How Well Does Gifted Education Use Social Media?

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This post reviews the scope and quality of gifted education coverage across selected social media.

It uses this evidence base to reflect on progress in the 18 months since I last visited this topic and to establish a benchmark against which to judge future progress.

tree-240470_640More specifically, it:

  • Proposes two sets of quality criteria – one for blogs and other websites, the other for effective use of social media;
  • Reviews gifted education-related social media activity:

By a sample of six key players  – the World Council (WCGTC) and the European Council for High Ability (ECHA), NAGC and SENG in the United States and NACE and Potential Plus UK over here

Across the Blogosphere and five of the most influential English language social media platforms – Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and You Tube and

Utilising four content curation tools particularly favoured by gifted educators, namely PaperLi, Pinterest, ScoopIt and Storify.

  • Considers the gap between current practice and the proposed quality criteria – and whether there has been an improvement in the application of social media across the five dimensions of gifted education identified in my previous post.

I should declare at the outset that I am a Trustee of Potential Plus UK and have been working with them to improve their online and social media presence. This post lies outside that project, but some of the underlying research is the same.

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I have been this way before

This is my second excursion into this territory.

In September 2012 I published a two-part response to the question ‘Can Social Media Help Overcome the Problems We Face in Gifted Education?’

  • Part One outlined an analytical framework based on five dimensions of gifted education. Each dimension is stereotypically associated with a particular stakeholder group though, in reality, each group operates across more than one area. The dimensions (with their associated stakeholder groups in brackets) are: advocacy (parents); learning (learners); policy-making (policy makers); professional development (educators); and research (academics).
  • Part Two used this framework to review the challenges faced by gifted education, to what extent these were being addressed through social media and how social media could be applied more effectively to tackle them. It also outlined the limitations of a social media-driven approach and highlighted some barriers to progress.

The conclusions I reached might be summarised as follows:

  • Many of the problems associated with gifted education are longstanding and significant, but not insurmountable. Social media will not eradicate these problems but can make a valuable contribution towards that end by virtue of their unrivalled capacity to ‘only connect’.
  • Gifted education needs to adapt if it is to thrive in a globalised environment with an increasingly significant online dimension driven by a proliferation of social media. The transition from early adoption to mainstream practice has not yet been effected, but rapid acceleration is necessary otherwise gifted education will be left behind.
  • Gifted education is potentially well-placed to pioneer new developments in social media but there is limited awareness of this opportunity, or the benefits it could bring.

The post was intended to inform discussion at a Symposium at the ECHA Conference in Munster, Germany in September 2012. I published the participants’ presentations and a report on proceedings (which is embedded within a review of the Conference as a whole).

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Defining quality

I have not previously attempted to pin down what constitutes a high quality website or blog and effective social media usage, not least because so many have gone before me.

But, on reviewing their efforts, I could find none that embodied every dimension I considered important, while several appeared unduly restrictive.

It seems virtually impossible to reconcile these two conflicting pressures, defining quality with brevity but without compromising flexibility. Any effort to pin down quality risks reductionism while also fettering innovation and wilfully obstructing the pioneering spirit.

I am a strong advocate of quality standards in gifted education but, in this context, it seemed beyond my capacity to find or generate the ideal ‘flexible framework’, offering clear guidance without compromising innovation and capacity to respond to widely varying needs and circumstances.

But the project for Potential Plus UK required us to consult stakeholders on their understanding of quality provision, so that we could reconcile any difference between their perceptions and our own.

And, in order to consult effectively, we needed to make a decent stab at the task ourselves.

So I prepared some draft success criteria, drawing on previous efforts I could find online as well as my own experience over the last four years.

I have reproduced the draft criteria below, with slight amendment to make them more universally applicable. The first set – for a blog or website – are generic, while those relating to wider online and social media presence are made specific to gifted education.

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Draft Quality Criteria for a Blog or Website

1.    The site is inviting to regular and new readers alike; its purpose is up front and explicit; as much content as possible is accessible to all.

 2.    Readers are encouraged to interact with the content through a variety of routes – and to contribute their own (moderated) content.

3.    The structure is logical and as simple as possible, supported by clear signposting and search.

 4.    The design is contemporary, visually attractive but not obtrusive, incorporating consistent branding and a complementary colour scheme. There is no external advertising.

 5.    The layout makes generous and judicious use of space and images – and employs other media where appropriate.

 6.    Text is presented in small blocks and large fonts to ensure readability on both tablet and PC.

 7.    Content is substantial, diverse and includes material relevant to all the site’s key audiences.

 8.    New content is added weekly; older material is frequently archived (but remains accessible).

 9.    The site links consistently to – and is linked to consistently by – all other online and social media outlets maintained by the authors.

 10. Readers can access site content by multiple routes, including other social media, RSS and email.

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Draft quality criteria for wider online/social media activity

1.    A body’s online and social media presence should be integral to its wider communications strategy which should, in turn, support its purpose, objectives and priorities.

 2.    It should:

 a.    Support existing users – whether they are learners, parents/carers, educators, policy-makers or academics – and help to attract new users;

 b.    Raise the entity’s profile and build its reputation – both nationally and internationally – as a first-rate provider in one or more of the five areas of gifted education;

 c.    Raise the profile of gifted education as an  issue and support  campaigning for stronger provision;

 d.    Help to generate income to support the pursuit of these objectives and the body’s continued existence.

3.    It should aim to:

 a.    Provide a consistently higher quality and more compelling service than its main competitors, generating maximum benefit for minimum cost.

 b.    Use social media to strengthen interaction with and between users and provide more effective ‘bottom-up’ collaborative support.

 c.    Balance diversity and reach against manageability and effectiveness, prioritising media favoured by users but resisting pressure to diversify without justification and resource.

 d.    Keep the body’s online presence coherent and uncomplicated, with clear and consistent signposting so users can navigate quickly and easily between different online locations.

e.    Integrate all elements of the body’s online presence, ensuring they are mutually supportive.

