Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

On Monday, February 18, Center for Talent Development is hosting a free seminar titled “Parenting Your Twice-Exceptional Child: Developing Talent and Accommodating Needs.” Our guest presenter, Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, will talk about best practices for addressing the needs of twice-exceptional students, which includes identifying and developing talent domains.  Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at The University of Iowa and a licensed psychologist and researcher at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Dr. Foley Nicpon is an expert in the field and has authored a variety of articles on supporting gifted students with co-existing disabilities. Check out a recent article she wrote for the 2e Newsletter in which she discusses common characteristics of gifted children who experience anxiety, including rigid thinking patterns, control issues, a strong need for social justice and perfectionism.

Suggested interventions, include:

1.  Identify “shades of gray.”

2.  Focus on the process instead of the outcome.

3.  Take a logical approach.

4.  Identify what can be controlled.

5.  Take small steps.

6.  Teach positive thinking patterns.

7.  Model being vulnerable.

8.  Use their intelligence.

9.  Discuss motivators.

10.  Work on patience.

We encourage you to join the conversation by sharing your comments and questions here and hope you will join us for the seminar:

Parenting Your Twice-Exceptional Child: Developing Talent and Accommodating Needs

Presenter: Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

Date & Time:  February 18, 2013 • 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Location:  Northwestern University Evanston Campus

Technological Institute, Room LR5

2145 Sheridan Road

Evanston, IL 60208

For more information about the seminar, visit www.ctd.northwestern.edu/outreach/parentseminar.

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at The University of Iowa and a licensed psychologist and researcher at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Ask Paula! — Fall 2012

“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education.  Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights into helping emotionally intense and sensitive children and recommends resources related to grouping high achieving students in a heterogenous classroom.

Q: Hi Paula, our son who is 6 is very bright. He is also very sensitive. He was crying last night because he feels his best friend from Gr. 1 seems to be hanging out with a different boy and my son feels like he is losing him as his best friend. He feels very sad and hurt and is very expressive of his feelings of loneliness, abandonment and loss. Is being this sensitive a trait of gifted boys? I do not see this in my niece who is also gifted. Also, please advise the best way for me to help him. I let him talk through this and listened. Thanks much! -Faiza
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Hello Faiza,

Your story about your son’s sensitivity and emotion is not an uncommon one for gifted children. First, as with any personality characteristic, there is a great deal of variability across individuals, even within a group of gifted children. So, it is also not surprising that your niece and son are different. I have two daughters  and one is much more sensitive and intense in her emotional reactions to things (like her mom) than is the other. Many scholars within the field of gifted education believe that a heightened level of sensitivity and more intense emotional reactions are some of the defining characteristics of giftedness, but in my experience, many, but not all gifted children, exhibit these.

It can be challenging as a parent to deal with intense sensitivity on the part of a child. Our immediate tendency is to minimize their feelings and say, “you are over-reacting.” But as a first step, I think it is always important to acknowledge and accept a child’s feelings and it is wonderful that your child is able to articulate his feelings so well and feels very safe in expressing them to you.

Our role as parents is to be emotional coaches, so to speak, guiding our children in understanding their feelings and reactions and helping them to acquire strategies to regulate them. You could consider consulting with a psychologist about ways in which your might respond to your child’s sensitivity  and strategies you might use to help your child dial down the intensity. The goal would be to use and model these strategies with your child so that he can acquire them and use them independently as he develops and matures.

Some resources on the topic of emotional intensity and sensitivity are available on the the website of the Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG–www.sengifted.org), the website of the National Association for Gifted Children (www.nagc.org–parent resources), and the website of the Davidson Foundation (www.davidsongifted.org). The books, “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children” by Christine Fonseca (Prufrock Press, www.prufrock.com) or “Living with Intensity” by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski (Great Potential Press) might also be helpful to you in terms of offering concrete strategies to use.

