Friday, December 30, 2011

GT Voice … the Perfect Start to the New Year!

Last December (2010), I wrote a post entitled, “Vision 2011: Digitally Connecting the Global Gifted Community”. In it, I expressed the hope for a worldwide effort of committed individuals who would make gifted advocacy their cause.

            “Every year the world loses the contributions of brilliant minds because we haven’t found a way to work together. Where would humanity be today if every gifted child were identified; if the needs of every gifted child were met both academically and emotionally; if the dreams of every gifted child were realized? If somewhere in your own education you learned to think critically, the answer should be quite clear. Connecting and working together is the only real choice.”

One group who came into existence in 2011 that met this criterion was GT Voice in the U.K. I am honored to be a Founder Member of this group; if only from afar … across the pond. I have followed every step of their development from the early meetings of the initial working group to the formal organization of GT Voice.

This group has painstakingly endeavored to put together a first-class organization. Many members are also associated with other gifted support groups in the country, but GT Voice does not want to be seen in either direct or indirect competition with them. As an inclusive network, it is entirely independent of other organizations and political affiliation. It receives no government funding and operates as a non-profit.

GT Voice is “a national network for the support and nurture of the gifted and talented young people, their families and educators”. Although primarily focused on gifted and talented education in the U.K., the new Board of Directors has strongly encouraged international participation by all those who have an interest in gifted children – parents, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

Speaking of the Board of Directors who was elected in September, let’s meet them! Denise Yates was elected by the Board to be the inaugural chair and has been the Chief Executive of the NAGC – UK for over 3 years. Dr. Paula Radice is the Deputy Head of a large primary school and a Gifted & Talented Leading Teacher. Anna Comino-James has served on the NAGC’s Council of Management for many years and set up The Potential Trust Fund to ensure the organization’s financial survival. John Stevenage is the Chief Executive of British Mensa Limited as well as managing the High IQ Society and Mensa Publications Limited. Dr. Johnny Ball worked for 30 years in various projects for BBC and Central TV. In the 1990s, he was president of the NAGC for six years. Chris Leek is the Chairman of British Mensa and led the High IQ Society for 8 years. He also served as Chairman of Mensa International for 4 years. Matt Dickenson is the Achievement Director of London Gifted and Talented. He will also be the guest speaker at the Bavarian Center for Gifted and Talented Children’s Global Virtual Meeting in Second Life on January 28th  (see my last post for details on how to participate). Aileen Hoare is the Chair of North West Gifted and Talented and creator/co-founder of Day a Week School. Tim Dracup is a NAGC Trustee and former national lead in England’s education ministry (1996 – 2009). As an independent consultant, Tim was one of the initiators of GT Voice.

For parents interested in gifted advocacy, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the process from a group of committed leaders in the field. GT Voice actively encourages participation on the part of parents; a rare occurrence in the gifted community. They will be publishing a free monthly e-bulletin to update, inform, involve and recruit members. Each issue will include informative and provocative articles by Board Members.

I encourage all my readers – both parents and educators – to take advantage of all this group has to offer! Their website can be found here. Their charter can be found here. Their constitution can be found here. And a membership form can be found here. In the future, GT Voice will be launching a Google Group where members can gather to discuss issues important to the group. A redesigned website is set to launch by March 2012.

Your participation in GT Voice will be part of a global initiative in support of all gifted children. Outside of the U.K., there will be no meetings to attend; but, your views and concerns will be heard and taken into consideration by the group. You can read more about future plans at Tim Dracup’s excellent blog, Gifted Phoenix, found here.

So, what are you waiting for? Readers of this blog are always asking me how they can become involved but express concerns about time constraints. Well, I am offering you the perfect way to become a supporter of gifted education without straining your daily calendar or budget (there is no membership fee)! Click on the link above (oh heck, here it is again) and! See you at a Google Group soon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Global Virtual Meetings in Gifted Education

I often hear parents and teachers lament the fact that there aren’t enough hours in a day or going to lectures and conventions are just too expensive; and they are right! However, these experiences can make the journey for the parent of an intellectually gifted child so much easier … an elixir for the age-old complaint ~ “if I had known then what I know now”. For teachers of high-ability students, professional development can make the difference between a mediocre teacher and a highly regarded teacher who understands the nature and potential of their students.