 4.    It should monitor carefully the preferences of users, as well as the development of online and social media services, adjusting the approach only when there is a proven business case for doing so.

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P1010262-001

Perth Pelicans by Gifted Phoenix

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Applying the Criteria

These draft criteria reflect the compromise I outlined above. They are not the final word. I hope that you will help us to refine them as part of the consultation process now underway and I cannot emphasise too much that they are intended as guidelines, to be applied with some discretion.

I continue to maintain my inalienable right – as well as yours – to break any rules imposed by self-appointed arbiters of quality.

To give an example, readers will know that I am particularly exercised by any suggestion that good blog posts are, by definition, brief!

I also maintain your inalienable right to impose your own personal tastes and preferences alongside (or in place of) these criteria. But you might prefer to do so having reflected on the criteria – and having dismissed them for logical reasons.

There are also some fairly obvious limitations to these criteria.

For example, bloggers like me who use hosted platforms are constrained to some extent by the restrictions imposed by the host, as well as by our preparedness to pay for premium features.

Moreover, the elements of effective online and social media practice have been developed with a not-for-profit charity in mind and some in particular may not apply – or may not apply so rigorously – to other kinds of organisations, or to individuals engaged in similar activity.

In short, these are not templates to be followed slavishly, but rather a basis for reviewing existing provision and prompting discussion about how it might be further improved.

It would be forward of me to attempt a rigorous scrutiny against each of the criteria of the six key players mentioned above, or of any of the host of smaller players, including the 36 active gifted education blogs now listed on my blogroll.

I will confine myself instead to reporting factually all that I can find in the public domain about the activity of the six bodies, comparing and contrasting their approaches with broad reference to the criteria and arriving at an overall impressionistic judgement.

As for the blogs, I will be even more tactful, pointing out that my own quick and dirty self-review of this one – allocating a score out of ten for each of the ten items in the first set of criteria – generated a not very impressive 62%.

Of course I am biased. I still think my blog is better than yours, but now I have some useful pointers to how I might make it even better!

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Comparing six major players

I wanted to compare the social media profile of the most prominent international organisations, the most active national organisations based in the US (which remains the dominant country in gifted education and in supporting gifted education online) and the two major national organisations in the UK.

I could have widened my reach to include many similar organisations around the world but that would have made this post more inaccessible. It also struck me that I could evidence my key messages by analysis of this small sample alone – and that my conclusions would be equally applicable to others in the field, wherever they are located geographically.

My analysis focuses on these organisations’:

  • Principal websites, including any information they contain about their wider online and social media activity;
  • Profile across the five selected social media platforms and use of blogs plus the four featured curational tools.

I have confined myself to universally accessible material, since several of these organisations have additional material available only to their memberships.

I have included only what I understand to be official channels, tied explicitly to the main organisation. I have included accounts that are linked to franchised operations – typically conferences – but have excluded personal accounts that belong to individual employees or trustees of the organisations in question.

Table 1 below shows which of the six organisations are using which social media. The table includes hyperlinks to the principal accounts and I have also repeated these in the commentary that follows.

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Table 1: The social media used by the sample of six organisations

WCGTC ECHA SENG NAGC PPUK NACE
Blog No No [Yes] No No No
Facebook Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Google+ Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
LinkedIn Yes No Yes No Yes No
Twitter Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
You Tube Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
PaperLi Yes No No No No No
Pinterest No No No Yes Yes No
ScoopIt No No No No No No
Storify No No No Yes No No

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The table gives no information about the level or quality of activity on each account – that will be addressed in the commentary below – but it gives a broadly reliable indication of which organisations are comparatively active in social media and which are less so.

The analysis shows that Facebook and Twitter are somewhat more popular platforms than Google+, LinkedIn and You Tube, while Pinterest leads the way amongst the curational tools. This distribution of activity is broadly representative of the wider gifted education community.

The next section takes a closer look at this wider activity on each of the ten platforms and tools.

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Comparing gifted-related activity on the ten selected platforms and tools

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Blogs

As far as I can establish, none of the six organisations currently maintains a blog. SENG does have what it describes as a Library of Articles, which is a blog to all intents and purposes – and Potential Plus UK is currently planning a blog.

Earlier this year I noticed that my blogroll was extremely out of date and that several of the blogs it contained were no longer active. I reviewed all the blogs I could find in the field and sought recommendations from others.

I imposed a rule to distinguish live blogs from those that are dead or dormant – they had to have published three or more relevant posts in the previous six months.

I also applied a slightly more subjective rule, in an effort to sift out those that had little relevance to anyone beyond the author (being cathartic diaries of sorts) and those that are entirely devoted to servicing a small local advocacy group.

I ended up with a long shortlist of 36 blogs, which now constitutes the revised blogroll in the right hand column.  Most are written in English but I have also included a couple of particularly active blogs in other languages.

The overall number of active blogs is broadly comparable with what I remember in 2010 when I first began, but the number of posts has probably fallen.

I don’t know to what extent this reflects changes in the overall number of active blogs and posts, either generically or in the field of education. In England there has been a marked renaissance in edublogging over the last twelve months, yet only three bloggers venture regularly into the territory of gifted education.

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Facebook

Alongside Twitter, Facebook has the most active gifted education community.

There are dozens of Facebook Groups focused on giftedness and high ability. At the time of writing, the largest and most active are:

The Facebook Pages with the most ‘likes’ have been established by bodies located in the United States. The most favoured include:

There is a Gifted Phoenix page, which is rigged up to my Twitter account so all my tweets are relayed there. Only those with a relevant hashtag – #gtchat or #gtvoice – will be relevant to gifted education.

