Between the Idea and the Reality Article
Note this is a draft of an article prepared for a chapter in a New Zealand book on Gifted Education that was never published. The ideas were refined and used in the Computers in New Zealand Schools article ICT and Gifted Ed.
BETWEEN THE IDEA AND THE REALITY or
USING "THE RUBBER BAND TO ESCAPE "THE SHADOW"
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
Providing educational programmes appropriate to the needs of gifted and talented students has been found challenging. Educators must first ask themselves “What do gifted and talented students need to know, do and think?” and then explore “What do they experience?” Oftentimes, we find that between the idea of what they need, and the reality of what they experience “falls the shadow”.
Can learning through Information Communication Technology (ICT) allow us to achieve educationally that which we found difficult to do for gifted students without ICT? Can learning through ICT help us to “escape the shadow”?
ICT is shown to be potentially powerful technology for introducing cognitive rigour and challenge, and for differentiation of content, process, product and learning environment; practices congruent with the principles of effective practice for gifted and talented students. Examples provided describe how learning through ICT can facilitate: connections with “like minds”; in-depth understandings through interactions with unrestricted “information surfaces”; cognitive challenge through explorations of new ways to manipulate information; deep thinking that challenges our perspectives about society, and authentic explorations of cyber ethics.
However, learning through ICT may disappoint, frustrate and even limit gifted and talented student learning, for ICT on its own cannot make learning more engaging and meaningful. The role of the teacher in designing learning environments to meet the needs of gifted and talented students is pivotal to the value of learning through ICT.
Traditionally, New Zealand educators have shown a marked ambivalence towards gifted and talented students. Educational initiatives such as cooperative group learning and inclusive education have often shown little consideration for the special learning needs of these students.
Qualitative differentiation, where the individual students’ needs are assessed and responded to, is considered to be “best practice” for gifted students, (Ministry of Education, 2000, p.36). However, many New Zealand educationalists, parents, and students doubt that widespread effective differentiation of curriculum, pedagogy or learning environment exists for gifted and talented students. Fancy (Secretary for Education New Zealand) states in the Ministry Handbook, Gifted and Talented Students,
“It has been published in response to the growing awareness that many of our gifted and talented students go unrecognised, and that those who are identified often do not take part in an educational' programme' appropriate to their needs.” (Ministry of Education 2000).
In a contract research report on the extent, nature and effectiveness of provision for gifted and talented students, Riley et al. (2004 p 278) reports that whilst New Zealand schools “reported a preference for a combination of enrichment and acceleration, the delivery of these is often limited.”
The dissonance between our espoused educative belief and our current educative practice is not unique to New Zealand, Gross (2001) alludes to it as “Bland protestations -practical action.” Between the idea of what we want to achieve, for gifted and talented students, and the reality falls a shadow.
Does learning through Information Communication Technology (ICT) offer unique advantage to meeting the learning needs of gifted and talented students? Learning through ICT is a national initiative in New Zealand schools, (Ministry of Education 2002b p4.). The phrase ICT adopted in the UK National Curriculum documents in 2000 acknowledges the key role information and communication technology resources, tools, and applications play in teaching and learning for all students. To read the Ministry of Education ICT strategy document (Ministry of Education 2002b) is to imagine ICT as a panacea, a silver bullet, a cure-all for all manner of education ills.
The Ministry sees ICT as
“arguably one of the most powerful of all educational tools. It creates many options and opportunities for learners. It facilitates: diverse, motivating approaches to learning; access to an ever increasing range of digital resources and online learning programmes, and interaction with the wider community. It encourages: student centered learning; active, exploratory, inquiry based learning; collaborative work; transfer of skills and knowledge; creativity, critical thinking and informed decision making.”(Ministry of Education 2002b p.8).
Can learning through ICT allow us to achieve educationally that which we found difficult to achieve for gifted students without ICT? There is a sense in the Ministry’s claim that with ICT, if we explore “options and opportunities” we would not only escape the shadow, we might reposition the sun so there is no shadow for gifted and talented students.
