at her acceptance was palpable.

On the 8th of December 2013, this young man launched his first novel, endorsed by the children’s author, who has now become his mentor and guide. A labour of love that consumed him for three years.  The sleeping dragon had not merely been aroused he is soaring. The young man, once distracted and often isolated, now edges towards the end of his formal schooling with his head held high, and a published author! No less intense, he has achieved the first of many dreams. I can hardly wait to hear what his next will be.

My wish for you as we start the new year, a year of hope and promise, of possibility and anticipation, is that wherever your child may be, that he or she will have a transformative school experience this year. That he or she will meet that one magnificent alchemist skilled in recognising dragons, who has just the right potion to rouse the dragon from slumber to soar higher, and fly further than you or your child can imagine.         

Reference

Silverman, L. K. (2013) Giftedness 101. New York: Springer Publishing.           

Pondering Perfectionism and Authenticity: On being real.

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A common thread appears to have emerged in my reading material over the past few months. All of it has to do with perfectionism. I am currently reading Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”(2012), which deals with our ability to be vulnerable. One of the factors that she links to vulnerability is perfectionism. Brown describes that, “Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and to our sense of purpose; it’s the hazardous detour” (p.128). While she has not stipulated that the type of perfectionism she is describing is ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ it is apparent that it is this level of perfectionism to which she refers. Some level of perfectionism is necessary for us to achieve to our highest potential and has to do with our intrapersonal drivers. How then do we recognise when it has become that ‘hazardous detour?’

The perfectionism outlined by Brown is in relation to vulnerability and she refers to it as a “shield to protect against vulnerability”.  In some instances, however, it is more than a shield; it is a full blown suit of armour – one that prevents authentic living.

Brown (2012, p.129) clearly outlines four ways of looking at perfectionism and outlines what it isn’t:

  • Perfectionism is not to be confused with striving for excellence, healthy achievement and growth. It is a ‘defensive move’, the belief that if ‘we always look perfect and do things perfectly, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.’
  • Perfectionism is not self-improvement, at its core is earning approval. Most perfectionists have grown up being praised for achievement and performance and somewhere in this mix have developed the core belief that “I am what I accomplish. I will be judged by how well I accomplish it, perform, perfect, or please.” Perfectionism is ‘other’ focused – “What will other’s think if I…?” It is disempowering as ‘other’ has the control.
  • Perfectionism is not the key to success – unhealthy perfectionism has a negative impact on achievement.
  • Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame-it is a form of shame. Brown concludes that ‘where we struggle with perfectionism we struggle with shame.’

Brown’s summation led me to think about what happens at the interface between perfectionism and authenticity and how this plays out for our gifted youth. Many appear to have no issues in this area, some do, and some appear to have grappled with overcoming perfectionist tendencies and made courageous decisions to be ‘real’ and present their authentic self to others. This is not easy and is often been a painful process but one which frequently results in increased resiliency and self-efficacy. A critical period when young people are faced with this choice is often at the onset of adolescence when sense of belonging and identity are key issues and youth feel particularly sensitive and vulnerable.

In closing I am reminded of one of my all time favourite children’s picture books, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams, and how the messages contained in its elegant prose relates to many of our young gifted people who struggle daily to live authentically on a daily basis in a society, which to all intents and purposes, claims to be accepting of diversity and yet at times appears to be increasingly intolerant of anyone who is different.

The conversation between Rabbit and the Skin Horse provides insight into a process in which the essence of what it is to be ‘real’, to remove the armour of perfectionism, and live as authentically as possible is explored.

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”Image

References:

Brown, B. (2012) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love , Parent and Lead. Penguin.

Quindlen, A. (2005). Being Perfect. Random House.

Williams, M. (1987). The Velveteen Rabbit.Avon.

Conflicted over Gifted: A response “First do no harm”

Response to the article “ Conflicted Over Gifted” which appeared in The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444734804578065011540940292.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle
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I am going to be controversial here and really don’t want to be marginalised so I apologise upfront.  I agree that much of this article is outrageous and unfortunately a sign of our times.

I am tired of the way all things gifted appear to be ‘demonised’ by the media. This article does not make distinction between the value that different cultures place on education and attempts to brand all parents of gifted 4-year-old children with the same branding iron. So once again the media portrayal of giftedness and parenting a gifted child is being highlighted as atypical of society. Socially academic giftedness is being constructed once more as being “abnormal or atypical”, in other words, out what society considers being “normal”. Would this article have been written if all 4-year-olds were being assessed for some athletic or musical ability and further would the prepping be taking place by parents? Perhaps some would engage in it and others would not.

