Computers and Technology

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summer 2006 Computers and Technology

FEATURES

For those of us who began our teaching careers before the computer age, before the world of blogs, read/write Webs, Wikis, WebQuests, and the new literacies, it can all be rather bewildering, but exciting as well. While reading the manuscripts for this issue, I thought to myself, “How different my classes in U.S. History and world geography would have been had these resources been available during my teaching days!!” We owe it to our students to make sure they are prepared for their futures in this technological world that is changing at exponential rates. As educators, we must keep abreast of these changes and develop strategies that are especially suited to gifted learners.

 

Mark Wagner, Educational Technology Coordinator for the Orange County California Department of Education starts us off with “An Introduction to Blogs and the Read/Write Web in Education.” Wagner provides us with illustrations of Internet developments and numerous website addresses, including free opportunities for students and educators. (It prompted me to go to one of his suggested sites and make a belated beginning in learning what a blog actually is.) Cassie Gurley and Pam Wood share their enthusiasm for using WebQuests in the classroom in their article, “The Wild and Wonderful World of WebQuests.” They provide a history, explanations, and suggestions for classroom use of WebQuests for teachers who want to encourage their students to solve inquiryproblem assignments. WebQuests consist of Internet resources that are preselected by the teacher for a particular assignment or topic. The authors include numerous Internet sites that contain collections of ready-made WebQuests as well as ones that assist educators in creating their own WebQuests. A major challenge for teachers wishing to incorporate Internet resources into their teaching is how to choose among the countless possible sites. Typing a keyword into a search engine often yields thousands or sometimes millions of related sites. Time and patience do not permit checking all of these. In response to this dilemma, a number of Internet sites have been established to assist teachers by prescreening those sites for appropriateness, usability, and then arranging them in a manner easily accessible by teachers and students. One such site, “History Matters,” was described in this journal earlier; it is a site devoted specifically to historical resources including primary documents, analyzing evidence, learner guides, classroom teaching tools, and more.

 

A similar motivation led Sally Reis and her colleagues to develop a website devoted to inclusion of prescreened quality resources to add depth and complexity to student learning. In their research, the authors found large numbers of classes in which gifted students received little or no services. This website encourages teachers (who might otherwise believe they have no time for gifted students in this basic skills, test-driven era of education) to provide enrichment and acceleration opportunities to their gifted students, especially in research and independent study projects. “Using Technology to Enrich and Challenge Student Learning: Introducing Renzulli Learning” describes the process and results of their efforts.

 

Another enthusiastic user of the Internet to advance gifted learners’ opportunities is Del Siegle who shares the process of creating electronic books. His article, “Creating Electronic Books with Word: It’s Easy and Free,” outlines how to initiate and utilize the various elements of this new means of sharing information. He describes the eBook as a “marriage of computer technology and printed books.” He also describes the free software available for making it useable in the classroom.

 

Elizabeth Fogarty entitled her article “New Literacies: Internet as Curriculum for Gifted Students.” She suggests that societal changes such as increasing globalization of our economy require that our students be educated in the “new literacies” so they may remain competitive in the technological world in which we now live. Fogarty provides examples for making technology part of the curriculum, including tools for “embedding new literacies into curriculum,” and recommendations for teaching them.

 

Jill Urquhart and Robin Kyburg provide information regarding an increasingly enticing option for professional development in their article, “Online Professional Development in Gifted Education.” They discuss three options: (1) the online Master’s degree, (2) state or local endorsement certificates, and (3) a self-education option. As can be expected, they cite numerous institutions and websites to start your quest for online professional development. The development of these many new technologies has inserted a new component into the identification of giftedness, i.e. the technologically gifted individual. We will explore this topic further in spring 2007 when Gifted Education Communicator will focus on the theme of identification of gifted learners.

We have an unusual and very special feature in this issue. “Practice What You Preach” is a compilation of the thoughts of several leaders in our field describing how they use gifted education strategies in their personal lives. The article was inspired by Felice Kaufmann who had written an article for the Roeper Review, describing how she had applied her knowledge of gifted education to help her find resources and strategies to assist her father when he was diagnosed with cancer. The article was brought to fruition by Elaine Wiener, Associate Editor for Gifted Education Communicator, who contacted leaders and invited their responses. We owe Silvia Rimm our thanks for inspiring the title of “Practice What You Preach.” After Kaufmann’s original article, the responses have been listed alphabetically; we begin with Barbara Clark and end with Sally Walker. We invite you to gain insight into the thoughts of many people whose work will be familiar to you.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to Carol Ann Tomlinson’s Teacher Talk column. She wonders why educators, since there are so many of us, have accepted the current educational tyranny of the tests without vigorous opposition. It is food for thought.

We wish you a pleasant and satisfying summer. We will meet you back in the fall with an issue of Interdisciplinary Studies: Social Science for Gifted Learners.
—Margaret Gosfield, Editor