POWERFUL TOOLS: HOW MIGHT THE RUBBER BAND HELP US ESCAPE THE SHADOW?
“THE BRAIN: “It proved that radio was a powerful tool. And now, Pinky, the advance of technology has brought us an even more powerful tool. Do you know what that is?
PINKY: Ummm… The rubber band?””(Animaniacs - Battle For The Planet)
Pinky may well promote the rubber band as a “powerful tool” but when you integrate the computer with media and communication technologies you have something much more complex than Pinky’s “rubber band” or even Taylor’s “powerful tool” (Taylor, 1980).
The much vaunted Gutenberg printing press facilitated only one stage of communication, - the distribution of media. ICT facilitates all forms of production, distribution and communication of media[[#_edn1|[i]]], (Manovich, 2001 p19). This interactivity means much has been promised in terms of assisting cognition and changing and enhancing learning for all students.
It is not disputed that the interactivity of ICT has brought media into the classroom in a way that books, radio and television have failed to do. However, the power of teaching and learning through ICT was initially seen in quite limited and simple instructional contexts. More recently problem solving, thinking skills and multimedia have all been mooted as learning opportunities uniquely enhanced through the use of ICT.
ICT has certainly enhanced our ability to access a wider range of activity structures, games, learning objects and collaborative projects. ICT provides mechanisms to assist in thinking such as visual thinking organizers and interactive knowledge building programmes. ICT has provided clear mental models through pre-created learning objects and through generative models such as scientific visualization. Opportunities to reflect upon, to remake and to recreate the work (audio/visual and text) of others are facilitated through ICT. Furthermore ICT affords the social conditions that promote learning dialogue be it through discussion or text, (Trewern 2004 personal communication).
Can we use learning through ICT to bridge the gap between what happens in classrooms and what gifted students need to know, do and think? Can this interactivity be used to uniquely assist cognition and enhance learning of gifted students trapped in the shadow?
Students can be gifted and talented in many different domains. For example students can be gifted in using ICT.
“For adults computer skills are a tool, but for teenagers using computers has become a second language.” Moore (cited in Prensky 2001 p46)
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority guidelines on identifying students who are gifted in using ICT, http://www.nc.uk.net/gt/ict/index.htm, suggest we should look for students who: demonstrate ICT capability significantly above that expected for their age; learn and apply new ICT techniques quickly; use initiative to exploit the potential of more advanced features of ICT tools; transfer and apply ICT skills and techniques confidently in new contexts; explore independently beyond the given breadth of an ICT topic; initiate ideas and solve problems, use ICT effectively and creatively, develop systems that meet personal needs and interests. Babaeva and Voiskounsky (2002) have explored identification of students gifted in using ICT through the intelligence, social skills and personality traits of expert software engineers
Too often in schools these students are taught “about ICT”, “how to make a PowerPoint presentation”; when at home they are learning “through ICT”, playing MMORPG’S, tweaking their personal websites, creating Macromedia Flash movies, beta testing games and creating mods for Battlefield 1942. “Gifted in using ICT” students use the bluetooth technology of cell phones, pagers and PDAs to enhance their understanding of the world in ways educationalists have not yet imagined. Babaeva and Voiskounsky (2002 p.156), note that “although almost every school-teacher can name students who are exceptionally good in computers, only rarely do these students get competent tutorship.” Furthermore even when guidance and challenge has been provided for students gifted in using ICT, we too often neglect guidance in explorations of cyber ethics.
Meeting the learning needs of students who are gifted in using ICT is worthy of its own chapter. I will concentrate on how ICT might enhance the learning of gifted and talented students regardless of domain. Students who are gifted and talented learn at a faster rate, acquiring knowledge of content, process and procedures with less need for repetition and reinforcement. They think more abstractly; manipulating ideas and making more connections across disciplines, times, locations cultures and circumstances at an earlier age than other learners. They are more able to problem find, to problem solve, and to think critically, creatively and metacognitively. They can do all this more quickly than others, (Maker, 1982; VanTassel-Baska, 1993).