While purposely stereotyping the “gifted” group this article has, however, inadvertently highlighted some real issues for education in general and specifically for the education of our gifted and talented students.

The casting of a wide net to identify children with high potential is a good or a bad thing? The issue here seems to be that test taking is now being “prepped” and that is seems ridiculous. It is also an indication of the lack of faith parents have in the traditional school system as such, that they are using desperate measures to try and access the best possible education for their children that they can. This article therefore highlights the level of concern parents have, their level of care  about their children’s education and recognition that public schooling is not good enough.

Inadequate resources within the school system is clearly one factor that contributes to sub-optimal educational opportunities. This is demonstrated in the statement, “thousands of kids could score at the highest levels and then be shut out of the city’s best schools,” and shows a system at odds with itself. One the one hand all 4-year-old children are being tested and on the other hand there are not enough places to accommodate all those who “qualify” to attend the schools. One might well ask why is NYC bothering to test at all. Surely taxpayers’ money could be put to better use.

I found the author’s comments about the use of standardised testing somewhat confusing. If they are using standardised testing and ensuring that there is “a common measurement of giftedness” I am not sure how the “tests can’t be a fair assessment of a 4½-year-old or a 4-year-old.” Do parents have the right to refuse that their child is tested? I don’t know whether the testing is mandatory, but if it is not surely parents can opt out. The statement “Natural ability surely plays a factor in how quickly a 4-year-old picks up on how to take a test. But, really, at this age, it’s all about the test prep” seems to me to be the crux of the matter- that parents feel the need to engage their children in “test-prep” is inherently a choice they are making. Surely not every child should, would or could be expected to succeed in schools/classes for the gifted. If parents are contriving to gain access to these schools for their children through test-prep they are helping to feed an inherently misguided system and helping to entrench it further.

And then we have “Test preparation really does help, and wealthier families are able to provide that for their kids whereas poor ones aren’t,” said James Borland, an education professor at Teachers College at Columbia University.” James is an authority in this field, and far be it from me to argue his point, however he has now added a further dimension to the debate- that of wealth being the factor that makes the difference. One could extrapolate from his comment that these schools are then not gifted schools but schools for the wealthy- the myth of elitism that we have fought so hard to deny.  This takes me back to my point about coaching and test preparation utilised widely by some cultures, this “practice”is used within some cultures by rich and poor alike, it is part and parcel of their approach to education.

The author of this article then states that “And so, the school system starting with 4-year-olds begins weeding out the more privileged from the less privileged—the kids whose parents have the resources and time to master such lifelong crucial skills of sorting shapes and colors and “Can you find me?” riddles from those who don’t.” This really annoys me because of the assumption that wealth is equated with being privileged. I dispute this, perhaps because I understand privilege differently to the author. To me privilege has everything to do with an attitude of entitlement and this is found among rich and poor alike. I have seen many people who are independently wealthy using their wealth in purely altruistic ways and making a difference. Many of these people have applied sustained effort to reach a position where they are able to be of benefit to society and the willingly do so. I think it is time to stop equating privilege purely with wealth.

This statement too would indicate that the writer does not in essence have sufficient knowledge about giftedness “At NYC Gifted, the 90-minute class consists of 10 students and one teacher. That’s 90 minutes with no breaks. (Show me a 4-year-old boy who can sit still for 90 minutes.), because there are clearly some gifted 4-year-old-children who can do this. They are few and far between in the population which is statistically to be expected.

I don’t agree with coaching and teaching to the test-never have and never will and deplore this aspect of what is happening. Parents can stop it by not buying into it and putting their children through the stress of this situation.

It would seem that the current situation has arisen from dysfunction in the school system and this is what must be attended to if all children are to have access to appropriate schooling and challenge commensurate with their potential. We do not live in a homogenous world, not all of us could, would or should be in the gifted class, if you need to train up and coach your child to be in that class, just perhaps they should not be there.

And so it seems to me that both the system and the parents are equally embroiled in practices that should not be happening in education. It would appear that both the education system and the parents need adopt a new motto, one from the Hippocratic Corpus “First Do No Harm”.