I always say to my daughter who is very sensitive that it is her best characteristic, enabling her to be so empathic and caring, and also her most challenging, because it makes her feel different and “not normal”. I can tell you from experience though, that if you work over time with your child to help him or her gain understanding of his feelings, emotions and reactions, his sensitivity will be an asset for him in his life.
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Q: Can you suggest any good studies or data showing gains (academically or emotionally) made by clustering TAG students into groups? -Wisconsin Talented and Gifted Coordinator
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I can recommend two resources for you regarding research on cluster grouping within classrooms. Right now this is a “hot topic” within gifted education as the trend has been to keep gifted children within heterogeneous classrooms rather than put them in pull-out programs or separate classrooms.  Several models for cluster grouping gifted students together within otherwise heterogeneous classrooms have been proposed by a couple of different authors. One of these is by Marcia Gentry and Rebecca Mann, “Total School Cluster Grouping and Differentiation” published by Creative Learning Press. Another is “The Cluster Grouping Handbook. How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All” by Susan Winebrenner and Dina Brulles, Free Spirit Press. The authors of both of these books explain cluster grouping and cite research studies to support their claims of its effectiveness with meeting the needs of gifted students.

Educators may also be interested in the book “Best Practices in Gifted Education” by Ann Robinson, Bruce Shore and Donna Enersen and published by NAGC. It addresses a variety of gifted education topics, and there is a Flexible Grouping chapter that cites numerous studies as well as provides some good examples and offers best practice recommendations.
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Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!

Young Entrepreneurs … Gifted and Giving

Imagine conducting research with major medical implications at age 17.

That’s not so unusual among the ranks of Center for Talent Development (CTD) students. We’re constantly impressed by the ingenuity and insight our program participants demonstrate.  In addition to blazing new trails and contributing to a better tomorrow for everyone, young entrepreneurs are building the groundwork for future careers filled with promise, challenge and reward.

How does one earn a grant for science research or successfully market a new eco-friendly invention before graduating high school?  At the CTD Opportunities for the Future family conference, Saturday June 23, at Northwestern University, several young innovators will address those questions.  A panel comprised of CTD participants all under age 18 will describe their impressive projects and the path that led them to early success.

Meet Siddhartha Jena, a high school senior from Michigan named a 2012 Davidson Institute Fellow and awarded a $25,000 scholarship. He spent three years studying the effect of lipid disorder: excess cholesterol on red blood cells impairing their ability to transport water, oxygen and carbon dioxide.

“My results suggest that in the future scientists could find preventive therapies to cholesterol-associated cardiovascular disease based on this newfound knowledge,” says Siddhartha. “I even found two novel possible candidates for cardiovascular drugs based on my studies.”

To read Siddartha’s description of his research visit www.sesp.northwestern.edu/docs/Siddhartha-Jena.pdf.

Adam Kalinich, a Finalist in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search researched two-player mathematical games involving a partially ordered set called a poset.

“I love the thinking part the most, where you’re puzzling about ‘How does this fit in what I know? How can I make this work?” Adam told the Chicago Tribune.

Adam’s paper “Flipping the Winner of a Poset Game,” written with counsel from Lance Fortnow, a professor in Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, was published in the journal Information Processing Letters.

Jonny Cohen invented GreenShields, a project to make school buses more aerodynamic and won a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant. His sister Daniella co-manages a project called G.I.V.E. (Go Innovate Volunteer & Educate), which connects students in the United States with orphans at a school in Bangalore, India through letters and online video chats—and she’s in grade 8.

It’s never too young to start thinking and achieving big!

Entrepreneurs: Kids Inventing Fabulous Stuff,” is just one of many stimulating sessions for gifted students grades 4 – 12, parents and educators to be offered at CTD’s 2012 Opportunities for the Future Conference.  For complete information about this unique family event visit www.ctd.northwestern.edu/outreach/familyconference.

Do you know a young person who has achieved inspiring success?  What factors contributed to their accomplishment?

Plays and Players: Finding Your Voice, Mingled with Others

“To become a character—essential to both acting and writing—is to allow a constructed consciousness, another identity, to briefly guide your thought processes. You’re not choreographing, but rather intuiting and channeling the life of the character. A writer has to understand the mind and motivation of every character he creates and to color the world from these perspectives.”