To meet these unique learning characteristics, meaningful learning for gifted students needs facilitation to ensure it has challenge, rigour, and allows for differentiation. Teachers must understand the learning characteristics of gifted and talented students and then determine how learning through ICT might better meet these needs; rather than the reverse when the availability of the technology is used as a driver for the “learning” experience.
Scathing attacks on “e-llusions” created by computers in education can be made when technology is the driver, (Oppenheimer 2003).
“Computer based education is more about using the education market in the service of technological product development than it is about using technology in the service of education.” (Noble, 1996 p. 22)
Providing computers, an internet connection or powerful software will not be enough. If we ignore the role of the teacher in learning through ICT experiences for gifted students we risk creating a computer mediated “space[[#_edn2|[ii]]]”, a learning environment where learning may or may not occur, rather than a computer mediated “place” for active learning.
EFFECTIVE PRACTICE FOR GIFTED AND TALENTED STUDENTS
The learning characteristics of gifted and talented students differ so significantly from those of other students, that there is wide consensus that we need to differentiate their learning experiences.
“Gifted for the purposes of schools, are those individuals who by way of learning characteristics such as superior memory, observational powers, curiosity, creativity, and the ability to learn school-related subject matters rapidly and accurately with a minimum of drill and repetition, have a right to an education that is differentiated according to these characteristics. Piirto (1999) p28
Extensive research conducted over a number of years leaves us in little doubt over what an appropriate curriculum for gifted and talented students would look like, (Gallagher (1985), (Maker and Nielson, (1995), Renzulli, (1997), Van Tassel-Baska, (1997), Piirto, (1999), Tomlinson, (1999). An effective curriculum and pedagogy should enable variable paced access to content that is: authentic; personally relevant; challenging; complex; advanced and abstract. Practice should include problem based open ended investigative process and require deep and active metacognitive, critical, creative and caring thinking. Practices that require evidence of student product should allow this product to be demonstrated in multiple ways, refer Fig.1.
An effective learning environment for gifted and talented students requires instructional design that promotes their unique learning. Hannafin (1992) classifies possible learning environments in terms of scope, content integration, user activity and educational activity, with each dimension existing as a continuum. For example, scope describes a continuum between macro and micro level environments. Content integration describes a continuum between cross content integration and within content integration. User activity describes the continuum between generative environments and mathemagenic environments. Educational activity differentiates between, goal directed environments with intentional learning outcomes, and exploratory environments that emphasise process and student exploration over outcomes.
Educators charged with designing computer based learning environments that support powerful learning for gifted and talented students would need to be advised by the unique learning characteristics of these students. The creation of responsive learning environments (Clark, 2002, p. 381) and “invitational learning environments” (Cathcart 1994) uniquely appropriate for meeting the learning needs of gifted students will determine the effectiveness of any learning through ICT initiative for gifted students. For example, learning environments that promote choice in learning might allow gifted students become self reliant and autonomous in their learning, (Sisk and Torrance, 2001; Siegle and McCoach, 2002). We might further promote student choice through exploratory rather than goal based ICT learning environments where students are “encouraged to alter, explore, or otherwise manipulate the parameters of the environment to examine possible outcomes” (Hannafin, 1992 p. 59.).
Reviewing the research reveals that uncertainty over “what is effective practice” occurs only when we try to grapple with the context in which gifted and talented students are taught, (pullout, mixed ability, special class), the difference in “degree and kind” of individual gifted and talented students, (gifted students are not a homogenous group), and the diversity of individual teachers.
CAN ICT ASSIST GIFTED AND TALENTED STUDENT COGNITION?
To build knowledge and meaning for gifted and talented students through ICT, is to provide learning environments that: widen the range of activity structures, games, learning objects and collaborative projects accessible to students; encourage the individual to develop potential whilst interacting with intellectual peers; afford the social conditions that can promote learning dialogues and discussion with intellectual peers. These environments should value ability, decision making, creativity, and higher order thinking.
