from Educators' eZine
The American Association for Gifted Children, or AAGC was founded on September 6, 1946 "because two friends, Dr. Ruth Strang and Miss Pauline Williamson believed that the gifted were the most neglected children in our democracy" (AAGC, 1996). Sadly, their belief still rings true. In classrooms all across the United States, special needs children categorized as "gifted" continue to be ignored. These high ability students are often overlooked while emphasis is placed on other categories of special education, in particular, students with learning disabilities. Proof of this lies in "a recent University of Chicago study which reveals how the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) pushes teachers to ignore high-ability students through its exclusive focus on bringing students to minimum proficiency" (Goodkin & Gold, 2007).
Since the NCLB does not provide funds directly to states for gifted services, many school districts operate with disparities. Wealthier districts possess the financial resources to allocate for gifted programs, unlike districts operating with deficits. So, in many instances, the challenge of engaging and instructing gifted students becomes the sole responsibility of the regular education teacher. Of course, training requirements for teachers working with gifted students vary from state to state and district to district. Very few at the state and local level "require that all classroom teachers receive training to address the educational needs of advanced learners" (National Association of Gifted Children). De Vise (2007) tells how Marty Creel, who oversees gifted education in Montgomery County, Virginia, believes "gifted education is not something that should be done by another teacher down the hall; it should be done by every teacher in every classroom." In other words, a classroom teacher is qualified and capable of effectively meeting the needs of gifted students. So, how can teachers successfully promote the skills of an advanced learner within a regular education classroom? Differentiating instruction through the use of technology is the answer.
Intuitive teachers have practiced differentiating instruction for a long time. Scott Willis and Larry Mann, (2000) say nearly all teachers believe that it's better to differentiate instruction but the challenge rests in translating that belief into action. The application of technology can help in this respect since it's become "a vehicle for gifted curricular differentiation" (Sheffield 2007). The flexibility of the Internet offers numerous options for the delivery of content that educators can take advantage of when considering instruction modifications for gifted students. "First, it provides universal access to information." "Second, the Internet provides a common platform for the collaboration, sharing, and publishing of ideas" (Siegle, n.d.). Finally, the experience of using the Internet to form relationships through email, instant messaging, and electronic mentoring enables gifted students to feel connected with others like them and gain a sense of belonging. According to Siegle (n.d.), technology allows students to produce products in a real-world fashionâ€¦they can access software that enables them to compose music, design buildings and collect data with laboratory probes in ways similar to practicing professionals in each of these fields. Many gifted students possess a high technology aptitude and prefer this mode of learning. Siegle (n.d.) maintains that the infinite possibilities associated with digital technology, especially via the Internet, means that gifted students are limited solely by their interests and abilities.
The Internet provides fertile ground for online learning environments. Mulrine, (2007) asserts that virtual learning environments can be used as a way to integrate the curriculum with information technology and create higher order learning opportunities for gifted learners. In an online environment gifted students are virtually transported to places where they interact with content, encounter real world problems and develop solutions. Students then synthesize their newly acquired knowledge and present it in a unique manner using varied forms of media. Online learning environments also enable gifted students to work on a project at their own pace whether it is at school or at home, provided they have a computer with Internet access. They thrive in an environment where they are in control of their learning. (Ng & Nicholas, 2007)
For many teachers, time and curricular constraints present obstacles in their effort to differentiate instruction for gifted learners. Fortunately, numerous resources exist on the Internet for teachers to assist gifted students in getting a quality education. There are websites for WebQuests, online projects, and virtual field trips. Many of these activities can be self-paced and will challenge students at their level.
WebQuests are a great learning tool for differentiation because they meet all the learning needs of the gifted students. Most WebQuests give students a real world problem they must solve using higher order thinking skills. Tasks can be either individual or group oriented and performance is guided by teacher provided websites where information is obtained. The students present this information to their peers, teachers and/or parents in a way that is unique to them using multimedia equipment. (Schweizer & Kossow, 2007)
A portal to sites explaining every aspect of creating and using WebQuests
Hardin County WebQuests
A portal, listing many, many WebQuests - all arranged by grade-level
An even bigger portal, with dozens of fascinating WebQuests arranged under Elementary, Middle, and High School categories
A matrix of WebQuests arranged by subject area and grade-level.
A very comprehensive portal dividing 'Quests into four categories: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12
Virtual Field Trips
Combining textual and visual information is always a great way to pique student interest. Field trips are often valuable learning experiences. Yet, there are many times when financial or transportation issues make a trip unfeasible. Virtual field trips offer a viable alternative and enable students to investigate curricular areas from the comfort and safety of their classroom. This highly engaging activity "can be incorporated into a teacher's curriculum with a great deal of ease." (Mulrine, 2007)
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS
Virtual Field Trips
Over 100 trips in five different categories
Field trip resources, including for-fee software to create virtual field trips and a book about the topic.
Teacher Tap: Digital and Virtual Museums
This websites includes a list specific museum websites, virtual museum articles and links for museum websites
Education World: Take a Museum Field Trip
Links for virtual field trips to various museums.
