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Anne Sturgess's blogs

  • The following email came through the TKI gifted & talented community mail list. Robyn Boswell QSM, a colleague with the Te Toi Tupu GATE PLD contract and a facilitator for the NZC and Science PLD contracts, is the National Director for Future Problem Solving NZ. The Awards Ceremony for the International Finals was held in La Crosse Wisconsin in June this year and NZ teams came home with an amazing 13 trophies!! Robyn recently attended the National FPS finals and her excitement at the contribution that FPS graduates are making is contagious and heartening.

    Robyn's email:

    "I have just spent an amazing weekend with around 160 gifted young people at the National Future Problem Solving Finals. What a privilege! I will post the results soon.

    As I told them all at the Awards ceremony, spending the weekend with them gives me faith that the future of NZ will be in great hands.

    I was thrilled to be able to share with them the successes of some of our FPS alumni:
    We have 3 ex-students on our National Admin Board - one is graduating as a Doctor next week, one has just graduated with a law degree and the other is just about to graduate as a teacher and has won a position at Diocesan School.

    The young man who was the first student rep on our admin board and had outstanding success internationally as a student, coach (while he was in Yr 12 and 13) and evaluator, won a Girdler scholarship to Cambridge University, graduated last year and won a job in a top law firm in London and is now the chair of the inaugural UK Future Problem Solving Programme Board (he's 23!)

    One of our evaluators, another ex-student in the programme apologized for not evaluating this weekend - he has just returned from the US where his team from Auckland University won the  3rd Lufthansa Case Challenge for innovation http://www.ebs.edu/11949.html?L=1

    A few years back, a teacher from Nelson College ran some FPS training sessions for a school in Thailand. As a result of this, Thailand is at present setting up its own FPSP affiliate - another of our ex-coaches who is now teaching in Thailand is also involved with this. In one of the teams at the finals, we had an international exchange student - a young man from Thailand who started doing FPS over there, came to Nelson College for a year and made it to the NZ Finals!

    Let's celebrate how well our gifted students are doing! All in all an exciting and successful weekend....even if there was very little sleep :)"

  • First published in the blog for the World Council for Gifted Education conference 2013:

    In the preface to the most recent (3rd) edition of 'Gifted and Talented - New Zealand Perspectives' Joseph Renzulli (p.ix) draws connections between current thinking about education and that espoused by visionary educators in the past. He states: 

    "... changes taking place in the post-industrial world have caused us to re-examine some of the historical roots of education set forth by progressive educators who viewed learning as a vehicle to unleash the creative potential of young people and to engender in them a role that leads to the making and shaping of society as well as merely participating in it."
    Renzulli identifies early leaders such as Rousseau and Pestalozzi along with more recent theorists such as Piaget and Dewey, who proposed that a critical role of education was to fulfill the individual potential of each child by providing an appropriate learning environment. To achieve this, key people in education (primarily teachers) are called upon to make "...accommodations in learning that reflect the broad range of abilities, interests, motivation, learning styles and expression styles that are the essence of uniqueness in individual learners." (p.x)
    New Zealand educators are no strangers to the concept of industrial and post-industrial educational approaches and the need for a major paradigm shift in education. A recent report produced by Bolstad, Gilbert, McDowall, Bull, Boyd & Hipkins (NZCER) proposes that at least six emerging themes in education need to come together if we are to create a "coherent direction for designing a future-focused education system" (p.15). They are:
    1.       Personalising learning.
    2.       New views of equity, diversity and inclusivity.
    3.       A curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity.
    4.       Rethinking learners' and teachers' roles.
    5.       A culture of continuous learning for teachers and educational leaders.
    6.       New kinds of partnerships and relationships: Schools no longer siloed from the community.
    Dr Beeby, one of New Zealand's foremost influencers and the first Director of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) described the highest form of primary education as one that:
    1.       Stresses meaning and understanding,
    2.       Caters for individual differences,
    3.       Uses methods that include problem solving and creativity; internal tests; and relaxed and positive discipline,
    4.       Recognises the importance of emotional and aesthetic life as well as the intellectual, 
    5.       Develops close links with the community, and
    6.       Has suitable buildings and equipment.
    (Source: C.E. Beeby, The quality of education in developing countries, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS., 1966, p. 72)