These are the reflections of Taylor Geu, a high school senior from Sioux City, Iowa, on the occasion of studying theater and playwriting in a CTD course he took last summer.  Geu recorded his experience in a journal which was recently reproduced in Imagine (www.cty.jhu.edu/imagine), a magazine published by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

Geu’s journal is an inspiring commentary on how to grow as an actor, writer and analytic thinker. His writing reveals a self-aware examination of the experience he came with, surprises and challenges—especially his newfound fondness for collaboration—along the way, and where he is taking his talent in theater and acting.  He’s already won a Gold and Silver Key in regional Scholastic Writing Competitions and is currently working on two more plays!  To hear more from this up-and-coming playwright, visit www.cty.jhu.edu/imagine/docs/CTDplays_players.pdf.

Has journaling enriched the learning and discovery process of your gifted child or student? Theater buffs—check out the Summer Program website for courses such as Playwriting & Drama (grades 4 through 6), Plays and Players Honors (grades 7 and 8), Persuasive Storytelling (grades 9 through 12), and many more.  Although the regular application deadline has passed, applications are still being accepted for open courses at the 2012 Summer Program.  Courses close quickly, so don’t wait any longer!

Going with the “Flow”: Student Engagement and Beyond

“You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaking on “flow” during a recent TED Talk

What does it mean to truly be absorbed in an activity? In an article posted on Edutopia, Elena Aguilar, a former teacher and instructional coach describes a state of attention beyond engagement termed “flow.” Coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the state of “flow” requires motivation, clear, attainable goals, high challenge and skill levels, and constructive feedback allowing one to adjust. And, it’s essential to mastering a subject.

“Flow” in an educational setting should be a two-way stream. “When [our students] experience flow, we will too,” writes Aguilar. “When they’re in their student zone of flow then the same will most likely be true for us: our goals are clear, the challenge is high, our skills match the challenge, and we’re getting immediate feedback from kids and adjusting so that we can meet their needs and accomplish the goal.” Aguilar encourages educators to create goal-oriented lessons appropriate to individual abilities.

For gifted students, flow can be difficult to achieve in school because tasks are not always challenging enough. If the material or activities are not differentiated, the challenge level does not match students’ skill level. This is why tasks need to be rigorous and differentiated and there need to be regular check-ins and formative assessments.

What activities absorb the attention of your gifted child or students? What signs of student engagement—or disengagement—help you gauge their “flow-o-meter”?

Finishing High School … In Three Years!

There appears to be an upswing in the number of young people who are completing high school in three years.  The increased availability and flexibility of online courses such as CTD’s Gifted LearningLinks program is a contributing factor.  An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal weighs the pros and cons of early  graduation.  Some states now offer college scholarships to students that accelerate their high-school experience. The scholarships are less costly than funding a final full-year year of public education.  Many parents of  gifted students  find taking online courses to streamline high school has added benefit. It prevents their son or daughter from suffering senior year slump and keeps them motivated as they enter college.

What do you think … how would you decide whether a three-year high school education was the right choice for your gifted student?

Gifted Kids May Be Tech Savvy, But Are They Fluent?

by Susan Corwith & Carl Heine

From iPads and Android phones to Facebook, Twitter and Blogs, we are plugged into technology. Given the accessibility of information through our many technological devices, the assumption is that today’s children, being digital natives, are well equipped to find and use information appropriately.

But, how skilled are they really at locating, using and evaluating information on the Internet? Do they search thoughtfully and analyze critically? The answer may surprise you.

The capacity to use tools to locate digital information and the ability to find, evaluate and use digital information effectively, efficiently, and ethically is called information fluency (Information Fluency, 2012). Although many gifted students perceive themselves to be proficient with skills such as web searching, identifying author bias, and avoiding plagiarism (rating themselves as “good” to “advanced” at these skills on a recent survey through CTD), the reality is somewhat different. When we assessed the skills of middle and high school students in CTD programs, the average level of performance was 45% (poor to average competence).