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Google+

To date there is comparatively little activity on Google+, though many have established an initial foothold there.

Part of the problem is lack of familiarity with the platform, but another obstacle is the limited capacity to connect other parts of one’s social media footprint with one’s Google+ presence.

There is only one Google+ Community to speak of: ‘Gifted and Talented’ currently with 134 members.

A search reveals a large number of people and pages ostensibly relevant to gifted education, but few are useful and many are dormant.

Amongst the early adopters are:

My own Google+ page is dormant. It should now be possible to have WordPress.com blogposts appear automatically on a Google+ page, but the service seems unreliable. There is no capacity to link Twitter and Google+ in this fashion. I am waiting on Google to improve the connectivity of their service.

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn is also comparatively little used by the gifted education community. There are several groups:

But none is particularly active, despite the rather impressive numbers above. Similarly, a handful of organisations have company pages on LinkedIn, but only one or two are active.

The search purports to include a staggering 98,360 people who mention ‘gifted’ in their profiles, but basic account holders can only see 100 results at a time.

My own LinkedIn page is registered under my real name rather than my social media pseudonym and is focused principally on my consultancy activity. I often forget it exists.

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Twitter

By comparison, Twitter is much more lively.

My brief January post mentioned my Twitter list containing every user I could find who mentions gifted education (or a similar term, whether in English or a selection of other languages) in their profile.

The list currently contains 1,263 feeds. You are welcome to subscribe to it. If you want to see it in action first, it is embedded in the right-hand column of this Blog, just beneath the blogroll.

The majority of the gifted-related activity on Twitter takes place under the #gtchat hashtag, which tends to be busier than even the most popular Facebook pages.

This hashtag also accommodates an hour long real-time chat every Friday (at around midnight UK time) and at least once a month on Sundays, at a time more conducive to European participants.

Other hashtags carrying information about gifted education include: #gtvoice (UK-relevant), #gtie (Ireland-relevant), #hoogbegaafd (Dutch-speaking); #altascapacidades (Spanish-speaking), #nagc and #gifteded.

Chats also take place on the #gtie and #nagc hashtags, though the latter may now be discontinued.

Several feeds provide gifted-relevant news and updates from around the world. Amongst the most followed are:

  • NAGC (4,240 followers)
  • SENG (2,709 followers)

Not forgetting Gifted Phoenix (5,008 followers) who publishes gifted-relevant material under the #gtchat (globally relevant material) and #gtvoice (UK-relevant material) hashtags.

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Twitter network 2014 Capture

Map of Gifted Phoenix’s Twitter Followers March 2014

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You Tube

You Tube is of course primarily an audio-visual channel, so it tends to be used to store public presentations and commercials.

A search on ‘gifted education’ generates some 318,000 results including 167,000 videos and 123,000 channels, but it is hard to see the wood for the trees.

The most viewed videos and the most used channels are an eclectic mix and vary tremendously in quality.

Honourable mention should be made of:

The most viewed video is called ‘Top 10 Myths in Gifted Education’, a dramatised presentation which was uploaded in March 2010 by the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County. This has had almost 70,000 views.

Gifted Phoenix does not have a You Tube presence.

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Paper.li

Paper.li describes itself as ‘a content curation service’ which ‘enables people to publish newspapers based on topics they like and treat their readers to fresh news, daily.’

It enables curators to draw on material from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, embeddable You Tube videos and websites via RSS feeds.

In September 2013 it reported 3.7m users each month.

I found six gifted-relevant ‘papers’ with over 1,000 subscriptions:

There is, as yet, no Gifted Phoenix presence on paper.li, though I have been minded for some months to give it a try.

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Pinterest

Pinterest is built around a pinboard concept.  Pins are illustrated bookmarks designating something found online or already on Pinterest, while Boards are used to organise a collection of pins. Users can follow each other and others’ boards.

Pinterest is said to have 70 million users, of which 80% are female.

A search on ‘gifted education’ reveals hundreds of boards dedicated to the topic, but unfortunately there is no obvious way to rank them by number of followers or number of pins.

Since advanced search capability is conspicuous by its absence, the user apparently has little choice but to sift laboriously through each board. I have not undertaken this task so I can bring you no useful information about the most used and most popular boards.

Judging by the names attached to these boards, they are owned almost exclusively by women. It is interesting to hypothesise about what causes this gender imbalance – and whether Pinterest is actively pursuing female users at the expense of males.

There are, however, some organisations in the field making active use of Pinterest. A search of ‘pinners’ suggests that amongst the most popular are:

  • IAGC Gifted which has 26 boards, 734 pins and 400 followers.

Gifted Phoenix is male and does not have a presence on Pinterest…yet!

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Scoop.it

Scoop.it stores material on a page somewhere between a paper.li-style newspaper and a Pinterest-style board. It is reported to have almost seven million unique visitors each month.

‘Scoopable’ material is drawn together via URLs, a programmable ‘suggestions engine’ and other social media, including all the ‘big four’. The free version permits a user to link only two social media accounts however, putting significant restrictions on Scoop.it’s curational capacity.

Scoop.it also has limited search engine capability. It is straightforward to conduct an elementary search like this one on ‘gifted’ which reveals 107 users.

There is no quick way of finding those pages that are most used or most followed, but one can hover over the search results for topics to find out which have most views:

Gifted Phoenix has a Scoop.it topic which is still very much a work in progress.

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Storify

Storify is a slightly different animal to the other three tools. It describes itself as:

‘the leading social storytelling platform, enabling users to easily collect tweets, photos, videos and media from across the web to create stories that can be embedded on any website.  With Storify, anyone can curate stories from the social web to embed on their own site and share on the Storify platform.’

