Category Archives: Technology

Learning Communities

After reading a few replies from a post I did this past summer, Marti Pike posted a link to a very good Tedx Talk by John Green and the importance of learning and learning communities.

Is your classroom a learning community? Do your gifted students feel like they are part of a learning community? Do you you encourage your gifted students to take part in some of the on-line learning communities on Reddit, or on YouTube?

We know gifted children have a drive to learn. We know that if they get bored they can be a handful to say the least. So why not introduce them to learning communities that can help them learn more about a topic or subject they have an interest in.

What learning communities do you as a teacher enjoy that helps you stay connected to learning as a teacher? What learning communities do your gifted students like to engage in? Post those to the comment section below.

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Space and Science on Display

**I want to first start out by saying this post isn’t necessarily about gifted education.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go with the Lima Senior High School Moon Rover team to Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge. They were the only high school in Ohio to participate. This is the first year we were able to compete with two rover teams.

IMG_1806Watching high school and college students going up against each other in a challenge was awesome. Every school had different designs, different materials, but all had to meet the same requirements.

Our students came up with a great design, and they built it. They made some alterations to the rover based on the data they collected from the course. It was all science and engineering.

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What was the most interesting aspect to the weekend was having the ability to go up to other teams and ask them about their rover. Teams would openly share their failures and successes. They shared what they loved most about their rover, and how they felt they did against past years from their schools. Teams also gave permission to take pictures of their rovers. The comradery amongst teams was great. They all had the shared experience of designing, building, and racing their rovers.

After two days of racing, we gave the students the chance to check out the Marshall Space Flight facilities.  They got the chance to see rockets up close, and have the opportunities to talk to real astronauts.

What I hoped our students took away from the weekend was just how important STEM, and STEAM programs are. I hope they saw that having skills like welding, carpentry, and machining are important career and technical skills. I hope they saw that engineering isn’t necessarily a single person career, but a team effort.

I hope they took away from the weekend perseverance, tenacity, and team work. I saw our students overcome some issues with their rover, and come through on the other side with a better product. They started out together as 2 teams, and left as one large team. They had goals, some were met, and some we have to try again next year.

Overall, students from all schools had an opportunity of lifetime. They raced each other, they inspired each other, and they helped to propel the idea that this generation could impact the future with their creativity, skills, and their experiences with science and engineering.

Emphasize Challenge not Success

doesnt-challenge-you-change-success-quotes-sayings-picturesAs I left the Ohio Association for Gifted Children Teacher Academy Conference last week, I was thinking about how much information I received. For the past few days I started to really digest all of the information. I found there was a theme from my notes. That theme was emphasize challenge not success.

I started to really think about that concept in my classroom this week. I feel at times I get to caught up in the process of what I am expecting students to do, that I may lose sight of the idea that I need to challenge my gifted students. On Monday I started to revamp my thinking. I started to re-evaluate my lessons plans for the week to make sure I was challenging all of my students.

To challenge my gifted students I had to first make sure the lessons I created no student could just coast through. I had to make it meaningful, and have rigor. So I added just a few  criterion my expectations and I noticed just by doing that it became a little more difficult. I have no problem allowing students to struggle a bit. I feel that it a quality teachers don’t like to see, but that’s a feeling that students have to feel now in a safe environment, because they will feel it when they are older out in the real world.

I looked back at my lessons for the week, and tried to make sure they were delivered to the students as an exciting and fun challenges. Students need to see challenges in a positive light not a negative one. They will face challenges all their lives, so they need to see a challenge as a positive experience even if they don’t succeed.  I tried to get my students to see there are different strategies to try if the first way they tried didn’t work. This is an opportunity for me to see that the struggle is a great learning opportunity for my students.

Through the struggle advanced learners learn to be stretched. Many  gifted students hate to be stretched and at times will fight you for it. Some students like the path of least resistance. We need to show them by trying new and different ways they are training their brain to look at circumstances differently. By being stretched students can see, and feel the pains the of learning; and those pains are good pains.

Education isn’t all about facts. Education is about taking the knowledge you learn and applying to challenges. If you fail or succeed in the challenge isn’t as important as how you recover from the failures.