Like any other skill, information fluency needs to be taught. But, high-level, problem-based web investigation and evaluation skills are not generally taught in school. In an attempt to address this need, Center for Talent Development, in cooperation with Carl Heine and Dennis O’Connor of 21st Century Information Fluency, set out to create a targeted information fluency program that provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their academic, personal, and professional lives.

The program is designed for students to complete independently using a series of interactive, online modules that involve instruction and application. Initial results are encouraging. In three years of piloting the web-based modules we have found that students make statistically significant gains with just a few hours work.

Students who completed the program improved their overall information fluency post-test scores by an average of 30%. Using a three-hour pretest, interactive tutorial, post-test approach, students identify critical strengths and weaknesses in their skills, receive targeted training and feedback using simulated and online search challenges, and finish with a post-test that documents individual accomplishments.

Information fluency involves a variety of skills, including determining what information is needed through deciding how to use the information ethically. The figure below illustrates the Digital Information Fluency Model developed by 21st Century Information Fluency. Shown in red are the topics/competencies addressed in the modules (Figure 1).

Digital Information Fluency Model

With the positive initial results students are demonstrating, we continue to refine the program and consider ways to incorporate information fluency into the courses we teach at Center for Talent Development. Currently, students involved in the Spectrum (grades 7 & 8) and Equinox (grades 9 – 12) Summer Program and the online Gifted LearningLinks program participate in the modules. Over the next few years we plan to collect more data about how students learn these skills and the best approaches to use in our ever-growing, ever-changing technology based world.

Heine, C. & O’Connor, D. “Digital Information Fluency: Our Model”. 21st Information Fluency, 20 March 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. http://www.21cif.com.

Heine, C. & Gerry, J. CoolHub.IMSA, 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. http://coolhub.imsa.edu/web/guest.

How savvy are your students when it comes to information fluency? Does your child’s school explicitly teach these skills?

Susan Corwith, Ph.D. is an associate director at Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and oversees the Summer Program and Civic Education Project. Carl Heine, Ph.D. is currently Lead Innovation Architect for CoolHub, IMSA and TALENT at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Dr. Heine and Dennis O’Connor are also the principals for 21st Century Information Fluency.

The JKC Scholarship – An Advocate Like No Other

by Tammie Stewart

If you are the parent or teacher of an academically gifted child from a family experiencing financial need, I’d like to introduce you to the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program (JKC).

Every year, exceptional scholarships are given to more than 50 high-achieving students who will enter grade 8 in the next school year.  The application process takes time and thought, but for those awarded scholarships the benefits are truly life-changing. The JKC Young Scholars Program is one of the most comprehensive programs I have come across in my years of work in outreach.

Students that earn JKC scholarships gain a personal advocate through high school, college and beyond.  Financial support ensures that recipients have the resources they need to pursue their passions, develop potential and take full advantage of learning opportunities.  Resources can include computers and software, tuition for summer, after school and online programs and more. Each student is assigned a JKC advisor who helps them chart a successful educational path that spans multiple years.

JKC scholars come from every part of the country with backgrounds that reflect the diversity of our nation.  But they all share huge ability and thanks to the program, receive common access to opportunity.

The Center for Talent Development supports JKC enthusiastically, affording me the privilege to help eligible young people apply.  The 2012 call for applications is currently underway with the April 16 deadline approaching quickly, there are no extensions.

So, if you know of a high-achieving student who will enter grade 8 in the fall of 2012 and comes from a family with annual income under $80,000, they may qualify.  Applications are available at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website.  Feel free to contact me directly for guidance and additional information on the scholarship program, eligibility and the application process.

Tammie Stewart is Community Outreach Manager at the Center for Talent Development. For additional counsel on the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, e-mail her at tammie-stewart@northwestern.edu or call 847/491-7127.