    Note the similarities:advocates for gifted and talented learners will recognise that personalising learning (i.e. catering for individual differences) is what we have been requesting for ALL children over many years and, when embedded fully in our schools, will serve ALL students well.
    Earlier this year I attended a conference in Singapore and visited one of six 'Future Schools.' It struck me that the principles underpinning the pedagogical approach of the Principal and teachers at this school were very familiar to me as an educator involved in gifted and talented education, so much so that I asked the Deputy Principal, whom I recognised as a co-delegate at a previous WCGT Conference, if this was intentional. Her response was "Most definitely."  
    We agreed that it benefits all students to move at their own pace, to have the opportunity to explore areas of interest in depth, to be challenged in their thinking, and to use their special abilities to contribute to their community. The difference for gifted and talented learners is that, along with other considerations related to inner perception and awareness and sensitivities, teachers need to appreciate that the pace will probably be faster, interests may be broader and/or so absorbing that they will pursue them for longer than you might reasonably expect of other learners of a similar age, and they are likely to ask more questions than they will appear to answer.
    This brings me back to my starting point; Joseph Renzulli.  You will be familiar with his oft-quoted statement about a ‘Rising tide lifting all ships…’ Renzulli’s paper describing the School Enrichment Model reminds us that infusing effective practices into our schools and catering appropriately for gifted and talented learners benefits all students.

    Could mainstreaming effective gifted and talented education practices bring about the paradigm shift necessary for all students to thrive as learners? I believe so….

  • Cathy's opening statement for her blog: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/cathy-davidson/standardizing-human-ability

    "Here’s a thought experiment.  Let’s try to imagine a society (there were lots of them before modernity) where there is no interest in measuring educational success.  Let’s imagine a society where the only goal of teaching (it’s a high bar) is to help every children master what they need in order to lead the most fulfilling life they are capable of leading—productive, creative, responsible, contributing to their own well-being and that of their society.  No grades.  No tests.  Just an educational system based on helping each child to find her or his potential for leading the best (Socrates would call it “happiest”) life possible.  In such a world, do learning disabilities exist?"

  • FREE Cloud & Internet-based Computing Services

    Cloud-based services range from simple data storage and communication tools (e.g. web-based e-mail or short message broadcasts) to complex sets of services such as project management and collaboration. Most of the free services have pro versions available at a cost, however I have found the free versions adequate for my usage. Organisations and individuals can sign up for these services. While the benefits of free cloud-based services are very enticing, they may lack the degree of security and privacy that is desirable for storage of some data.

    Google AppsThis is a well-known cloud-based application. The free version of Google Apps includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Sites, and Google Docs. Google Calendar is a shared online calendar that lets you schedule and share appointments. Google Docs lets you create documents, spreadsheets, drawings, and presentations, and Google Sites lets you build websites and wikis.

    Gmail (google)—free web-based email. Gmail allows up to 20GB attachments.

    Hotmail (Microsoft) also provides web-based email. Hotmail allows up to 10GB attachments. I have used this but changed to gmail.

    LastPassLastPass is a web application that securely stores your various Internet passwords and can automatically enter them on website logon forms. I tend to only save passwords that aren’t ‘important.’ 

    Dropbox – Stores your files, anywhere, anytime (even when offline). Any file you save to Dropbox also instantly saves to your computers, phones, and the secure Dropbox website.  Provides 2GB of Dropbox for free, with subscriptions up to 100GB available. There are several ways to increase your free storage -  I have 35GB available now and have only used 20% of it, mostly for storage and sharing of photos but I also use if to share files with various individuals and groups. Bandwidth limits can be set manually so Dropbox won't overload your connection.

    Evernote – this is my current favourite. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use. I use it for everything: TO DO lists, planning trips, research notes, saving video clips & images, writing…..It also has cross-platform compatibility so PC and Mac users can install it. Use it with Skitch - Skitch shows an image or screenshot and allows you to manipulate it in a variety of ways: resize, rotate, annotate, etc. It’s so easy and it’s fun. It’s not at the level of Photoshop but it is highly functional on a day-to-day basis.

    OneNoteI haven’t used OneNote myself because it’s only available for Microsoft (as far as I knowI but people rave about it – the following information is from Wikipedia: Microsoft OneNote is a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. It can gather users' notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings, and audio commentaries and share them with other users of Microsoft OneNote over the Internet. 