It is apparent that a teacher charged with meeting the special learning needs of individual gifted and talented students will find much to value in the flexibility, interconnectivity, adaptability of pace of access, and the breadth and depth of “information surfaces”, available through ICT.
More qualitative than quantitative, ICT differentiation provides real choice for the learner, providing multiple ways for students to acquire content, to process ideas, and to develop products. With ICT students can explore multiple options for taking in information, choose different paths for making sense of ideas, and express what they learn in many alternative ways.
Learning through ICT can certainly provide appropriate rigour and challenge for gifted and talented students. Without rigour and challenge we provide simple enrichment which will benefit, and should be offered to, all students. Would all students want to be involved in the learning through ICT activity? Could all students participate? Should all students be expected to succeed? An affirmative answer to any question indicates that the proposed ICT facilitated experience is not differentiated for gifted and talented, (Passow 1988, as cited in Gross, Macleod and Pretorius 2001, p. 26), and should be offered to all.
Some examples of ICT facilitated cognition for gifted and talented students follow.
1. COMMUNICATION: LIKE MINDS, BLOGS AND I SEEK YOU.
One educative practice considered uniquely appropriate for gifted and talented students is the bringing together of “like minds”. The communication aspect of ICT facilitates this.
“ICT has benefits for all students, including gifted and talented students who are geographically isolated. It has the potential to bring together students with like interests and minds.” Ministry of Education 2002a p.5
“ICT networks can be used to give G and T children a broader base of communication. Email or conferencing systems can be used to link these children, so that they can exchange ideas and feel less isolated.” BECTa Information Sheet on Gifted and Talented Children and ICT 2001 http://www.becta.org.k/technology/infosheets/pdf/g&tchild.pdf
Many educators have designed opportunities for their gifted and talented students to meet “like minds” through computer mediated newsgroups, mailing lists, email, text based chat, bulletin boards, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), ICQ (I seek you), computer mediated conferencing (CMC), BLOGS, graffiti boards. Initiatives specifically developed for gifted and talented students include the National Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children Pen Pal and E-mailing lists http://nfgcc.org/gkids.htm and the graffiti board at the Virtual School for the Gifted.http://www.vsg.edu.au
It would be hard to justify widespread implementation of ICT with gifted and talented students if we could only claim improvements in communication with “like minds”, since computer mediated communication (even with emoticons) usually occurs without the gesture, facial expression, and body language that allow all but the most Internet savvy student to detect irony, ambiguity, and humour.//
2. CRITICAL THINKING – MORIN[iii]’S BATTLE FOR LUCIDITY
Developing ability in critical thinking is a challenging task. The “skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of observations and communications, information, and argumentation”, (Fisher & Scriven 1997 p21), is considered “good practice” for gifted and talented students. However, developing ability in critical thinking requires more than simply providing students with opportunities to problem solve or make decisions. Students need to be explicitly taught the constituent skills of critical thinking; context – audience reading, clarifying the meaning of terms and analysis of arguments. For example if students cannot; clearly differentiate between define and describe, understand what is required to compare and contrast, or determine cause and effect; then it is unlikely that they will ever produce well reasoned argument.
Students can learn the constituent skills of, and develop a real facility in, critical thinking through visual thinking software, Stein’s “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" ware. Enabling gifted and talented students to become strategic users of critical argument mapping software, e.g. Reason!Able http://goreason.com and Athena http://www.athenasoft.org/ , visual critical thinking tools, e.g. Thinking Maps™ http://www.designsforthinking.com/ , and known unknown” question mapping through concept mapping software, e.g. Inspiration™ http://www.inspiration.com , will give gifted and talented students the tools to analyse, evaluate, and create in any context. This may not prevent the ICT maverick from making decisions on the basis of Googlefight http://www.googlefight.com/, but it will enable students to think critically about the results gained.
3. PLAYING WITH “INFORMATION SURFACES” - ACQUIRING, MANIPULATING, STORING, CREATING, AND DISTRIBUTING
Gifted and talented students adopt new ICT techniques quickly. They transfer the ICT skills gained in one learning domain to another with ease, and can integrate applications where useful.