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By giftedsue

Essence of Giftedness: A Struggle for Survival

Whether life will continue on this world now depends on us
And whether we survive, and preserve a life worth living,
depends on the kind of selves we are able to create,
and on the social forms that we succeed in building.
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

I have recently finished reading The “I” of the Beholder: A Guided Journey to the Essence of a Child, by the visionary Annemarie Roeper. This book resonated with me on many levels. In essence, it sparkles with gems about the mystery of life and the very nature of identity creation. It is a book that I will hold dear to my heart and revisit frequently.

Annemarie Roeper provides exquisite insightful into a central task for all humans, that of “carving out a place that is known, a place that we can manage, a place that is safe, a place that allows us to grow our unique selves.” She defines this as our struggle for psychic survival. Our gifted children face this on a daily basis in every aspect of their lives and in all environments. Not everyone appreciates the complexity of raising a gifted child or indeed of living as a gifted adult. How do we go about heeding our children’s call to make them visible? How do we create safe spaces in which they can function holistically with giftedness fully integrated into their beings? It seems that most of gifted our children have a safe space at home yet struggle to find it when they engage in formal education. 

Joy Lawson Davis, inspirational keynote speaker at the recent SENG conference, raised the question, “Why after the many decades of gifted advocacy has our field made such relatively small steps? I had been asking myself the very same question. Why don’t we have equity with special needs provisions and accommodations that are more or less embedded in our schools?  Our gifted children are largely unacknowledged in many school systems. Their delayed development counterparts are often given priority.  While society sees this as ‘social justice’ I perceive a certain inequity in this approach. Children with learning disabilities are indeed entitled to the support they receive, but surely so too are our children who are developmentally advanced. In addition, our 2e children face a seemingly greater battle as they tend to receive support for their areas of weakness but are not encouraged, or have relatively little time and energy invested into their areas of strength. Many of these children are simply invisible in the system.

It is time to make our gifted children visible.  It is time, I believe, to overturn the insidious one-size-fits-all “inclusive education” policy which although ideologically sound, fails to meet the needs of those for whom it was intended. Dr Joy Lawson Davis spoke about the barriers or the facilitators of life as a gifted student and urged us to search for those within schools who can and will facilitate opportunities for our gifted children. She has urged parents to take up the challenge with renewed vigor to drive the change that is long overdue. It seems that perhaps our attempts to engage politicians and school administrators has been largely unsuccessful, it is the parents to whom we must now appeal.

In preparation for “The International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013” I am taking on board Dr Joy Lawson Davis’challenge and will work towards raising and increasing awareness of parents about the power they have to bring about equitable opportunities for gifted in our schools. Our newly formed parent support groups are intended to provide a safe space for our parents to connect with others, a place where they can hopefully realise that they are not alone. I am hoping that apart from the social, emotional and intellectual benefits of the groups they will also serve to build the groundswell of a parent body that will act as a catalyst for change so that we can “carve out a place that is known, a place that we can manage, a place that is safe, a place that allows us to grow our unique selves.” Our gifted children deserve this at the very least. Let’s help our gifted to soar!

http://www.world-gifted.org/news

http://innreach.wordpress.com

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By giftedsue

Asynchrony, Intensity and Perfectionism: Authoring the Gifted Self

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One of the central tasks of adolescence is to negotiate identity development and gain increased self-awareness. This is important for all adolescents but particularly so for gifted teenagers who often grapple with the integration of their giftedness as an aspect of their being.  Acceptance of giftedness with its “tension-laden and seemingly ambiguous aspects of self” (Dillon, 2011) is a complex task particularly as these aspects are so little understood in a world where the gifted being is often “misinterpreted and misunderstood” and there is a general lack of acceptance. Given that many definitions of giftedness suggest that 10% of the population is gifted , there is clearly an abundance of “others who may not understand” and circumstances and experiences where misunderstanding can and does occur.

Gifted children entering the adolescent developmental phase , many of whom experience early onset of adolescence because of their advanced cognitive ability and sensitivity,  may find the process of “identity crafting” one of intense intrapersonal self-examination that causes tension and ambiguity in their lives. How these youth integrate the gifted aspects of self into their total self-view is likely to affect their mental health and well-being throughout life.

Three key social and emotional aspects are likely to have a profound impact on the development of the gifted self. These are asynchrony, intensity and perfectionism. It appears that these ways of being offer very specific lenses through which the gifted person experiences their world.

