Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: Learning in the 21st Century: How to Connect, Collaborate, and Create By Ben Curran and Neil Wetherbee

This book, the latest in the Perspectives In Gifted Homeschooling Series from GHF Press, may be intended for homeschoolers … but don’t let that stop you from buying it if you’re not a homeschooler! All the books in this series are excellent resources for parents of gifted children, and this latest one is no exception. It is easy to read, easy to understand and a book that will have tattered edges before long … unless you buy the ebook version. Then, you’ll just have a low-battery issue facing you.

As the title indicates, the book is divided into three sections: Connect, Collaborate and Create with the latter divided into Creation Tools and Ready-Made Projects. All are superb intros into the world of using technology in education.

Had I written this review a few weeks earlier, I would not have to take a short intermission to inform you that Google announced a few days ago that it was pulling the plug on Google Reader … one of the first tools reviewed in the book. It is no reflection on the authors … many in the online technology community are in a tizzy over this development as there are no viable alternatives available to aggregate news sites and blogs. An editorial in the New York times found here places blame squarely on the shoulders of Google itself.

That’s okay though; the other tools ~ Google Drive, Blogger, Twitter, Diigo, Edmodo … to name a few ~ are all still intact. It’s like a one-stop shop for ‘how-to’ lessons on all things tech. Even after many years of utilizing tech tools, I found myself pouring over the instructions in this book and learning something new in every section. I really, really like this book. Ben and Neil know what they are talking about and have a way of explaining it all in layman’s terms.

When parents think about education, it seems only natural that we tend to think back to our own days in school. Big, big, big mistake. School isn't what it used to be. If you want your gifted kids to soar, you need to be prepared to assist in lift-off! Learning in the 21st Century helps you to find and use the tools you need to help guide your children to new heights. It may just earn you a little respect as well in their eyes! Too many parents shrug off their responsibility when it comes to educating their children. It takes a village to raise a child, and in the case of gifted children; it takes a metropolis!

One of my most favorite parts of the book is the Ready-Made Projects section. You can read all the ‘how to’ books you like, but the authors make it easy by giving you several projects to get you started. Once you try out a few of these and tweak them for your own use … you’ll be hooked!

Here’s an added bonus … this book will help you out personally as you begin your foray into the world of online technology and social media. Along with guiding your child, you’ll pick up some great tips as well. You’ll learn how to connect and collaborate with other parents of gifted children in ways you never dreamed of. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a great community of folks who will become your support system. Feelings of being alone will be a distant memory as you find blogs to read and Twitter accounts to follow; all while helping your child to learn about the many different types of technology available online.21st cent

From the authors ~ “…when it comes to technology and education, be the type of learner you want your children to be—a learner that is dedicated, motivated, not afraid to try new things, and one who recognizes the immense value of learning from mistakes.” I couldn't agree more. To learn more, check out the book on Amazon. You’ll be glad you did!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: Hacking Your Education by Dale J. Stephens

This is not a book about dropping out, but rather about becoming empowered
to make your own decisions… If you’re looking for an easy solution, shortcut,
or way to work less, this book is not for you. Hacking your education requires
tons of hard work and determination.
From the Introduction

Dale J. Stephens has had an extraordinary life … thus far. At 21 years old, it may seem like a long time if you are 16 or 17 and find the title of this book appealing; but, trust me … it is a brief period in the grand scheme of life. Although I think the author has many good ideas, I don’t think they are very plausible for most 18 years that I know. And I do know a lot of 18 year olds.

The unwritten parts of this book were what intrigued me most. Mr. Stephens posits that, like himself, anyone can accomplish anything they set their mind to with enough grit and determination. I beg to differ. I would contend that he had above-average intelligence and an upper middle-class support system that afforded him many advantages unavailable to the majority of teens {a fact he barely recognizes or acknowledges}.