Estimates of user numbers vary but are typically from 850,000 to 1m.

Storify is a flexible tool whose free service permits one to collect material already located on the platform and from a range of other sources including Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, Instagram, Google search, Tumblr – or via RSS or URL.

The downside is that there is no way to search within Storify for stories or users, so one cannot provide information about the level of activity or users that it might be helpful to follow.

However, a Google search reveals that users of Storify include:

  • IGGY with 9 followers

These tiny numbers show that Storify has not really taken off as a curational platform in its own right, though it is an excellent supporting tool, particularly for recording transcripts of Twitter chats.

Gifted Phoenix has a Storify profile and uses the service occasionally.

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The Cold Shoulder in Perth Zoo by Gifted Phoenix

The Cold Shoulder in Perth Zoo by Gifted Phoenix

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Comparing the six organisations

So, having reviewed wider gifted education-related activity on these ten social media platforms and tools, it is time to revisit the online and social media profile of the six selected organisations.

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World Council

The WCGTC website was revised in 2012 and has a clear and contemporary design.

The Council’s Mission Statement has a strong networking feel to it and elsewhere the website emphasises the networking benefits associated with membership:

‘…But while we’re known for our biennial conference the spirit of sharing actually goes on year round among our membership.

By joining the World Council you can become part of this vital network and have access to hundreds of other peers while learning about the latest developments in the field of gifted children.’

The home page includes direct links to the organisation’s Facebook Page and Twitter feed. There is also an RSS feed symbol but it is not active.

Both Twitter and Facebook are of course available to members and non-members alike.

At the time of writing, the Facebook page has 1,616 ‘likes’ and is relatively current, with five posts in the last month, though there is relatively little comment on these.

The Twitter feed typically manages a daily Tweet. Hashtags are infrequently if ever employed. At the time of writing the feed has 1,076 followers.

Almost all the Tweets are links to a daily paper.li production ‘WCGTC Daily’ which was first published in late July 2013, just before the last biennial conference. This has 376 subscribers at the present time, although the gifted education coverage is selective and limited.

However, the Council’s most recent biennial conference was unusual in making extensive use of social media. It placed photographs on Flickr, videos of keynotes on YouTube and podcasts of keynotes on Mixlr.

There was also a Blog – International Year of Giftedness and Creativity – which was busy in the weeks immediately preceding the Conference, but has not been active since.

There are early signs that the 2015 Conference will also make strong use of social media. In addition to its own website, it already has its own presence on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the strands of the 2015 Conference is:

‘Online collaboration

  • Setting the stage for future sharing of information
  • E-networking
  • E-learning options’

And one of the sponsors is a social media company.

As noted above, the World Council website provides links to two of its six strands of social media activity, but not the remaining four. It is not yet serving as an effective hub for the full range of this activity.

Some of the strands link together well – eg Twitter to paper.li – but there is considerable scope to improve the incidence and frequency of cross-referencing.

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ECHA

Of the six organisations in this sample, ECHA is comfortably the least active in social media with only a Facebook page available to supplement its website.

The site itself is rather old-fashioned and could do with a refresh. It includes a section ‘Introducing ECHA’ which emphasises the organisation’s networking role:

‘The major goal of ECHA is to act as a communications network to promote the exchange of information among people interested in high ability – educators, researchers, psychologists, parents and the highly able themselves. As the ECHA network grows, provision for highly able people improves and these improvements are beneficial to all members of society.’

This is reinforced in a parallel Message from the President.

There is no reference on the website to the Facebook group which is closed, but not confined solely to ECHA members. There are currently 191 members. The group is fairly active, but does not rival those with far more members listed above.

There’s not much evidence of cross-reference between the Facebook group and the website, but that may be because the website is infrequently updated.

As with the World Council, ECHA conferences have their own social media profile.

At the 2012 Conference in In Munster this was left largely to the delegates. Several of us live Tweeted the event.

I blogged about the Conference and my part in it, providing links to transcripts of the Twitter record. The post concluded with a series of learning points for this year’s ECHA Conference in Slovenia.

The Conference website explains that the theme of the 2014 event is ‘Rethinking Giftedness: Giftedness in the Digital Age’.

Six months ahead of the event, there is a Twitter feed with 29 followers that has been dormant for three months at the time of writing and a LinkedIn group with 47 members that has been quiet for five months.

A Forum was also established which has not been used for over a year. There is no information on the website about how the event will be supported by social media.

I sincerely hope that my low expectations will not be fulfilled!

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SENG

SENG is far more active across social media. Its website carries a 2012 copyright notice and has a more contemporary feel than many of the others in this sample.

The bottom of the home page extends an invitation to ‘connect with the SENG community’ and carries links to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (though not to Google+ or You Tube).

In addition, each page carries a set of buttons to support the sharing of this information across a wide range of social media.

The organisation’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017 makes only fleeting reference to social media, in relation to creating a ‘SENG Liaison Facebook page’ to support inter-state and international support.

It does, however, devote one of its nine goals to the further development of its webinar programme (each costs $40 to access or $40 to purchase a recording for non-participants).

SENG offers online parent support groups but does not state which platform is used to host these. It has a Technology/Social Media Committee but its proceedings are not openly available.

Reference has already been made above to the principal Facebook Page which is popular, featuring posts on most days and a fair amount of interaction from readers.

The parallel group for SENG Liaisons is also in place, but is closed to outsiders, which rather seems to defeat the object.

The SENG Twitter feed is relatively well followed and active on most days. The LinkedIn page is somewhat less active but can boast 142 followers while Google+ is clearly a new addition to the fold.

The You Tube channel has 257 subscribers however and carries 16 videos, most of them featuring presentations by James Webb. Rather strangely, these don’t seem to feature in the media library carried by the website.