The Educator's Reference Desk
Collection of virtual lesson plans for teachers by subject area.
Web Sites and Resources for Teachers
This site includes lesson plans, instructional materials, online activities and projects, and virtual trips to museums and countries around the world.
Another great differentiation tool is online projects. It is used to enhance the learning of a particular theme. The online project starts out with an essential question. The student groups then progress through a series of steps using the Internet to find answers. During the quest for answers, opportunities to communicate with students and professionals from other parts of the world are realized. The project culminates in the creation of a multimedia presentation to be presented to peers, teachers, parents, community members or uploaded to a web page. The final step is an evaluation of the group and its members. (Goldenberg, et al, 2004)
One of the true pioneers in online projects, and it just keeps getting better and better.
Another pioneer, celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing worthwhile projects for science, the environment and social studies.
Sites alive! â€“ K-12 Learning Adventures
Projects for students to learn about real-world issues.
Dozens and dozens of K-12 projects on project and problem based learning, arranged in categories.
An Australian website with many online projects.
From the Los Angeles County Office of Education, a very, very comprehensive portal of online projects and more.
Online Projects for Beginners
Provides links to projects and a simple-to-read guide explaining what they are and why to use them.
Teacher Tap: Online Collaborative Projects
Links of projects and assistance regarding projects.
More Resources for Gifted and Talented
Education Atlas: Gifted Education
A portal listing activities, camps, curriculum differentiation, distance learning, elementary, identification, laws, organizations, parents, publications, resources, and secondary
The site calls itself an "on-line support community for gifted and talented individuals and those who support and nurture them."
Renzulli Learning Systems
Commercial site dedicated to differentiated instruction resources for parents, teachers, students, and managers.
Working With Gifted and Talented Students
Links on how to spot a gifted student, teacher strategies and web resources to use.
Hoagie's Gifted Education Page
This is a great site for anything that has to do with teaching a gifted individual.
Cool Teaching Lessons and Units
Because it emphasizes WebQuests, research modules and project based learning, it does fit in with gifted education.
Resources for Teaching Gifted and Talented Students
Scroll down past the commercial offers to find a collection of lesson plans and other gifted education resources for teachers, parents and students.
California Virtual Academies
This is a public, online, tuition free distance-learning program for K-12 students. The academy provides curriculum, a loaner computer, printer, and high speed internet access.
Prufrock Press Inc.
This company publishes materials for gifted education.
Kidsource: Education - Gifted and Talented Students
Educational articles on gifted students.
Time 4 Learning: Accelerated and Advanced Math Programs
Provides self-paced, accelerated, advanced math programs for gifted learners.
Sponsored by AT&T, this is a great repository of Blue Ribbon educational sites. Search for gifted and talented resources or by other parameters.
An excellent resource for teachers and parents, but will require some searching.
A Different Place
It calls itself "a place on the Web to find differentiated activities in all content areas!!"
Kid's Place Brain Teasers
Provides math brain teasers for grades 3-8.
Hartford Web Publishing
A great site for historical research.
The focus of services for gifted learners has shifted to the regular education classroom. Although they may not be specifically trained in gifted education, regular education teachers can challenge gifted learners by differentiating instruction. Differentiating instruction with "technology, transforms gifted students from receptacles of knowledge to active producers who direct their own learning" (Siegle, n.d.). Use of the provided technology resources will enable teachers to successfully promote the skills of an advanced learner within a regular education classroom. Without technology to engage them, the academic careers of gifted students will lack the challenge and variety they crave.
Besnoy, Kevin. (January 2006). How Do I Do That? Integrating Web Sites Into the Gifted Education Classroom. Gifted Child Today, 29(1), 28-34. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 985068411).
de Vise, Daniel. (November, 2007). Critics say 'No Child' hurts the gifted. Washington Post, November 28, 2007.
Goldenberg, L., Heinze, J. & Ba, H. (2004) What Middle Grade Students Say About Learning Science with Multimedia.
Lacina, Jan. (Summer 2007). Inquiry-Based Learning and Technology: Designing and Exploring WebQuests. Childhood Education, 83(4), 251-252. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 1275350681).
Mulrine, Christopher F. (April, 2007). CREATING A VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR GIFTED AND TALENTED LEARNERS. Gifted Child Today, 30(2), 37-40. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 1237776671).
National Association for Gifted Children. Frequently Asked Questions.
Schweizer, Heidi and Kossow, Ben. (January, 2007). WebQuests: Tools for Differentiation. Gifted Child Today, 30(1), 29-35. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 1242047861).
Shaffer, M.J. (1998). Technology: An Enrichment Tool for the Gifted Student. ERIC #ED429399.
Sheffield, Carol. (2007). Technology and the Gifted Adolescent: Higher Order Thinking, 21st Century Literacy, and the Digital Native.
Siegle, Del. (n.d.). Gifted Students & Technology: An Interview with Del Siegle.
Willis, Scott and Mann, Larry. (Winter, 2000). Differentiating Instruction. Finding Manageable Ways to Meet Individual Needs.