There is something to be said about being average. I had the pleasure of being an average learner at a Denapalooza event in Boise this past weekend.
What is average you ask? Here is the best explanation I have heard. Think about a Bell Curve. The average is the highest point of the Bell Curve. The average is dead center. When we think of gifted people we look at the people who are on high end of the curve, or the far right. You might note that those on the far left are equal distance from the midline as those on the far right. In school, those on the left qualify for special education services and if a child on the right side is lucky, there school provides gifted education services for those students who need them. I use the word need here because if you fold the Bell Curve in half, both students are equal distance from the middle, or average student. Both sides are entitled to services because we are part of a system, out of necessity, that teaches to the middle.
I experienced being in the middle this past weekend and it was glorious. I was fully engaged and learning from those around me as an attendee at the Denapalooza event. I was a speaker and shared what I knew with the audience and loved every minute, but the highlight was getting to hang out with people who knew more about technology than I did. I love being around really bright people, especially in my area of passion which is technology. I learned about using green screen technology to do videos in the classroom, how to organize a classroom so every student is working at their own level, and we even delved into creating our own apps to share with the world. Now that really intrigues me.
I came home feeling like I had really learned a lot. There is something to be said for attending events and coming away with new and exciting ideas and opportunities. This is the kind of learning out gifted students may rarely experience. They know over half of the material when they walk into the classroom and when they do not know something, they can learn it in 1-2 repetitions. As an average learner, I was fully engaged and taking notes like crazy as those around me shared what they were doing in their classrooms. How do we give this kind of opportunity to our gifted children and help them to have the best experience ever as a learner? I believe it boils down to 5 things.
1. We come alongside our students as an ally. This means that we are a servant teacher, one that practices the art of Servant Leadership and puts the needs of the students first.
2. We are adaptable to the needs of the students. In gifted education this comes in the form of differentiation. Differentiating as much of the curriculum as possible to meet the learners where they are in the learning process. It also means that we are willing to adapt our own view of education and allow ourselves to be both a teacher and a learner.
3. We are architects of the student’s learning. We know how to build learning experiences that are at just the right level of readiness for our students, in their zone of proximal development. We know how to structure learning so it is engaging and builds on a student’s strengths and interests.
4. We are resource aggregators. We know how to pull the best print, digital, and human resources together to meet the needs of the students. As my friend Ginger Lewman likes to say the teacher is not “the source, but a resource.”
5. Finally, we must promote autonomy. We will not always be able to be alongside the student so we need to teach them how to learn on their own, promoting lifelong learning. This is not always easy, but it is always necessary.
My bog is going to focus on these 5 areas as it relates to teaching, learning, gifted education, and 21st century learning tools. When I mention the idea of an educator as an adaptable ally, who is willing to aggregate resources to create a learning architecture that promotes autonomy, the idea can be awesome and overwhelming, all at the same time. We are going to break it down through a series of blogs and trainings that will help you to see the whole picture and how to accomplish it. In the meantime, what strategies are you currently using to educate the gifted learners in your life? If you are a gifted person, what strategies work for you? Please leave your ideas below.
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