Two-Way Street: Gifted Students Explore the Connection Between Art & Science

by Rhoda Rosen

The relationship between art and science is a two-way street, asking us to explore past discoveries and make new ones. Recently, the eighth grade students participating in CTD’s Project EXCITE explored this relationship through a series of in-depth and hands-on activities. Fruitful investigations into the relationship of science and art involve field work, creative work, and discovery. Here is the story of the EXCITE students:

EXCITE students workingFirst, with the Museum of Science and Industry FABLAB staff, along with circuit-bending experimental musician, Roth Mobot, the students hacked circuits and engineered some futuristic instruments.

Then, they partnered with mathematician Jeremy Watt, who helped the students make Möbius strips, which are surfaces with only one side and only one boundary.With only one 180 degree twist of a strip of paper, a circle with an interior and exterior becomes a continuous loop. In a class discussion, they wrestled with dimensions beyond the conventional three, and pondered whether the shadow of a fourth dimensional being would be considered 3D.

Mobius strip

While their plunge into mathematical theory was still fresh in their minds, the students then visited the Art Institute of Chicago, where the visual environment allowed them to think about the way math orders the world, yet can also disrupt perception.  The two-way street concept became clear when the students learned that the distinction between abstract reasoning and concrete thinking is false, that art and science rely on both ways of thinking. While this is a formal program, students and parents can seek out comparable art and science institutions and programs in their respective areas.

The students’ work suggests that arts, crafts, and object play do not involve a form of thinking distinct from scientific thought, but are – indeed – the very essence of scientific thought. The pieces  explore the way scientists (including those in grade 8!) think with objects and show what is possible when gifted children are provided an opportunity to ponder and to create.

Their work has made it into a public exhibition, running Sunday, July 10, 2011 at the main branch of the Evanston Public Library through July 31, with an opening reception July 10 from 4-6 p.m.  If you are in the Chicago area, come and meet our expert eighth grade docents as they explain abstract math problems using concrete objects and participate in a demonstration of some mind-bending math problems.

Where do you see the connection between art & science in your world? (Ask your gifted child, too!)

Project EXCITE, a program of Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, a division of the School of Education and Social Policy, addresses the achievement gap for minority students in Evanston. In partnership with District 65 and Evanston Township High School, Project EXCITE offers supplemental educational programs to prepare high-achieving minority students for advanced math and science courses in high school.

(Fun) Summer Reading for Teens

What we’re into this week: adolescent literature.

http://bit.ly/jNJ4BF and http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/books/default.asp

We found some lists of great books for teenagers from the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, via the International Reading Association web site and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yes, many gifted kids do a lot of reading, and with summer coming up, it might be fun for your teen to take a break and hit the beach with a good story.  From intelligent vampire fantasy to historical fiction about a young girl growing up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, there’s bound to be something for your teen on this list. Each book on the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy list is reviewed by university faculty from across the country. CCBC also provides reviews and recommendations.

What is your teen reading? What do you wish they would read? Share in the comment section below, and help us build our own reading list!

To learn more about the International Reading Association, click here, or follow them on Twitter at @Readingtoday.

CTD student in the news: Success without “Tiger Moms”

From the Sunday Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2011:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-tiger-mom-20110306,0,7345883,full.story

Krystle is a former CTD student, where she participated in NUMATS, Gifted Learning Links, and the Saturday Enrichment Program. Her achievements have continued into her high school years, where she has won numerous academic awards in both science and the humanities, as well as participated in several successful community service activities. She is currently a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. (To read more about Krystle’s project, click here.)

As a parent, how do you feel about the “Tiger Mom” profile? What kinds of parenting methods have been most effective in helping your child to succeed and be happy? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.


Beach Balls & Books: Spending the summer studying hard and having fun—with long-term rewards!

After nine months of homework, books, and being cooped up inside for the odd Chicago-area “snowpocalypse,” the idea of spending the oh-so-few summer months in school may underwhelm. Nonetheless, Bria, a goal-oriented student in middle school is considering it. She spent at least a portion of her 2010 summer indoors studying Pre-Algebra because she wanted to test into Honors Algebra I in her local school. She was surprised to find that in the Apogee program, part of Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University’s Summer Program and where she chose to go, she could work hard and play hard too.