Asynchrony refers to the discrepancy that exists between the cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. This is often particularly noticeable in the young gifted child. I have heard many a parent describe their three or four year old as “an old soul, wise beyond their years” or “three going on thirty”.  A child who at the age of 8, functions cognitively like a 12 or 13 year old, is certain to feel a level of frustration when situated in a class of 8 year old average ability peers, for they are likely to have minimal in common in terms of interests, language development and areas requiring cognitive processing. At times, however, the 8 year old self will surface loud and clear, leaving parents, teachers and the often the child, bewildered by their thoughts and behaviours. It is not easy to accept that on one level, this child will be arguing the complexity of sustainability of the planet and in the next instance find him/herself engaged in a life and death battle with a sibling over who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. Both situations are experienced deeply and with spectacular intensity, the second lens through which our gifted child interacts with the world.

Intensity, is the innate tendency to respond an intensified manner to various forms of stimuli both external and internal (Davidson Institute). Gifted children/adolescents often express themselves in extremes. It is all or nothing! When engaged in something which interests them they run on full steam and nothing but their very best will do. Frustration raises its head when the results do not live up to the ideals envisioned by the child/adolescent. Dabrowski (1964) posited that there are five areas of intensity these are, Psychomotor (Physical), Sensual (Sensory), Intellectual, Emotional and Imaginational. Youth who demonstrate psychomotor intensity are often identified while still very young for their extraordinary ability in sporting endeavours. Talent scouted at a very early age they are given every possible opportunity to nurture their development because there is an expectation and belief that with the right support and “systematic training” they will reach an elite level in some form of performance. Through constant and consistent measurement and evaluation, these youth are guided towards fulfilment of potential.

It is noted too when they cease to perform at the ‘expected’ level as I was reminded by a recent comment in The Listener (May, 26, 2012) on Ali Williams, no longer an adolescent but who was a “youngster of promise”. An All Black since 2002, Ali has been identified, in the very recent past, as not “the player he was before the Achilles-tendon injuries sidelined him for two years.” The article goes on to add “This season he has failed to rise above the mediocrity enveloping the Blues” (his current rugby team). Can you imagine the uproar it would cause were a comment such as this to appear on a child’s school report?  And yet this “failure to rise above mediocrity” is exactly what is happening to many of our intellectually gifted children in schools in both New Zealand and Australia, due partially to a lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance of our gifted children, but I digress.

The second area of intensity noted by Dabrowksi (1964) is sensory (Sensual) intensity. Youth with sensory intensity generally display enhanced appreciation for sensory and aesthetic pleasure. These sensitive souls gain immense pleasure through their senses and delight in beautiful objects, sounds, sights, words, music, colour, form and balance. If nurtured these young people are capable of making a significant contribution in the fields of art, music and performance. While psychomotor intensity is readily accepted within the sports mad cultures that exist in Australia and New Zealand and sensory precociousness is somewhat accepted because forward thinking individuals foreshadow a significant  artistic or musical contribution in the future, intellectual intensity remains a societal pariah.

Youth with intellectual intensity may find that they are excluded from our increasingly “inclusive” school society. The view that assisting our intellectually able students to continue an ongoing learning trajectory is still viewed by many as “elitist”.  Intellectual intensity, the third intensity described by Dabrowski (1964), is an intensified activity of the mind, curiosity, excitability, organisation and often competiveness. The search for truth and understanding drives these young people. They possess a great capacity for reflective thought, love of theory and analysis, preoccupation with logic, conceptual and intuitive integration. These children and adolescents understand complex concepts easily and are exquisitely aware what others are thinking and feeling. They know when they are anything less than unconditionally accepted. They are often intensely self-aware, independent thinking and can be critical all of which can result in giftedness being a double-edged sword for some gifted youth.

The fourth intensity is imaginational intensity, which manifests itself through playfulness of imagination. These young people love the use of imagery and metaphor, invention and fantasy, they can visualise in detail and often have intense dreams and nightmares. When this intensity is not nurtured it can lead to the capacity for living a world of fantasy and the blurring of truth and fiction. These children often have a low tolerance for boredom, they crave novelty and variety.