In a world of tough economic times and shrinking school budgets, there is a bright spot in the world of gifted education. Those who are willing to give up ONE HOUR a month to attend an online conference will have the benefit of not only listening to world renown keynote speakers, but also be able to ask them questions one-on-one as well as meet new friends and colleagues in a global setting. Did I mention that it is totally FREE and you never have to leave your house (think carbon footprint, scruffy jeans, beverage of choice at hand)? Did I mention it is for only one hour a month? (Okay, I did mention that.) And the best part ~ you can sit next to ME!

How is this all possible you may ask? Roya Klingner, head and founder of the Bavarian Center for Gifted and Talented Children, had the incredible foresight to start building a conference center in Second Life years ago in preparation for these conferences. In Roya’s own words, “The purpose of the conference is to cultivate a global virtual meeting, sharing knowledge and experience about gifted education for students, educators, teachers and parents.” The first meeting was held in August, 2010.

Have I piqued your interest yet? Well, take a look at this video produced by Roya to see past speakers at her conferences.

So, exactly what is Second Life? From their education brochure, “Linden Labs was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a revolutionary new form of shared online experiences known as Second Life. … Second Life is the leading 3D virtual world filled with user-created content and immersive experiences.” The actual program launched in 2003 with a free client program called the Viewer which enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. For more information, see here

To see the full list of academic organizations currently using Second Life … including the University of Texas, University of Warwick, Tasmanian Polytechnic, Oxford University Computing Services, University of New England, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Penn State World Campus, Texas A & M, Stockholm School of Economics, and Rutgers University … click here.  Because residents are free to choose their activities in Second Life including those which are non-educational, it is open only to people 18 years of age and older.

Ready to get started? The first step is to  join Second Life and create an avatar here. To participate in the meeting, you will need a headset. A microphone is optional as you may communicate via keyboard if you prefer. About 10 minutes before the conference is to begin, click here. This link will take you directly to the building where the meetings are held; usually on the roof. It may be helpful to go earlier in the week to acclimate yourself to Second Life and get comfortable navigating there.

The next "Global Virtual Meeting for Gifted Education in Second Life" will be held January 28th 2012 at 3PM EST/9 PM CEST (Germany). The invited speaker is Matt Dickensen (UK). He is Equalities and Achievement Director with London Gifted & Talented, leading the REAL Project (Realizing Equality and Achievement for Learners) the first systematic attempt to improve the quality of G&T education for pupils from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and those learning English as an additional language (EAL). Prior to joining LGT, he taught for twelve years and was also Assistant Director of Teaching & Learning at the National Academy for Gifted & Talented Youth (NAGTY).

Now take a look at this lineup!
- February 25th 2012...Josh Shaine (USA)
- March 24th 2012...Prof. Dr. Ernst Hany (Germany)
- April 21th 2012...Cindy Sheets (USA)
- May 26th 2012...Prof. Dr. Françoys Gagné (Canada)

Roya Klingner is a brilliant, international advocate and speaker in the gifted community. Her dedication to gifted children is unsurpassed. She has tirelessly worked to put together the Second Life conferences. I have seen many articles about these conferences, but rarely see the authors show up at them. Not only have I attended practically every conference, I promise to save a seat for YOU! No excuses!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Giftedness or Talent Development?

For some, this post could well have been entitled, “Much Ado about Nothing”. For others, however, it is an issue of grave importance. This is a follow-up to my last two posts about redefining giftedness in the U.S.