What isn’t always as well known are the long-term effects of participating in an accelerated summer program. Students are more likely to take a more rigorous course of study in school and attend more selective colleges (Barnett & Durden, 1993). Research also suggests that females in particular benefit in mathematics achievement. Grant and Olszewski-Kubilius (1996) found that females who studied math tended to accelerate more often and earned more honors in math during high school. And, they gained more confidence—something that Bria’s experience seems to demonstrate.

“I thought it was just going to be all academics, all the time, and not a lot of fun,” said Bria whose Mom signed her up for the Apogee three-week program for students in grades 4 through 6 and located in Evanston, Illinois. “It was really good because when we were in class, we worked really hard. By end of second week, the class was really intense. We had to study and go over things. But when we relaxed, we had a lot of fun.”

Bria remembers a long list of last summer’s activities: playing capture the flag, volleyball, Jeopardy, going to the beach and downtown Evanston, indoor camping and making s’mores in the residence hall kitchen, a team race with several challenges including the teammates spelling a difficult word using their bodies, foosball, Ping-Pong, weekly dances, ice skating, a Hawaiian luau, and a carnival.

Bria met a lot of people, and still keeps in touch with her classmates from Apogee, many from other countries, via e-mail and text.

All the summer fun didn’t distract Bria from achieving her goal of getting a firm grasp of pre-algebra and a sense of what was to come in Algebra. Now in grade 7, Bria is doing well and is even helping her classmates. “I find myself saying a lot of the time—even just today—that I already know what is new to everyone else in the class from taking Pre-Algebra last summer at CTD. People at my school call me ‘the math genius’ because I’m the person that they come to when they need help. I enjoy math a lot.”

Bria says she recommends the program especially to students who have a specific interest in a subject because it offers the opportunity to focus in that area all day. This summer, Bria says she is thinking about returning to CTD to study Geometry Honors.

What does this math whiz want to do? “My dream job changes every year or so,” she says. “At one point, I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist. Now I want to be and OB/GYN or a neurosurgeon.”

Want to know more about how to choose the best summer program for you or your child? Visit the National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) web site for a the resource “How to Choose a Summer Program”.

Interested in attending the Summer Program at CTD? In addition to the Apogee program, CTD offers programs for all age groups from PreK through grade 12 (Leapfrog:  PreK through grade 3; Solstice for grade 4; Spark, a two-week program for students in grades 4 through 6; Spectrum for students in grades 7 and 8, and Equinox for students in grades 9 through 12). Check out the CTD web site for a complete list of courses, full course descriptions, and to apply.

Barnett, L. B. and Durden, W. G. (1993). Education patterns of academically talented youth. Gifted Child Quarterly, 37(4), 161-168.

Olszewski-Kubilius P., and Grant, B. (1996). Academically talented women and mathematics: The role of special programs and support from others in acceleration, achievement and aspiration. In K. D. Noble and R. F. Subotnik (Eds.) Remarkable Women: Perspectives on Female Talent Development (pp. 281-294). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Gifted Education Awareness Week

As seen on the Illinois Association for Gifted Children web site, February 13-19 is Gifted Education Awareness Week. We have done our part by posting “Gifted Truths and Myths” on Facebook, as well as blogging about our experience at the IAGC conference last week. Read the full list of Myths & Truths, as well as ideas on how to get more involved with gifted education advocacy, here.

As any parent of a gifted child knows, these issues deserve more attention than one week in February can provide. What will you resolve to do for gifted education in 2011?

Online Learning & Gifted Students

Online courses for gifted students sound like a good idea:  Bright students can have access to advanced courses, proceed at their own pace, spend time on the occasional tangent without penalty, and interact with other bright students. But are they as good as they sound?

