This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David
Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of
About two weeks ago I was asked if I would be
interested in providing a “guest lecture” in a course on Talented and
Gifted education. The topic was to be roles of computers in TAG
I said yes before it eventually dawned on me that I
was volunteering to do a full class meeting for a three-credit course
that holds only one class meeting per week. With nearly three hours of
class meeting time available to me, the challenge became one of
preparing a half-day workshop rather than giving a lecture.
class is a mixture of seniors and graduate students, and they have
widely varying educational interests. Some are interested in special
education while others are in general education. Some are oriented
towards elementary education and some towards secondary education.
Moreover, their computer backgrounds and interests vary, although all
routinely use fundamental tools such as e-mail, word processing, and
Web. Here are some of the points I decided to emphasize.
This is a quote from about 2,400 years
ago that I find quite interesting:
“When you spoke of a nature gifted or
not gifted in any respect, did
you mean to say that one man may acquire a thing easily, another with
difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to discover a great
deal; whereas the other, after much study and application no sooner
learns then he forgets.” (Plato; Classical Greek philosopher,
mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the
Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the
western world; 428/427 BC– 348/347 BC.)
This quote indicates that educators have long known that there are
considerable variations in how well and how fast people learn. In the
early 1900s, Alfred Binet undertook the task of developing an easily
administered instrument to divide students into three categories:
slower, mid range, and faster.
More than a hundred years of
subsequent research and development have led to our current IQ tests,
measures of cognitive development, measures of creativity, measures of
leadership, and so on, and have given us a much better understanding of
capabilities, limitations, and differences of human brains.
Looking at More Current
We know that typical TAG
students learn with deeper understanding and
two or more times as fast as average students. This faster learning and
better understanding can be used to pursue a greater breadth and depth
of education as compared to average students.
Communication Technology (ICT) brings two very important new issues to
TAG education. First, ICT provides for relatively quick and easy access
to a wide range of:
- People located throughout the world.
- Data, information, and knowledge; tools to help gather and
process data, information, and knowledge.
- Distance education and computer-assisted learning.
proper education, encouragement, and other forms of support, a TAG
student can become immersed in a very large learning and experiential
environment—much broader and deeper that has been available to students
in the past.
Think of this of this from an Individual Education
Plan (IEP) point of view. We know a lot about the value of providing
slower-learning students with an IEP and special help in making
progress toward the learning goals described in the IEP. I have long
wondered why we don’t do the same for all TAG students. The steadily
increasing availability of distance learning courses and the steadily
growing content of the Web certainly makes it more feasible to
implement an IEP for a TAG student.
Second, consider the following statement by David Perkins, a long time
professional colleague of Howard Gardner:
familiarity with various software programs is part of my intelligence
if I have access to those tools." (David Perkins, 1992; see
The first issue of this IAE
Newsletter discussed the topic, Two Brains Are Better Than One. See
an augmentation or enhancement to one’s brain. The capabilities of this
augmentation are steadily growing.
We quite a bit about how to
help students develop their (human) brain power. We know far less about
how to help students learn to make effective use of the “brain power”
provided by computers and other ICT facilities. Of course, some TAG
students grow up in a home environment in which they receive a lot of
help learning to make broad and deep use of ICT. Some learn it on their
own. However, relatively few students are getting this in their regular
schooling. Most TAG students are not gaining in-depth knowledge and
skills in Computational Thinking as applied to the various non-computer
disciplines they are studying. (See
One reason for
this is that relatively few teachers have depth of knowledge both in
the traditional disciplines that they are teaching and in roles of ICT
in representing and solving the problems in these disciplines. They
cannot provide much assistance in helping students develop their human
brains in a manner that allows them to make broad, deep use of computer
brains. This represents a significant flaw in our current educational
system. It is a flaw in the education we are providing all students,
but I find it particularly painful in our education of TAG students.
Looking into the
The talented and gifted
students of the world represent a precious
resource. Some countries are doing much more than others to recognize
this fact and to implement programs of study that are especially
designed to help such students reach their full potentials.
Federal level, the United States does very close to nothing to help in
TAG education. See, for example,
Individual states have widely varying legislation and fiscal
support for TAG education. My own state (Oregon) mandates TAG education
but provides very close to zero financial support for it.
the long run, computer-assisted learning and distance education will
get better and better, and become more and more available to all
students. The capabilities of computer “brains” will continue to grow.
With appropriate leadership at school district, state, and Federal
levels, these two change agents could lead to substantial changes in
our overall education system. Such changes could be designed to be
especially beneficial to TAG students.
Here is a suggestion to
parents of TAG children. Think carefully about what you are doing and
what your children’s schools are doing to help your children become
independent, self-sufficient learners who are developing their human
brains and are learning to make broad and deep use of computer brains.
Keep in mind that it takes many years of student time and effort to
learn to make such broad and deep uses of ICT within the other
disciplines they are studying.
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