Students can collaborate over the network to acquire, to record, to manipulate, to store, to create, and to distribute “information surfaces”. These include texts, still images, moving images, sound (including MP3) and spatial constructions. Students can use ICT to mediate; the Internet and web sites, computer games, hypertext and hypermedia, CD-ROMS and DVD-ROMS. This mediation can be communal or individual; for example it can be single user or simultaneous communal explorations of effectively unrestricted “information surfaces” through the use of directories (e.g. Yahoo), search engines (e.g. Google), hyperlinks, HTML tables, pull down menus and dynamic windows. Differentiating content, process and product has never seemed so easy.
Examples of learning through ICT that differentiate content, process and product for gifted and talented students are:
1. Providing opportunities for gifted and talented students to organize, access, analyse and manipulate “information surfaces” through software. Word processors, spreadsheets, databases, search engines, data mining, image processing, animation, digital audio, digital video, 3-D computer graphics, visualisation, and hypermedia authoring software represent a “real, rich and relevant” second language for students looking to produce, distribute and communicate complex and abstract ideas.
2. Ability grouping, acceleration of content, process and product, and opportunities for creative thinking can all be explored when hypertext stories are collaboratively written, illustrated and peer critiqued via email or team blog www.blogger.com by a circle of academically gifted and talented students under mentoring by expert writers and or illustrators.
3. Acceleration can be facilitated through ICT programmes for gifted and talented students that allow intellectual challenge, rapid pace and individual feedback. Stanford University’s Education Programme for Gifted Youth (EPGY) http://www-epgy.stanford.edu/ is an example.
4. Study of other languages is effective differentiation for verbally gifted students. Kidlink http://www.kidlink.org/ provides opportunities for kids 10to 14 to socialize in other languages. The TKI Learning Languages page http://www.tki.org.nz/e/community/language/ resource has links to French, German, Italian and Spanish through the BBC Languages http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/ and Lingua@web http://www.linguaweb.ndirect.co.uk/ sites. Online tikanga and te reo Maori resources can be accessed through WickEd bilingual interactives like Wharenui http://www.tki.org.nz/r/wick_ed/say/wharenui.php. Connecting with epals from other countries to learn about schooling, fads, social life and music gives these initiatives meaning.
5. Online enrichment programmes for gifted and talented students with individual feedback are available through initiatives such as The Virtual School for the Gifted http://www.vsg.edu.au/ and the University of New England TalentEd Enrichment Program (TEEP)http://scs.une.edu.au/tedvep/default.html, a computer mediated collaborative learning environment that encourages investigation and problem solving. Project eSchool a fully online, integrated curriculum for students in schools, from Level 3-5, hosted by The Correspondence School and online programmes such as Learnz http://www.learnz.org.nz/index.php can be tweaked to provide a rich learning resource for gifted and talented students.
6. Exciting problem solving opportunities are available through the undervalued field of computer gaming. Papert observes that,
“Game designers have a better take on the nature of learning than curriculum designers.” (Papert cited in Prensky 2001, p131)
Indeed Scriven argues that
“Computer games, including arcade-type games, represent the most important educational software resource available today. If one includes reasonable extrapolations from the present examples, they could become the most important educational resource (for the schools) of all kinds, not excluding books. Even the most-condemned commercial games are strongly focused on educationally significant skills and attitudes and offer unique opportunities to teach them.” (Scriven, 1988)
When the learning principles behind good game design, (Gee 2003), are compared with the learning needs of gifted and talented students they are very similar. It is hardly surprising that gifted and talented students avidly describe how they have learnt to see the world in a new way, collaborated with others, and developed problem solving strategies through simulation games like Sim City, turn based strategy games like Civilisation and real time strategy games like Age of Empires. When games offer a chance to collaborate with like minds, authenticity, critical thinking, address global issues, involve in depth investigations and are highly motivating they seem highly appropriate learning experiences for gifted and talented students.