The final area of intensity is that of emotional intensity. Perhaps, this area is closest to my heart because I have witnessed reactions of gifted children in environments where they have been misunderstood.  Emotionally intense youth have strong feelings and emotions both positive and negative. They often experience a wide range of feelings, greater extremes, depth and complexity to their feelings and emotions and a great awareness of others’ feelings. This can lead to strong somatic expressions such as stomachache, nervous perspiration, blushing, sweaty palms, etc. Emotionally intense children and adolescents have the capacity to form strong attachments and relationships as wells as strong emotional ties to places, people, pets and things in general. They may have difficulty adjusting to new environments, are deeply compassionate and responsive to others and can experience deep feelings of loneliness. On the other hand, they are also capable of experiencing intense joy and euphoria.

The final filter of the trio examined in this blog is that of perfectionism, which is expressed as the combination of the desire to be perfect, the fear of not being perfect and the sense that personal acceptance hinges on being perfect. Asynchrony and heightened awareness may combine to create a volatile mix that presents the voice of perfectionism. Often articulated as “I’m not good enough”, “I am only acceptable if I am perfect” and “If I make a mistake there is something shamefully wrong with me” these children can be overwhelmed by feelings of anger, shame, frustration and disillusionment. Perfectionism is a multi-layered construct and not all perfectionism present as restrictive.  When this is not the only or dominant voice of the gifted person’s self-making, perfectionism can be a highly motivating factor in the desire for excellence.

So how do we address these complexities? Often the trio of gifted “behaviours” manifest in early adolescence when they become observable and obvious. Like anything in the gifted sphere, there is no one right answer or response. It is critical that those who support gifted youth understand that the process of grappling with these issues is an integral aspect of the individual “authoring the self” (Dillon, 2011). The process of self-making includes constructing the self through negotiating the different internal and external voices. Gifted young people should be supported in developing the understanding that asynchrony, intensity and perfectionism are all key voices in their self-making process. The tension and ambiguity that arises from these “voices” is “normal”, each voice can assist meaning making, integration of giftedness and ultimately self-construction. Grappling with the multiplicity of  aspects of self is intrinsically “normal”. This insight must be shared with young gifted adolescents if we are to support them through one of the most critical creations they will embark on in their lives, that of the making of self. Although this process is dynamic and continues across a life span, early adolescents are engaged in laying the foundations.

When the terms “asynchrony, intensity” and “perfectionism” are given negative labels, i.e. “framed as flaws” and are scrutinised clinically and diagnostically there is the distinct possibility that a young person might apply the same logic to themselves and conclude that they too are “flawed” (Dillon, 2011). We who are entrusted to support gifted youth must emphasise that in developing a “healthy self” there is a need to “toggle” between the asynchronous development, intensity and perfectionism as a normal process of self-making. This will tend eliminate some of the pressure that surrounds unrealistic beliefs and expectations. Williams (2007) suggests that if adolescents, and I propose gifted children in general, are released from the yoke of constantly defending themselves they are likely to have more resources at hand to find positive ways to manage in our “average” society. In tandem with this approach, it is also necessary for continued education about giftedness and its complexities.

http://ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/443/

New Zealand Listener

It has been some time since I have been able to browse the mountain of Listener magazines that have accumulated in our home. In attempting to de-clutter the house so that our Easter visitors had a place to sleep I spent  a few hours this morning rifling through the old copies of the Listener before throwing them out and came across an editorial “You do the maths” from July 2010 discussing the response to implementation of the National Standards in New Zealand.

The Listener editorial struck are chord with me in its emphasis on the strong political agenda behind its implementation driven by the Education minister and the New Zealand Principals’ Federation. The editorial reminds us that the focus of the National Standards  should not rest with either of these stakeholders, but rather on the needs of the children. Surely that is for whom it is intended.

This led me to reflect on the state of education in Australia at present. Schools here are currently in the midst of implementing the National Curriculum (NC) and by all accounts some teachers are struggling with its implementation, as are parents and the children themselves.  The problem seems not so much to be the NC itself but rather its implementation. Teachers, like their students, are at different stages in their learning journeys, ranging from novice through to expert, and this affects their approach to the NC and how it is implemented.  Those I have spoken to recently have shared a  growing disquiet about the NC.

Classrooms I have visited over the last few months have reflected this.Teachers who are new to the profession are finding this particularly problematic. Many of them are grappling with establishing routines and behaviour management and some are floundering under the added pressure to keep up with the pace of the NC. Very few, if any, are receiving mentoring from experienced staff.