Little research has been conducted on how well or in what ways the online environment is a good match for gifted students (though a significant amount of money and some research has been done on the viability of online courses in colleges.) Last year, I completed an in-depth qualitative and quantitative investigation  of the perceptions and experiences of 65 academically talented students and 28 teachers enrolled or teaching in Center for Talent Development (CTD)’s online Gifted Learning Links program.  (All CTD courses are taught by “live” teachers though the involvement  varies, with younger students generally having more interaction with the instructor than do older students.) According to the gifted students and teachers interviewed and surveyed in this study, the online format is conducive to a more individualized and differentiated learning experience than is often possible in a regular classroom. Students are more able to work at a pace consistent with their rate of learning, have more time to reflect, to feel more in control of the learning process, and to engage in more self-directed and independent learning. These benefits and others indicate the online programming can be an effective means of meeting the needs of many gifted students.

Read the full text of the article here,

“Beyond the Classroom Walls: Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives on How Online Learning Can Meet the Needs of Gifted Students” for the special Out-of-School Time issue (Vol 21, No 4, Summer 2010). Posted with permission of Prufrock Press (http://www.prufrock.com).

Have a question about online gifted learning? Leave a comment below for Dana! (She promises to do her best to respond.)

Dana Turner Thomson is CTD’s Research Director. She has worked with CTD’s director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, on a variety of research and grant-related projects, and co-authored two articles with Paula. Dana has also served as assistant editor of Gifted Child Quarterly and as editorial assistant for the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education. When not surrounded by CTD students, she receives inspiration from her two young children and their boundless curiosity about the world.


More Teachers Using Twitter

At CTD, we’ve recently begun using Twitter as a way to keep you updated on all of our different programs. Using Twitter in the classroom, however, is a very different experience. Some teachers feel it can provide a rich educational and social environment for the classroom:

http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech261.shtml

What do you think? Are you an educator who has learned to love (or hate) Twitter’s influence among students? Are you a parent interested in how your child interacts online? Do you communicate using Twitter? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, or on Twitter itself. You can follow us at @CTDatNU.

Robotic Ghost Knife Fish is Born

No, it’s not a title of a new science fiction novel, it’s a real robot, developed by Northwestern researchers to mimic the movement of a ribbon-fish so they can study how motor systems work with sensory systems, and how the gaps in our knowledge in this area can be filled and applied with various technologies.

Will a CTD student-created robot be the next one featured? It could happen. Center for Talent Development offers a number of programs and courses in this fascinating (and expanding!) field.  For example, this summer we’re offering a robotics course for Apogee students (grades 4 through 6) and “Robotics Honors” in Spectrum (grades 7 and 8).

The Saturday Enrichment Program (SEP) and the Accelerated Weekend Experience (AWE) have courses throughout the year, such as “WeDO Robotics” for students in grades 3 and 4, “Robotics I” and “Robotics II” for students in grades 5 through 7, and “Robotics: Tetrix” for students in grades 7 through 9, all coming up this spring!

And for those not in the Chicagoland area, Gifted Learning Links offers an online spring course in WeDo Robotics for students in grades 3 through 5, as well Robotics Discovery I and II for kids in grades 4 through 6.

Why get children involved in robotics? Of course, robots are fun, engaging, and hands-on!  But, more importantly, they ignite passion and inquiry in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. Studying robotics is a great way to participate in problem-based learning and engage in critical and creative thinking.

So, a robotic fish . . . Who knows what your child could create!

Student re-grouping: an individualized approach

Here’s what we found interesting in the education world this week:

A Detroit school experiments with being teacher-led and introducing individualized schedules for its students.

Learn more about practices in grouping, particularly for gifted children at: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/browse_resources_162.aspx

What do you think about this method? Have you experienced it with your child? Tell us in the Comments section below.

Tales From the Road: Houston Edition

by Susie Stephenson

“They just kept coming,” Vicky said to me as the last parents left the Student Center at Rice University in Houston. They’d started arriving at 5 p.m. and the flow had been constant from that moment on. The families – almost 700 attendees strong by evening’s end — were visiting the third annual Summer Program Expo, a great way for them to see a large number of summer program options. It was also a terrific chance for CTD to distribute information about its more than 150 Summer Program course offerings.