 

How to be Effective During Chats

As one of the moderators of #ohiogtchat I help to lead a chat that brings topics related to Gifted Education, advocacy, and gifted children and adults. Near the end of each chat we encourage those who participated in the chat follow each other. What I have noticed in past two years of moderating #ohiogtchat I have noticed that many new people are joining the Twitterverse.

One of my passions is advocating got gifted children and Gifted Education. So if I can, I want to help others who have a passion for gifted advocacy online to be more effective I will. Now, the few tips that I want to share are ones I have learned from being on Twitter and participating in chats.

Before we talk about the chats, let’s talk about your profile on Twitter. Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t be an Egg-Head. When you set up your Twitter account they give you a colored egg as your avatar. Change it. Add a picture of yourself, or use some of the online photo editors to dress up your picture as much as you want. If you don’t want to put a picture of yourself, then use a logo of something that relates to you. For example, if you graduated from a college then use their logo as your avatar. I use my favorite picture with my wife.

Screenshot_20160413-130334Create a Profile. When you create your profile, write your description of yourself that accurately describes you. When you leave it blank it doesn’t allow others to see who you are. I would also use hashtags in the descriptions of the things you like or follow. For example, to the left is mine. I tell what is important to me, about me, and share the hashtags I like to follow. I also have a link to my blog page. I also added a picture to top. That picture shows I am into sports, particularly high school sports.

Use a handle that represents you. Some people like to use their name as their handle, which is what I did. Some like to be more creative with their handle. Whatever you choose let it show people who you are. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t use your zip code or birthdate in it. For example, don’t use “jsh03maker12fght”. It’s too complicated. Just be yourself.

Remember on Twitter, pictures and tweets last forever. People will judge about you is the material that place online. So don’t post images or tweets when you are angry, drunk, or extremely tired. The posts won’t make sense most of the time, and you may say something you regret later.

No as it comes to being effective in chats, here are a few things I would suggest. 

Increase your PLN (Professional Learning Network). When you join in a chat you like, I will go through and follow those people who are active in the chat. I want to learn from others. 

Study Up. Most chats will post the questions a few days before hand. Check out the questions. Do a little bit of research so you can add to the conversation. 

Like / Retweet. During the chat like and retweet statuses of others. By liking the post, you are agreeing with them. Post your own original thoughts in a chat. It’s nice to like and retweet, but you need to add your opinion or better yet some of your research. Share the article, website, post, blog, or the handle of someone on Twitter that will add to the conversation.

Finally, help to promote your favorite chats. When the moderator posts upcoming chat times and topics share those with others. Get more people in the conversation. The more people you have, the diverse the conversation. Here is a link to several tweet chats that you may be interested in. 

I hope this helps to give you an idea of ways to be more effective on Twitter. Again you can always follow me on Twitter at @jeff_shoemaker, and check out the chat I moderate called #ohiogtchat. (This chat is sponsored by the Teacher Division of The Association for Gifted Children.)

If you have any other suggestions on how to be more effective on Twitter and during tweet chats please let me know in the comments section below.

Introverts and School Life

This morning I read an interesting article about introverts and college life at Ohio State University. Introversion is a topic that I wrote about a few months ago, and I think this is a topic that we will see more and more in the news as it draws more attention.

In the article it mentions that a student, Alexandra Grese, who is an introvert created a Facebook page called “Introverts of OSU”, with the tag line “A social club for the not-so-social.” College isn’t set up for introverts. There is a lot of forced socialization by living in dorms, and all of the clubs that are readily available to join.

After reading this article, I began to think about myself. I at times can be an introvert, but in college I feel like I began to come out of my shell.  Looking back college made me come out of my shell. I didn’t want to be alone in college. I wanted to have friends.

I started to think about my school and classroom. What do we do to help introverts be more comfortable? What in our school would interest an introvert? What opportunities do we give students who are introverts? What do I do in my classroom to make introverts welcome, and comfortable? Do my projects I assign give students who are introverts to be introverted? I don’t think I do enough to allow them to be introverts.

I applaud Alexandra Grese, for stepping out and taking a chance. I am sure it isn’t easy to get introverts together. I want to take her lead, and do something here in my school as well. I am not sure what it may be, but I will keep you posted.