Indeed interviews with gifted and talented students in The Gifted Kids Programme (GKP) affirm claims of researchers exploring digital game based learning, such as http://www.gamestudies.org/ and Scriven (1988), Prensky (2001), Gee (2003).
7. Problem finding and problem solving, acceleration, opportunities for critical and creative thinking can be explored through interschool online collaborative projects, such as Ann Trewern and Monica Fry’s Sniff, Swing and Swipe 1 at:www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/sss/home.html (which won the DEANZ 2002 Award for excellence in distance, open, flexible e-learning), and international competitions such as ThinkQuest www.thinkquest.org/. The Web Tools for Learning Newsletter is a great place to start thinking about online collaborative projects http://webtools.cityu.edu.hk/news/newslett/interschool.htm, and MontageNZ online http://www.montageplus.co.uk/nz/index.htm is a New Zealand resource listing moderated online collaborative projects with students from all over the world.
8. Educators can find much to support students with specific curriculum strengths. For example The New Zealand Institute of Physics http://nzip.rsnz.org/es/index.html has Y12 and Y13 simulations and applets that will fascinate the able science student. Highly able young mathematicians have enjoyed; PLUS, http://plus.maths.org/ an internet magazine looking at maths in a wider context through practical applications, maths careers and puzzles, NRICH http://www.nrich.maths.org.uk/public/index.php an online maths club, and WickED maths stuff http://www.tki.org.nz/r/wick_ed/maths/index.php.
9. Opportunities to take action in ethical decision making and caring thinking can be exercised when gifted and talented students take part in TakingITGobal an online community providing young people with “inspiration to make a difference, a source of information on issues, opportunities to take action, and a bridge to getting involved locally, nationally and internationally.” http://www.takingitglobal.org/home.htm. ePALs is a monitored e-learning community where students can explore cross cultural collaborative projects on ethical issues and communicate through chatrooms, instant language translation, discussion board, and email and web mail. http://www.epals.com/. Significant opportunities exist for authentic explorations of ethical use of ICT through articles in daily newspapers http://www.nzherald.co.nz/and sites such as Cybercitizen Awareness http://www.cybercitizenship.org/ .
10. Exploring other perspectives through digital realia, and developing criteria to judge the quality of the realia available, represent powerful learning for gifted and talented students. “Finding the unseen and listening to the unheard” through sound recordings and primary source text are easily accomplished through sites like Internet History Source Books http://www.fordham/halsell. Victoria University Library has a primary source directory of weblinks at http://www.vuw.ac.nz/library/liaison/history/internetresources.shtml. Accessing currently available text based media cannot be more elegantly done than through New Zealander Denis Dutton’s Arts and Letters Daily http://aldaily.com.
11. To offer a “paint by numbers” prescriptive gifted and talented ICT menu, outlining “where to play” and “how to do it when you get there” would undermine and trivialize the unrestricted “information surfaces” available. We would also misrepresent the nature of gifted and talented students to represent them as a homogenous group. (Ministry of Education. 2000 p.17). “That’s all very well but I just need some help with where to start” educators should refer to Riley (2003) for a comprehensive listing of web-based resources for teachers of gifted and talented students.
GEDANKEN EXPERIMENTS AND CHANGING PERCEPTIONS.
Learning through ICT does not necessarily require direct access to technology. Gedanken thought experiments can involve gifted and talented students in deep thinking about the influence of ICT on society.
Although it will take a decade to ramp up, mobile communications and pervasive
computing technologies, together with social contracts that were never possible before, are already beginning to change the way people meet, mate, work, fight, buy, sell, govern, and create. (Reingold. 2002)
Encouraging gifted and talented students to explore how perceptions have been altered by the implementation of ICT, is a powerful thinking and learning experience.