This was the third year that CTD had attended the Houston Area Cooperative for the Gifted & Talented Summer Program Expo. We’d flown down that morning, set up the booth, had a tasty lunch at a local Turkish restaurant and then handed out literature and answered questions non-stop.

Vicky and I think this event works very well. So we interviewed the founder and organizer of the event, Lynette Breedlove, PhD, thinking other school districts could use this Expo as a model.

As director of advanced academic studies in Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Lynette is responsible for the district’s gifted and talented programs along with other programs for high-ability students. She had conducted presentations for parents on applying for Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) Student Summer Scholarship programs and often talked about and distributed material for various summer programs. She knew their value. “Research has shown that gifted kids benefit from participating in quality summer programs – spending time with others who are like them and interested in the same content.” She knew as well that, “Parents often have trouble finding great programs for gifted kids; they often don’t know where to start or whose advice to trust.”  (Looking for tips yourself? Here are some resources: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/browse_articles_217.aspx

Vicky Blanas, program coordinator for CTD’s Apogee Summer Program, describes program offerings to parents at the Summer Program Expo held in Houston last week.

But Lynette wanted to do more.

During the 2007 – 2008 school year, she invited several camp representatives to come to her district. Disappointed by the turnout, she approached her professional development cooperative about hosting a bigger area fair. The first year, more than 1,000 people attended and 30 vendors exhibited.

Want to do a vendor show yourself? Below is information that Lynette thinks you should know:

Choosing a Location

She recommends being “smart” when choosing the venue. “Look at your schools to see who has a large space with nearby breakout rooms,” she says. She also likes the idea of approaching a local university. Not only was Rice centrally located, “We loved that the kids saw a campus first hand.”

Developing a Vendor Invitation List

Lynette started with the TAGT list of summer programs that cater to gifted kids; she added appropriate programs from the NAGC list and asked colleagues to recommend other quality programs. She e-mailed an invitation to them all. In this year’s invitation she included maps, hotel recommendations and even a list of area restaurants.

Promoting the Event

The Houston Area Cooperative is made up of more than 30 school districts. Each participating district markets the event to parents of gifted student in their districts, generally through paper fliers. In addition, the information is posted on each district’s web site and highlighted in e-mail newsletters.

Advice from a vendor: The more impressive the numbers, the greater the draw so think BIG. Instead of just holding a summer program expo at an individual school, think about teaming up with other schools.

Final advice from Lynette:

“Don’t be afraid to try it! Last year a parent sought me out and thanked me. She told me that her child would not have had the opportunity to go to a summer camp for gifted kids if we had not done the expo. What more could you ask for?”

About Susie: I’m the marketing manager for Center for Talent Development. I do a great deal of CTD’s outreach, so attending events such as the Houston Area Summer Program Expo is all in a week’s work.

What makes kids creative?

Welcome to the Talent Talk Thursday news round-up. Each week, we’ll choose a story relating to gifted issues to spark discussion. Tell us your thoughts! Remember, this blog is powered by your feedback.

This week’s topic is creativity, as recent articles have sparked discussion about the impact of technology on creative expression.

Check out this recent report from the Wall Street Journal:

“A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative?”

What is creativity? How do you develop it—and do you need to? The increased popularity of technological gadgets and video games has led to a growing concern among parents, educators and academics about a loss of creativity and imaginative play in young people.

But is that the case? Is creativity innate and spontaneous or does it require nurturing?  Does the environment or medium—unstructured play, art, technology—matter? According to experts in the field, there are many factors that influence creativity and its expression including genetics, personality, and environment.  Children need time and permission to express their ideas and develop their talents, but how that happens is still a hot topic.

Find additional reflections on creativity in gifted young people on the CTD web site.

And learn more about the debate over play from this article in the New York Times.

What do you think? How do you define creativity? How important do you think things like play and artistic expression are to young gifted children?