A funny thing happened on my way to write this post … I learned that this discussion is nothing new – it was discussed in the 1800’s, 1930s, and virtually every decade thereafter. The difference today is that some researchers are now saying we must bid adieu to the term ‘gifted’ in favor of the more palatable term ‘talent development’ if the gifted community is to be found acceptable and worthy of public funding.

If you live outside of the U.S., you may have a puzzled look on your face about now. Talent development is an important initiative during the current Hungarian EU presidency’s term in office. April 9, 2011 was declared European Talent Day. Other countries, several of whom are among the top performers on the OECD’s PISA Assessments, are making talent development a national priority in lieu of the availability of natural resources.

Facebook discussions have revolved around two main concerns – talent development as a means of producing eminence within a specific domain and giftedness as a response to meeting the needs of the whole child including social and emotional issues.

This blog has advocated for talent development in the past. There is a great need in the world today for ‘producers’ ~ those who can answer the ‘big’ questions and find solutions to the many pressing issues in our world today. However, this needs to be done in concert with remembering the uniqueness of each child and their differential needs; separate and beyond the needs of other children. It is curious to me why some leaders in the gifted community feel the need to eliminate one approach in deference to the other.

Here’s the deal for parents of gifted children – you and your child need to decide what is most important to your child. There is no right or wrong answer. Many parents are extremely comfortable seeing their children as high-achievers; producers. Many gifted children thrive on maintaining a 4.0 average with top scores on every test they take. They have the potential to attend the top universities and attain success in whatever field they choose. Others are happy seeing their child excel in whatever area they choose regardless of which path they follow to get there. Some will experience difficulties and require additional support throughout their lives; others will not.

What nearly all parents want most for their children is that they find peace and happiness in life doing whatever it is they choose. Few will accept the judgment that their child’s giftedness is solely dependent upon whether or not they achieve eminence in any field. If this were the case, there would be little reason to support any gifted child beyond the most profoundly gifted. Should we choose to support only those who have the potential to achieve eminence in their fields? In my humble opinion … not so much.  

There are many organizations in the U.S. and around the world whose mission it is to support gifted children in various ways. Here are a few links to various groups. If interested, take a look!

GT Voice - UK ( )
HKAGE – Hong Kong ( )

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Response from the NAGC

In my last post, I discussed the ongoing debate within the U.S. concerning statements made by Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius both prior to and after becoming the president of the NAGC. Since that time, the NAGC and Dr. Olszewski-Kubilius have both responded with written statements here  and here .

It was noted in one of the responses that statements were being conflated on certain gifted blogs. To make sure my readers are clear, I delineated three separate writings: 1) a monograph co-authored by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and first published in January of 2011, 2) an article in Compass Points – “Taking a Bold Step”, also by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius sent to members in November 2011, and 3) an article in the Spring 2011 issue of Gifted Child Quarterly (not addressed in the responses).

The NAGC, in their response, also mentioned their position paper, Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm found here , as the official position of the organization which this blog did not address. Readers will have to discern what they will from the statements by the NAGC. I will take them at face value at the present time that remarks made by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius reflect her own personal opinions and not the official current position of the NAGC.

I would like to point out that I have great respect for the work Dr. Olszewski-Kubilius has done at Northwestern University and her dedication to their Center for Talent Development (take a look here). I applaud her courage for starting the conversation about talent development. I have spent the last couple weeks researching her writings and have learned much about her philosophy. Although I don't agree with all the conclusions to which she has come, there can be no doubt about her sincerity in helping children develop to their full potential. 

In my next post, I will discuss my interpretation of the differences of opinion between giftedness and talent development. For the record, I think both should play a role in the identification of and the delivery of services to gifted children rather than having one replace the other.  

Other blogs have also commented on this situation.:

The blog Gas Station Without Pumps has a good post on the Rethinking Giftedness monograph, entitled “What is Giftedness?” found here .

From Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund, “Shifting the Paradigm: Asynchrony and the High-Potential Child” found here is another response to the NAGC.

From the blog Wicked Smart, there are three posts related to this discussion found here , here , and here .