SENG is largely a voluntary organisation with little staff resource, but it is successfully using social media to extend its footprint and global influence. There is, however, scope to improve coherence and co-ordination.

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National Association for Gifted Children

The NAGC’s website is also in some need of refreshment. Its copyright notice dates from 2008, which was probably when it was designed.

There are no links to social media on the home page but ‘NAGC at a glance’ carries a direct link to the Facebook group and a Twitter logo without a link, while the page listing NAGC staff has working links to both Facebook and Twitter.

In the past, NAGC has been more active in this field.

There was for a time a Parenting High Potential Blog but the site is now marked private.

NAGC’s Storify account contains the transcripts of 6 Twitter chats conducted under the hashtag #nagcchat between June and August 2012. These were hosted by NAGC’s Parent Outreach Specialist.

But, by November 2012 I was tweeting:

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And in February 2013:

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This post was filled by July 2013. The postholder seems to have been concentrating primarily on editing the magazine edition of Parenting High Potential, which is confined to members only (but also has a Facebook presence – see below).

NAGC’s website carries a document called ‘NAGC leadership initiatives 2013-14’ which suggests further developments in the next few months.

The initiatives include:

‘Leverage content to intentionally connect NAGC resources, products and programs to targeted audiences through an organization-wide social media strategy.’

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‘Implement a new website and membership database that integrates with social media and provides a state-of-the-art user interface.’

One might expect NAGC to build on its current social media profile which features:

  • A Facebook Group which currently has 2,420 members and is reasonably active, though not markedly so. Relatively few posts generate significant comments.
  • A Twitter feed boasting an impressive 4,287 followers. Tweets are published on a fairly regular basis

There is additional activity associated with the Annual NAGC Convention. There was extensive live Tweeting from the 2013 Convention under the rival hashtags #NAGC2013 and #NAGC13. #NAGC14 looks the favourite for this year’s Convention which has also established a Facebook presence

NAGC also has its own networks. The website lists 15 of these but hardly any of their pages give details of their social media activity. A cursory review reveals that:

Overall, NAGC has a fairly impressive array of social media activity but demonstrates relatively little evidence of strategic coherence and co-ordination. This may be expected to improve in the next six months, however.

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NACE

NACE is not quite the poorest performer in our sample but, like ECHA, it has so far made relatively little progress towards effective engagement with social media.

Its website dates from 2010 but looks older. Prominent links to Twitter and Facebook appear on the front page as well as – joy of joys – an RSS feed.

However, the Facebook link is not to a NACE-specific page or group and the RSS feed doesn’t work.

There are references on the website to the networking benefits of NACE membership, but not to any role for the organisation in wider networking activity via social media. Current efforts seem focused primarily on advertising NACE and its services to prospective members and purchasers.

The Twitter feed has a respectable 1,426 followers but Tweets tend to appear in blocks of three or four spaced a few days apart. Quality and relevance are variable.

The Google+ page and You Tube channel contain the same two resources, posted last November.

There is much room for improvement.

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Potential Plus UK

All of which brings us back to Potential Plus and the work I have been supporting to strengthen its online and social media presence.

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Current Profile

Potential Plus’s current social media profile is respectably diverse but somewhat lacking in coherence.

The website is old-fashioned. There is a working link to Facebook on the home page, but this takes readers to the old NAGC Britain page which is no longer used, rather than directing them to the new Potential Plus UK page.

Whereas the old Facebook page had reached 1,344 likes, the new one is currently at roughly half that level – 683 – but the level of activity is reasonably impressive.

There is a third Facebook page dedicated to the organisation’s ‘It’s Alright to Be Bright’ campaign, which is not quite dormant.

All website pages carry buttons supporting information-sharing via a wide range of social media outlets. But there is little reference in the website content to its wider social media activity.

The Twitter feed is fairly lively, boasting 1,093 followers. It currently has some 400 fewer followers than NACE but has published about 700 more Tweets. Both are publishing at about the same rate. Quality and relevance are similarly variable.

The LinkedIn page is little more than a marker and does not list the products offered.

The Google+ presence uses the former NAGC Britain name and is also no more than a marker.

But the level of activity on Pinterest is more significant. There are 14 boards each containing a total of 271 pins and attracting 26 followers.  This material has been uploaded during 2014.

There is at present no substantive blog activity, although the stub of an old wordpress.com site still exists and there is also a parallel stub of an old wordpress.com children’s area.

There are no links to any of these services from the website – nor do these services link clearly and prominently with each other.

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Future Strategy

The new wordpress.com test site sets out our plans for Potential Plus UK, which have been shaped in accordance with the two sets of draft success criteria above.

The purpose of the project is to help the organisation to:

  • improve how it communicates and engage with its different audiences clearly and effectively
  • improve support for members and benefit all its stakeholder groups
  • provide a consistently higher quality and more compelling service than its main competitors that generates maximum benefit for minimum cost

Subject to consultation and if all goes well, the outcome will be:

  • A children’s website on wordpress.org
  • A members’ and stakeholders’ website on wordpress.com (which may transfer to wordpress.org in due course)
  • A new forum and a new ‘bottom-up’ approach to support that marries curation and collaboration and
  • A coherent social media strategy that integrates these elements and meets audiences’ needs while remaining manageable for PPUK staff.

You can help us to develop this strategy by responding to the consultation here by Friday 18 April.

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La Palma Panorama by Gifted Phoenix

La Palma Panorama by Gifted Phoenix

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Conclusion

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Gifted Phoenix

I shall begin by reflecting on Gifted Phoenix’s profile across the ten elements included in this analysis:

  • He has what he believes is a reasonable Blog.
  • He is one of the leading authorities on gifted education on Twitter (if not the leading authority).
  • His Facebook profile consists almost exclusively of ‘repeats’ from his Twitter feed.
  • His LinkedIn page reflects a different identity and is not connected properly to the rest of his profile.
  • His Google+ presence is embryonic.
  • He has used Scoop.it and Storify to some extent, but not Paper.li or Pinterest.