I am interested in hearing what you do in your school, or classroom to make introverts feel more comfortable.

 

Addition of Complexity

I was reading a blog post from Ian Byrd today, called 7 Ways to Add Complexity. Ian does a great job of explaining ways that will add complexity to the gifted classroom. Complexity is a great way to add rigor to the curriculum.

One aspect that I feel is important to gifted children is that the curriculum be challenging and relevant. Gifted children want to be challenged. It is our job as GIS to figure out how to challenge them in a way that makes them grow, not only in learning, but as a person.

Last year I did a competition with my 7th graders. My students had to create a working simple machine based on some household items. The items changed as the challenge did each week. For one challenge I gave them a few household items such as plastics spoons, rubber bands, different sized popsicle sticks, and some pushpins. They had to make a catapult that would shoot a penny more than 10 feet. They worked with a partner to figure this out. I gave them 10 minutes on the computer to research catapults, and do make a rough design on paper. Once the time was up students had to use that materials and their simple sketch to make their model. Each of my students loved this. My extroverts loved to boast about their models, and my introverts were proud peacocks when they won.

Complexity can come in different forms. It can come in shortened time, and few resources. Complexity doesn’t have to be something over the top. Sometimes, you just have to shake things up to make them more interesting. Using items that are different from what the students would expect is great way to get complexity. For example Ian writes in the article mentioned above, that he had a 6th grader write an essay using kindergarten paper.

In our world of education, we have to push our gifted students more and more. We are expecting them to show growth through the year on standardized tests. I believe that without complexity and a good knowledge of differentiation skills students won’t progress like they should.

What do you do to add complexity to your curriculum? What differentiation strategies do you use that work best with gifted students? Share in the comments section below.

A Shameless Plug: On Sunday Feb 28 at 9pm ET #ohiogtchat will be doing a review of Ian’s work on Differentiation on Twitter. For more information follow @jeff_shoemaker and @HeatherCachat, or go to our website ohiogtchat.weebly.com

Building a Culture of Creativity

Creativity is an important element for the Gifted Classroom.

I enjoy is giving students a task or project, and letting them go on to do what they want with it. I feel that it is important to let students be creative.

I feel that gifted students need to have the freedom to use their own ideas, designs, and interests in the projects that I give them. I do a lot of Project Based Learning projects. I like the real world aspect of this type of learning. So, in the spirit of real world learning, I don’t necessarily have a one correct answer. I do use a rubric to grade their work, but I don’t expect every student or groups of students to have the same answer to a project.

It has taken me a while to get students to trust me that there is no one correct answer to a project. I don’t guide them to what I think they should do in a project. Instead, I ask a lot of questions. I guide them by questions, or by challenging their thinking.

Here are a few other ways I have built creativity in my classroom.

  1. Be a facilitator: I try to guide my students when needed. I ask a lot of questions, and only give suggestions when they ask. I get out of the way.
  2. Know when to step in: I try not to rush to help a student too quickly.  I let them struggle a bit. I feel that through the struggle they will gain more than knowlegde. They will gain perserverance.
  3. Value students thinking processes: every student thinks differently. I often times will have my students take the Right Brain Left Brain test to see how they think.  Each student has a mode of thinking they prefer to use. I try to embrace that. It a student thinks better on their feet walking around I try to commodate. If a student thinks better listening to music (with head phones on), or they are verbal thinkers, then I try to embrace it without compromising other students thinking processes. When students pair up for a project, sometimes they want to work with their friends. Sometimes they work with students who think like them.
  4. Be clear / Be upfront: I give my students clear guidelines of what I expect from them. I give them a rubric that everything outlined for them except the answer. I am upfront with them that there is not a singular right answer, but multiple. They need to find the one that works the best meeting the criteria I give them.
  5. Know your students: Try to sit down with each group or individual students and have them walk through their project. Get to know how they learn, think, and what their interests are. When students know you are invested in them, they will begin to trust you. When they begin to trust you also begin to trust. Trust can go along way.

I know there are probably many other ways you may be fostering creativity in your classroom. I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.