In some of these environments the teachers are showing marked signs of distress. Irritability and negativity being two observable signs. Teacher-pupil relationships are poorly established. There is no time to tap into student interests and there is very little flexibility as teachers power through the curriculum. There is little time to revisit concepts with children who have not understood them the first time and gifted learners are not given opportunities for further development. Children’s learning needs are not being met.

A parent shared that she felt that the curriculum was “too advanced” stating that her child who had learning difficulties was expected to write narratives in Year One and that they were being taught grammar which proved confounding for him. I was pleasantly surprised by her comments as my greatest fear was that the NC would dumb-down the curriculum to a greater degree than is already evident. The Australian school system appears to be focused on  the achievement of mediocrity. I can, however, also see how very concerning this one-size-fits-all approach is for parents with children who do not fit the average mold.

So where does this leave us? How can support be given to teachers, parents and the students themselves?  Research shows that teachers and quality teaching are essential for quality learning to take place. Teacher skill as well as their health and well-being are crucial for the successful implementation of this curriculum.

Students too will need support. Meaningful learning should begin at their level of need. Does the new NC do this? While I applaud the ideal that all states in Australia will now have some consistency, I do have concerns for the children. It seems to me that it may serve to widen the achievement gap even further. Students with learning difficulties may be left further behind if they don’t grasp concepts when they are covered and our gifted students will spend large chunks of the school day when they learn nothing new in essence meaning that they will learn nothing at school.

Parents, I believe, will need to find alternative ways to educate their children. Tutoring is likely to become big business. Home schooling may be another alternative.  Unfortunately for those parents who do not have the financial wherewithal there will be little or no choice. It would seem that for all the good intentions and grand design, the National Curriculum may yet prove to be another politically enforced measure that has given very little priority to the very population for whom it was intended.

By giftedsue

Some schools grouping students by skill, not grade level

A blog which has re-surfaced from 2010 has raised some interest  to many in the community because of it’s revolutionary ideas. Students in a Kansas school are being grouped by ability and not age-defined classes. What is refreshing is that these students are also allowed to progress to the next level, when they have mastered content. Wow! A proactive approach in response to the “the 17,000 students; abysmal test scores”. Students are in multi-aged classes, work at their own pace on projects tailored to their skill level.

Now this is not rocket science, nor will be it be “new” to anyone involved in gifted education and equity for gifted students. Ability grouping for instruction has been advocated for gifted students  for decades. It is well supported in gifted research literature, with multiple academic, social and emotional benefits.Why then are school systems so loathe to try something “new”?

In this day and age when inclusive education and inclusion is mandated in many schools in Western society, surely grouping by ability and mastery makes sense. The range of ability in inclusive classes is so diverse that it almost renders teachers impotent. The very children they want and need to help – and that’s all of them – cannot and do not get their educational needs meet. Both the students with learning disabilities and the gifted do not get anywhere near appropriate provisions, and those “average” students sit idly by, watching teachers pull their hair out as they attempt to “cater” to the extremes. No-one gets any real benefits.

The ideology behind inclusion is wonderful but in practical terms, unless class sizes are reduced to a handful of children it is just not going to work.

It is time to take stock and look practically at ways that all children can have equitable educational opportunities.  That means providing what each child needs, it does not mean making them all the same. They are not the same and never will be.

For the full article see

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-07-05-grade-held-back_N.htm

I look forward to ideas, and your experiences with inclusive practice.

Sue

 

By giftedsue

New website

It is amazing what a new website can do for you? I feel like I’ve had a head-to- toe makeover. How blessed I am to have such a knowledgeable guru to turn to, who with the wave of her magic wand, has transformed this into a new and interactive site.

I am looking forward to some excellent company and conversations and hope that this will become a platform to enable parents, teachers and gifted students to have their voices heard.

So power up and share your thoughts,  ideas and gifted journeys.

Sue

 

By giftedsue

Welcome to GiftEd in Aus!

What is GiftEd in Aus?

GiftEd in Aus is a blog attached to www.gift-ed.com

GiftEd offers a wide range of services to gifted students, their parents or caregivers, and teachers.

GiftEd works in partnership with teachers, principals, parents, counselors, educational psychologists, researchers and those interested in nurturing our gifted and talented students.

GiftEd specialises in assisting schools to improve learning outcomes for their gifted students by providing professional development and specialist services within your school environment and frameworks.

By giftedsue