GP currently has a rather small social media footprint, since he is concentrating on doing only two things – blogging and microblogging – effectively.

He might be advised to extend his sphere of influence by distributing the limited available human resource more equitably across the range of available media.

On the other hand he is an individual with no organisational objectives to satisfy. Fundamentally he can follow his own preferences and inclinations.

Maybe he should experiment with this post, publishing it as widely as possible and monitoring the impact via his blog analytics…

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The Six Organisations

There is a strong correlation between the size of each organisation’s social media footprint and the effectiveness with which they use social media.

There are no obvious examples – in this sample at least – of organisations that have a small footprint because of a deliberate choice to specialise in a narrow range of media.

If we were to rank the six in order of effectiveness, the World Council, NAGC and SENG would be vying for top place, while ECHA and NACE would be competing for bottom place and Potential Plus UK would be somewhere in the middle.

But none of the six organisations would achieve more than a moderate assessment against the two sets of quality criteria. All of them have huge scope for improvement.

Their priorities will vary, according to what is set out in their underlying social media strategies. (If they have no social media strategy, the obvious priority is to develop one, or to revise it if it is outdated.)

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The Overall Picture across the Five Aspects of Gifted Education

This analysis has been based on the activities of a small sample of six generalist organisations in the gifted education field, as well as wider activity involving a cross-section of tools and platforms.

It has not considered providers who specialise in one of the five aspects – advocacy, learning, professional development, policy-making and research – or the use being made of specialist social media, such as MOOCs and research tools.

So the judgements that follow are necessarily approximate. But nothing I have seen across the wider spectrum of social media over the past 18 months would seriously call into question the conclusions reached below.

  • Advocacy via social media is slightly stronger than it was in 2012 but there is still much insularity and too little progress has been made towards a joined up global movement. The international organisations remain fundamentally inward-looking and have been unable to offer the leadership and sense of direction required.  The grip of the old guard has been loosened and some of the cliquey atmosphere has dissipated, but academic research remains the dominant culture.
  • Learning via social media remains limited. There are still several niche providers but none has broken through in a global sense. The scope for fruitful partnership between gifted education interests and one or more of the emerging MOOC powerhouses remains unfulfilled. The potential for social media to support coherent and targeted blended learning solutions – and to support collaborative learning amongst gifted learners worldwide – is still largely unexploited.
  • Professional development via social media has been developed at a comparatively modest level by several providers, but the prevailing tendency seems to be to regard this as a ‘cash cow’ generating income to support other activities. There has been negligible progress towards securing the benefits that would accrue from systematic international collaboration.
  • Policy-making via social media is still the poor relation. The significance of policy-making (and of policy makers) within gifted education is little appreciated and little understood. What engagement there is seems focused disproportionately on lobbying politicians, rather than on developing at working level practical solutions to the policy problems that so many countries face in common.
  • Research via social media is negligible. The vast majority of academic researchers in the field are still caught in a 20th Century paradigm built around publication in paywalled journals and a perpetual round of face-to-face conferences. I have not seen any significant examples of collaboration between researchers. A few make a real effort to convey key research findings through social media but most do not. Some of NAGC’s networks are beginning to make progress and the 2013 World Conference went further than any of its predecessors in sharing proceedings with those who could not attend. Now the pressure is on the EU Talent Conference in Budapest and ECHA 2014 in Slovenia to push beyond this new standard.

Overall progress has been limited and rather disappointing. The three conclusions I drew in 2012 remain valid.

In September 2012 I concluded that ‘rapid acceleration is necessary otherwise gifted education will be left behind’. Eighteen months on, there are some indications of slowly gathering speed, but the gap between practice in gifted education and leading practice has widened meanwhile – and the chances of closing it seem increasingly remote.

Back in 2010 and 2011 several of my posts had an optimistic ring. It seemed then that there was an opportunity to ‘only connect’ globally, but also at European level via the EU Talent Centre and in the UK via GT Voice. But both those initiatives are faltering.

My 2012 post also finished on an optimistic note:

‘Moreover, social media can make a substantial and lasting contribution to the scope, value and quality of gifted education, to the benefit of all stakeholders, but ultimately for the collective good of gifted learners.

No, ‘can’ is too cautious, non-assertive, unambitious. Let’s go for WILL instead!’

Now in 2014 I am resigned to the fact that there will be no great leap forward. The very best we can hope for is disjointed incremental improvement achieved through competition rather than collaboration.

I will be doing my best for Potential Plus UK. Now what about you?

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GP

March 2014

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Gifted Education Activity in the Blogosphere and on Twitter

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4-Eyes-resized-greenjacketfinalI have been doing some groundwork for an impending analysis of the coverage of gifted education (and related issues) in social media – and reflecting on how that has changed in the four years I have been involved.

As a first step I revised my Blogroll (normally found in the right hand margin, immediately below the Archives).

I decided to include only Blogs that have published three or more relevant posts in the last six months – and came up with the following list of 23, which I have placed in alphabetical order.

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Begabungs

Belin-Blank Center

Distilling G and T Ideas

Dona Matthews

Gifted and Talented Ireland

Gifted Challenges

Gifted Education Perspectives

Gifted Exchange

Gifted Parenting Support

Global #gtchat powered by TAGT

headguruteacher  (posts tagged #gtvoice)

Irish Gifted Education Blog

Krummelurebloggen

Laughing at Chaos

Living the Life Fantastic

Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

smarte barn

Talent Igniter

Talent Talk

Talento y Educacion

The Deep End

The Prufrock Press Blog

Unwrapping the Gifted

WeAreGifted2

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This is rather a short list, which might suggest a significant falling off of blogging activity since 2010. I had to delete the majority of the entries in the previous version of the Blogroll because they were dormant or dead.

