Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented - CAGT 2013 - Day Two

Since I do not have a regular position and I just sub, I chose the sessions I attended at this conference mainly on the basis of simple personal interest.  I don't need to focus on specific areas of education.  I could just go where I pleased.

So, for the second day, I started with a presentation by Lindsey Reinert and Penelope Heinigk titled "Going Deeper with Technology".  They specifically addressed one of the major concerns I have had about the way technology is typically used by classroom teachers in the elementary schools.  The topic is assigned and kids are told to use a given technology, usually PowerPoint or Prezi to make a presentation on their topic.  Sometimes, to help the kids along, the teachers give out requirements for the presentation.  Example:  at some time or another in their schooling, kids will be assigned the "do a slide show about your favorite animal" topic.  The teacher specifies that it must be at least X pages long (X being equal to approximately 6 slides), with a title slide, one slide about habitat, one slide about food, one slide about reproduction, one slide about geographic distribution, and one slide with a bibliography.  So the kids go to Google, and find the answers.  They then cut and paste whole sections of their reference work, usually without even reading them, except to make sure they contain the required information.  It doesn't matter if they have no clue what the article says, that they don't understand many of the words they have just copied.

That said, I am VERY glad that these women emphasized that there is a GREAT deal of preparation work, "front-loading" that needs to be done BEFORE the students even begin their presentations.  Personally, I would have liked to see them step us through the entire process.  Choose a middle grade level and outline the steps from beginning to end product.

The presentations they showed were good examples of the final products, but I would like also to have heard a bit more about why a particular tool might be best for a particular type of presentation.  Personally, I think Prezi's are more flash than substance, but straight PowerPoints can get repetitive and boring.  What are some other products and why might one choose one over another.  They gave us two web sites that list a number of tools, but no guidance in why one might choose a particular tool.

This was one (of several) presentations that simply needed more time.

The second presentation I attended was the keynote panel of gifted students, moderated by Jim Delisle.  I have seen Dr. Delisle on numerous occasions now and I never get tired of hearing his insights (though I must admit that I didn't really listen as intently to the leaf poem the third time he used it).  The problem I have with his presentations is that I usually end up wiping tears from my eyes far too often.  Even the panel of students had that effect.  What the students had to say wasn't particularly new to me, but it is worthwhile to hear them say it.

And, to prove that I still hadn't gotten enough of Dr. Delisle, I also attended his next session, entitled "Can't You Just Chill Out?:  Appreciating the Intensities of Gifted Individuals"  This was basically a talk about Dabrowski's OverExcitabilities.  I am not terribly fond of that term.  I actually prefer "Intensities".  This was familiar ground for me, but I ALWAYS appreciate the stories about the kids that highlight what he is talking about.  Since this conference was basically just for me, I felt free to apply all of these insights to myself.  In particular, the Emotional Intensity seems to be dominating my thoughts lately and causing me a deal of pain.  But it is hard for the patient to treat herself.

The next session was Susan Jackson again.  I find her presentations interesting and with some great insights, but I am left afterwards feeling a bit confused as to what I can take away from her talk.  As with Jim's stories, I LOVE the talk about real kids and real approaches to them and their difficulties.  But sometimes, I had a hard time telling how she got to that particular point with that particular kid and what the next steps might be.  I don't think I could tell you what more than a very few of her 27 points were.  She is undeniably brilliant, but some of us lesser mortals have a hard time making the connections that seem so obvious to her. 

The final breakout session I attended was Ed Zaccaro's.  He has written a number of books to use for teaching kids mathematics.  I have long loved his books and I wasn't disappointed in his lecture.  I don't agree with him exactly on his views on acceleration - he thinks there are problems for underage kids, especially in when they get to high school.  I agree that keeping kids with other approximately their own age and ability would be better, but this is just not happening in schools nowadays.  Yes, I would prefer to have all the highly mathematically gifted fourth graders working together in fourth grade.  But I just don't see it happening.  At least with acceleration, you are sure SOMETHING is happening.  I even agree that it isn't always the right things that are happening - greater depth or complexity.  I am just frustrated that most teachers and schools don't do those things.  At any rate, I enjoyed his talk.  It is another one I wish had had much more time.

It was a worthwhile two days for me.  I still feel alone and frustrated by my own failures, but at least I understand them better.  Ha. 

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