The social and cultural impact of ICT on democracy (smart mobbing) or on what we consider authorship, are a source of “fertile questions” http://www.navcon.org/conference/papers/2k3/adam.html for gifted and talented students. Try developing communities of thinking with gifted and talented students that explore the impact of computer mediated communication on social change. The Teachers ezine http://www.seeingisbelieving.ca/education/unit2en.pdf is a useful starting place. Explore notions of stealing in the context of the many forms of collaboration available through ICT. For example Manovich (2001 p130) writes of authorship as selection from a menu, authorship as assembling from ready made parts. This sense of authorship paradoxically allows us to accept remix of commercial music, mods for computer games, sampling in DJ culture, and to reject student plagiarism as a “tissue of quotations” (Manovich 2001 p127).
Before we embrace learning through ICT as a way to facilitate differentiation for gifted and talented students we need to commission research into the real difference differentiating through ICT makes to gifted and talented students learning.
Can “learning through” Information Communication Technology (ICT) better facilitate the unique learning needs of gifted and talented students? Will learning through ICT allow us to escape the shadow? This is a complex field to evaluate.
Learning through ICT can facilitate differentiation of content, process, product and leaning environment, but the reality of the learning experience in terms of student learning outcomes has yet to be determined. Salmon’s comment that
“Millions of words have been written about the technology and its potential, but not much about what teachers and learners actually do online,” (Salmon 2000 p11).
is also applicable to research findings on learning through ICT with gifted and talented students.
An added complication occurs when research starts to take account of ability. Significant ICT facilitated student learning outcomes for high ability students may not be assumed for all students and vice versa. For example, Nikolova and Taylor (2003) reveal that high ability students performed significantly better for immediate and delayed vocabulary recall and comprehension on the computer mediated foreign language learning task. However, average ability students showed no difference in immediate vocabulary recall and substantially lower scores on delayed recall and reading comprehension.
When Web Quests first gained popularity in 1995 many educators saw their potential for meeting the special learning needs of gifted and talented students. In fact the TKI Gifted and Talented Community News http://www.tki.org.nz/e/community/gifted/ continues to have a resource area entitled “Using WebQuests with students.” The focus on critical investigation, problem solving involving thematic and interdisciplinary connections, acquiring information and transforming it into more sophisticated understanding, authentic open ended questions, and individual pace seemed to fit many of the practices highlighted in Fig. 1.
However, the reality of WebQuest experiences for gifted and talented students has often been frustrating. Without clarity of educative purpose and design any student can find themselves trapped in an overly prescriptive hyperlinked space, where “cut and paste research tasks” (March 2000), limited intellectual challenge, and unintentional learning outcomes abound. Teachers of gifted students in the Ministry of Education ict_pd cluster, Integrated Powerful Adventures in Thinking – iPAinT, have related that even when WebQuests are well designed they may still be too prescriptive to meet the learning needs of highly able gifted and talented students. We should be mindful that the involvement of the teacher with professional learning in meeting the needs of gifted and talented students is pivotal to the value of leaning through ICT for gifted and talented students.
The flexibility, interactivity and active nature of ICT mediated learning holds enormous potential for teachers wanting to differentiate the learning experiences for gifted and talented students. The task is both challenging and exciting. Will embracing the rubber band help us to escape the shadow? I believe we will only escape if the learning through ICT experiences available are facilitated by educators alert to the special learning needs of gifted and talented students, who facilitate appropriate changes in pedagogy and curriculum. There are complex adventures ahead for both the educator and the gifted and talented student.
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[[#_ednref1|[i]]] “The screen, the medium and “communication”” may well have “surreptitiously replaced the page, letters and reading,” (Illich 1993 p1). but the alphabetic text, “optically organized for logical thinkers”, remains accessible for gifted and talented learners – remains “as one of many modes of encoding something, now called the message.”, (Illich p2); or as “new media – graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes and texts that have become computable, (Manovich 2001 p20).”
[[#_ednref2|[ii]]] Ideas on space and place influenced by Tuan’s (1977) work.
[[#_ednref3|[iii]]] If everything we know is subject to error and illusion then the “major responsibility of education is to arm every single person for the vital combat for lucidity.” (Morin, 2001)
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