But I might have missed some deserving blogs, particularly in other languages. Most on this list are written in English.

If you have other candidates for inclusion do please suggest them through the comments facility below, or pass them on via Twitter.

You may have views about the quantity and quality of blogging activity – and whether there is an issue here that needs to be addressed. Certainly the apparent decline in gifted education blogging comes at a time when edublogging in England has never been more popular. Perhaps you have ideas for stimulating more posts.

On the other hand, you might take the view that blogging is increasingly irrelevant, given the inexorable rise of microblogging – aka Twitter – and the continued popularity of Facebook, let alone the long list of alternatives.

Speaking of Twitter, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to compile a public list of every feed I could find that references gifted education (or an equivalent term, whether in English or another language) in its profile.

The full list – which you can find at https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/lists/gifted-education – contains 1,245 members at present.

I have embedded the timeline below, and you can also find it in the right hand margin, immediately below the Blogroll.

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The list includes some leading academic authorities on the subject, but is dominated by gifted education teachers and the parents of gifted learners, probably in roughly equal measure.

The clear majority is based in the United States, but there is a particularly strong community in the Netherlands and reasonable representation in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Several other countries are more sparsely represented.

(One authority – who shall remain nameless – has unaccountably blocked me, which prevents his inclusion in the list. But he has only produced eight tweets, the most recent over a year old, so I suppose he is no great loss.)

I cannot compare this with earlier lists, but it feels as though there has been a significant expansion of the gifted Twittersphere since I began in 2010.

That said I have no information yet about how many of the feeds are active – and just how active they are.

If I have inadvertently omitted you from the list, please Tweet to let me know. Please feel free to make use of the list as you wish, or to offer suggestions for how I might use it.

There will be further segmented lists in due course.

 

Postscript 13 January:

Many thanks for your really positive response. The blogroll now has 34 entries…and there’s always room for more.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Twitter list but are not sure how, here’s Twitter’s guide (see bottom of page).

If you’re not on the list but would like to be, please either follow me (making sure there’s a reference to gifted or similar in your profile) or send me a tweet requesting to be added.

You can follow or tweet me direct from this blog by going to the ‘Gifted Phoenix on Twitter’ embed in the right hand column.

 

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GP

January 2014

Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-up Volume 12: Giftedness and Gifted Education

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Here is a slightly overdue termly round-up of activity on the Gifted Phoenix Twitter feed.

4-Eyes-resized-greenjacketfinalThe sheer volume of activity undertaken over the four month period since my last review – attributable to my efforts to cover domestic education policy alongside global gifted activity – has led me to experiment with separating those two strands.

So this section of Volume 12 is dedicated to giftedness and gifted education over the period February 24 to July 3 2013.

Two further sections are devoted to wider education policy, organised on a thematic basis.

The material is organised into the following categories:

  • Global coverage, including sub-sections for each continent. As ever, this broadly reflects the distribution of activity worldwide, with little happening in Africa and a lot in the US.
  • UK coverage, including a discrete sub-section on Ofsted’s ‘Most Able Students’ survey, published in June 2013.
  • Thematic coverage, containing sub-sections on Intelligence and Neuroscience, Creativity and Innovation, Twice-Exceptional and Gifted Research.
  • Gifted Commentary, with subsections devoted to Yours Truly, Twitter chats and other posts.

Because the timespan covered by this review is relatively long, I have decided to keep the broad chronological order rather than grouping tweets thematically within sections. This means that readers will need to search a little more – for example for the limited non-US coverage within the sub-section devoted to The Americas.

As usual I have relied almost exclusively on my own Tweets, including only those that carry a hyperlink. I have not checked that all links remain live. I have included a few retweets and modified tweets originated by others.

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GP

July 2013

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Giftedness and Gifted Education Around the World

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Global

A Learnist board on gifted education: http://t.co/hXvqfPPpsX

The Open Education Database includes a single offering on gifted education: http://t.co/n5HtaP66gm Frankly that’s pathetic

Confirmation that @LesLinks is the new World Council President: http://t.co/A56sCrvGGi – I shall have to mind my Ps and Qs!

Looks as though ICIE’s 2014 Conference is in Chennai, India: http://t.co/RQZKuG5SDr – Usual suspects involved

IRATDE’s latest journal – Talent Development and Excellence Vol 5 No 1 (2013): http://t.co/OWuqQf1CQ2

Inside view of WCGTC Conference preparations: http://t.co/UO5srcTllP – I hadn’t appreciated that Denmark is hosting in 2015

World Council Conference in Kentucky is up to 350 acceptances: http://t.co/o4C2b81NbJ so they need a last-minute surge

World Council 2015 Gifted Conference in Denmark will be located in Odense, August 10-14: http://t.co/UT3KQX689u No direct flights?