    NB – Compare Evernote & OneNote:

    icloudicloud offers a free online computer with a virtual desktop. The desktop gives you online storage and a variety of utility applications, including a word processor, calendar, web browser, and an application development environment.

    DoodleThis scheduler takes the hassle out of planning meetings. You create a schedule showing possible meeting dates and times, insert email addresses of people you want to invite to the meeting, and Doodle will let you know when they have responded and show you the preferred dates and times for the meeting.

    SkypeIt was tempting to leave Skype off the list because so many people use it already but it is a wonderful tool for schools to use to aid global connectedness so I had to include it. You can make internet calls for free, call friends and family on any phone with Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly subscriptions.

    YouTube EDUIs there anyone who hasn’t watched a YouTube video? Unlikely. However, you may not have accessed YouTube EDU yet – it’s a fantastic resource for teachers that you have to check out.

    Please add your favourites to the list along with a brief explanation of its use and a link to the site.

    Sources: ITPro, own explorations, Wikipedia, others’ recommendations

  • I received this email from Tracey Riley (Massey University) via the gifted@lists.tki.org.nz (it's worth joining) Smile

    Subject: [gifted] The Diffentiator

     A student just alerted me to this website, which, while not perfect by any means, is good for reminding us of some of the key ideas around differentiating our planning - for all learners, but certainly with applicability for gifted and talented students. Have a play!


    As Tracy says, the resource isn't perfect, but it's an interesting e-approach to using Bloom's Taxonomy. There are several other wonderful resources in the VLN: A sample -
    John Creighton:     /file/view/691563/blooms
    Allanah King:         https://sites.google.com/site/bloomsapps/home
    Simon Evans:         /blog/view/690451/supporting-the-key-competencies-thinking
    Chrissie Butler:      /blog/view/474730/making-presentations-udl-strategies-to-increase-engagement

    .... or lists?

    I'm a long-time proponent of using Bloom's Taxonomy (and others) as a prompt and/or framework for planning for differentiation but I think there's a real danger in regarding these taxonomies as being inherentily hierarchical. It's true that people who develop taxonomies often assign values to the different levels of classification but thinking and disposition taxonomies such as those listed in Simon's post (Blooms, SOLO, Williams, de Bono's Six Hats, Thinkers Keys, Habits of Mind) are better regarded as lists rather than hierarchies that classify according to value or worth.


    I don't find the use of terms such as 'higher order thinking' all that helpful; I've used them myself but I've also questioned this use because all types of thinking have their place and value - they do not operate in isolation from each other but overlap and interact continuously as we wonder, consider, challenge, apply, ponder and investigate, usually moving so quickly from one to the other that it seems as though we're applying them all concurrently. The question of applying thinking taxonomy theory in teaching is not whether students should move through (or up) the various stages of classifications in the taxonomy, but rather, how do we ensure that students have a repertoire of strategies that they can call on as and when required for effective learning and creating?

    Differentiation - it's choice!

    Used appropriately, taxonomies provide a framework for planning for the wide range of abilities, learning preferences and interests of students. Using taxonomies to aid planning forces us to consider those students who understand, remember and apply new learning very quickly, who may need little or no repetition in order to comprehend and apply their new learning. Planning for differentiation in this way ensures that these students are not compelled to engage in learning opportunities that dwell too long on one aspect of thinking but, rather, they are able to engage in different types of thinking at a pace that works for them- questioning, changing, creating, wondering, applying in an authentic and/or new context (a strategy encouraged by Edward de Bono and Tony Ryan). Using taxonomies in this way also caters for those students who require an increased number of opportunities to practise a skill or strategy in order to absorb it into their repertoire and for students who learn best if they start with the 'applying' or 'creating' aspect of the taxomony and develop deep understanding, not from being told by the teacher, but by engaging in the learning, perhaps adopting a 'trial and error' approach that is meaningful and effective for them.

    The image below reflects a concern that students spend the majority of their time engaging in activities focused on recall and shallow understanding when they should be spending more time engaging in authentic application and inquiry that requires them to analyse, question, investigate, evaluate, review, reframe, create and synthesise.

    Screen shot 2012-06-21 at 11.27.54 PM.png


    Your thoughts, ideas, resources, differentiated learning plans?