As I read through the editors copy of his manuscript {full disclosure – I did not buy this book, nor did I receive a copy in exchange for this review}, I kept asking myself, “who was the intended audience?” For the most part … it seemed to be young, white males with backgrounds similar to the author. That certainly leaves a whole lot of people on the sidelines. Others may buy this book, but I don’t think they’ll find what they are hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a well-written book. I actually think it has some good advice for young people unsure of what direction they are headed in life. I’m a firm supporter of taking a year off after completing high school – I just think it’s wise to finish high school.

I did, however, feel like many of the ‘hacks’ advocated therein were … to say the least … unethical. I cringed when I read about sneaking into college classes for which you weren't registered or lying your way into conferences for which you hadn't paid. I think that is simply cheating the system, not hacking it.

Perhaps my 21 year old daughter, whom I asked to read the text and who just graduated from college, enlightened my perspective.  She made several salient points. For example, after reading about traveling the world by staying with people you've never met; her comment was, “As a young female, I’m supposed to feel comfortable couch surfing as a way to stay in countries I've never been to? Give me a break!” Also, “This guy never had to worry about things like having a reliable Internet connection so that he could do all his research and keep in touch with anyone.” Regarding becoming an entrepreneur, she said, “I spend enough time working with people in that circle to know that for every good idea that gets funding, a hundred more either don’t come to fruition or crash and burn.

So my advice would be that if you decide to buy the book, read it with a grain of salt … 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Best Practices in Gifted Parenting

One of the reasons I started this blog was I felt it important that the gifted community ~ beyond educators, academics, professional advocates ~ understand what it is like to parent a gifted child in the ‘outside’ world. A vast majority of us join the gifted community by proxy. Until our children become self-advocates, we are responsible for their care & feeding AND for doing everything we can to see they reach that esoteric state of ‘full potential’.

I read a lot these days. I read mainly about gifted issues. Sometimes I think I finish reading articles in my sleep or at least it seems that way when I awake in the morning. I’m not always pleased about what I read. Blogs written by educators do not reflect my experiences with gifted education. Too often, their reflections bear little resemblance to the real-world stories I heard from my kids when they came home from school and I asked them “how was your day”.

When you do a Google search on ‘gifted education’ … something many first-time parents do when their child is identified gifted or they suspect giftedness long before the first day of school … you can add date parameters. But frankly … it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. You see … more often than anyone will admit … you could read an article online from 1991 or 2000 or 2006 or last month and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It’s just the same old same old.

Nature or nurture. Equity or equality. Lack of adequate identification procedures. Myths, myths and more myths repeated because there is no effective governmental policy regarding gifted education … anywhere. Blahblahblah. What’s a parent to do? I can tell you from personal experience that whatever you decide to do … there will always be an ‘expert’ somewhere down the road telling you that you did it all wrong!

You could read a book. Do you have time to sit down and read a book? I never did when my own children were younger. Heck … I hardly have time now. You should see the shelves of my Kindle … thankfully it’s in the Cloud so I don’t have to look at it every waking minute! You could join a gifted parent group. They really are a great source of information and camaraderie.  Of course, as soon as the first meeting is over, they’ll be asking for volunteers. I know … I started a parent group and was the one asking for help all.the.time.

So … here’s my suggestions for ‘best practices’ when it comes to parenting a gifted child – search for blogs written by parents and occasionally by an expert; join a parent group but strongly suggest they consider utilizing social media and the Internet to communicate (this will reduce the need for monthly meetings); figure out how to tweet and join a Twitter chat for an hour a week from the privacy of your home (disclaimer: I moderate #gtchat on Twitter and am a strong advocate for the benefits they offer); and attend a state or national conference at least once while your kids are young (it will change your life and give you that ‘I am not alone’ glow long after it’s over).

And here’s the very best advice of all … your children are who they are because of who you are! That’s right. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. They have been identified gifted and you probably are, too; even if you weren't officially identified. They’re emotional and irreverent and difficult to get along with at times. And if you’re willing to admit it … you are, too. Parenting gifted children is not easy and you are guaranteed to make mistakes; but take time to find joy in every day. And … share that joy with your child. They will never forget those moments and isn't that what it’s all about … making memories to last a lifetime?