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Africa

Guardian feature on Sheikh School, the ‘Eton of Somaliland’: http://t.co/OaOaYIMihD

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/344343066884333568

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Americas

A more hostile position on the expansion of Renzulli academies in Connecticut: http://t.co/jaICAcZPT2

About US NAGC’s Administrator’s Toolbox for Gifted Education http://t.co/Dv5vCrzgXG – which is here http://t.co/DXQO69mgGL

The row about NYC’s gifted programme rumbles on and on…and on: http://t.co/JGXD0nFjZH

New Executive Director of US federal initiative to secure Educational Excellence for African Americans: http://t.co/qXjabm2die

How does Insight Help Gifted Children? http://t.co/Y3OcICZctn – Piece on Esther Katz Rosen Early Career Research Grants

Paper on impact on gifted learners of inclusion policy in British Columbia: http://t.co/9lYbM7LVnm

Evidence of a backlash against those proposed new Renzulli academies in Connecticut: http://t.co/quLDWY2v4L

Article on college readiness of gifted students by CTY’s Director: http://t.co/5voDJ6Vius

Senator Chuck Grassley continues his support for high ability students in the USA: http://t.co/oZMw19VfPd

Legal action threatened over gifted education in NY State: http://t.co/E1TlcAxf8D

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/311884567839653888

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Chuck Grassley press release on latest introduction of the Talent Act: http://t.co/Fu1CYSzBPN

MT @ljconrad: Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth Newsletter http://t.co/er6yARhY3l

CEC press release on the latest edition of the Talent Act: http://t.co/wRv4oKHdux

Missouri Senate progressing bill to establish a gifted and talented advisory council: http://t.co/NJEhvpAQSr

More on ability grouping in the US: http://t.co/tYNQ1KuqM6 and http://t.co/AbuYy17epj

The Socialist Worker perspective on gifted education in New York City: http://t.co/qPNdy6qmO3

Recap of an event to discuss gifted education issues in Ohio: http://t.co/f7CEH1wKEy

State-wide review of gifted education in Pennsylvania moves a step closer: http://t.co/fbNx3hge1x

Louisiana gifted funding plan under fire: http://t.co/jaQoi3Rnkz and this from Ravitch http://t.co/zX0G9xZhBk

A bit more negative reaction to Louisiana proposal to link gifted funding to test scores: http://t.co/VnhdKFEJdR

Why my grandson, 4, won’t be taking a gifted ed test: http://t.co/qUzOBnPKuN

Meanwhile discussion continues over Delaware’s grants for gifted education bill: http://t.co/gkVWfM8hxB

The Renzulli Academy planned in New London is relegated to an incubator programme: http://t.co/GNKGWRyg1k

NEPC review says recent ‘Does Sorting Students Improve Test Scores’ paper too poor to inform tracking policy: http://t.co/obpw7NfPD9

Pro-acceleration legislation enacted in Colorado: http://t.co/7vFyB4NtwV

Belin-Blank on Grassley’s Talent Act: http://t.co/BYXt7WCICc

Rapper Wale (next album ‘Gifted) to perform at WKU, home of the World Council. A publicist’s dream! http://t.co/Bym9lN029e

Florida’s apprach to gifted education begins to focus more strongly on equity issues: http://t.co/kRL2iloSGM

Jann Leppien lands that Gifted Chair at Whitworth U (reserved for someone of a Christian persuasion) http://t.co/xg6dke3EMQ

Report on Talent Management in US Education: http://t.co/kPKMYUcltd – They and we could start the process with school-age students

Loveless reviews the US history of tracking and ability grouping and calls for more research: http://t.co/AIZLQyFWqM

A couple of reports on initial impact of changes to tests for the NYC gifted programme: http://t.co/YzdRaTxakf and http://t.co/oOOwOJiVvY

January 2013 CTYI doctoral thesis about impact of the Centre for Academic Achievement (CAA): http://t.co/ODL52gznL7

Iowa elementary school teacher says gifted learners deserve attention too: http://t.co/horeVbLOZI

NGLB – No Gifted Left Behind: http://t.co/8CFuut2zyi  – a view from Illinois

Ohio’s new report cards include gifted learners. Simulation based on old data suggests shortcomings: http://t.co/LrEffMShs7

Pearson make clunking great horlicks of NY gifted test http://t.co/opewyB0e3F and http://t.co/8sp7rTPdNN Humble pie abounds

Belin-Blank Director refers you to her paywalled research http://t.co/lQED8Dzg8o I want it freely accessible

State report card shows some high performing Ohio districts don’t cut the mustard with gifted ed: http://t.co/51ziRRRbfa

Rumblings continue over Pearson’s testing issues in NYC http://t.co/QIBSIMhDac Apparently it’s being called TestingGATE (ho ho)

Democrat sources argue for reform to NYC’s gifted programme: http://t.co/k8yjUjIWJq

A call for stronger gifted education in Baltimore: http://t.co/h76lnFLwMh

Pearson’s gifted assessment contract with NYC reportedly under threat as a second error is uncovered http://t.co/4teFDmhdMY

More from across the Atlantic on grouping by ability: http://t.co/cgTGYl3Kv3

African-Americans and Hispanics are heavily under-represented in Virginia’s gifted programmes: http://t.co/KpMfDhwqbs

Profile of Sue Khim: http://t.co/iacJ6ZyNXd the founder of Brilliant: http://t.co/80kxzDpjGE

Following the testing debacle, NYC gifted admissions process now faces a parental lawsuit: http://t.co/lLTyd8ZepR

Brief feature on the founder of a Center for Talent Attention, presumably based in Mexico: http://t.co/sDRh0bbQfn

New London has rejected a Renzulli Academy: http://t.co/P7UE2nxaa6 – but is it the last word? http://t.co/DbEsQjYk7C

Latest NEPC Policy Brief is resolutely anti-tracking and so won’t go unchallenged: http://t.co/vDL5sWqYqb

Looks as though @donnayford is launching a blog: http://t.co/HBUkwt6oJC

Gatton Academy at WKU has a relationship with Harlaxton College in Grantham http://t.co/Dx0OIJdaEC

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/343287080123768832

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Debate about the pros and cons of ability grouping continues: http://t.co/XIkM2DME8I

Finding America’s Missing AP/IB Students http://t.co/zp3g0tuGkb Education Trust says they can help tackle excellence gaps

More about ability grouping, from the NYT: http://t.co/E5wGV5DLzY

US NAGC press release on inclusion of gifted learners in draft ESEA Reauthorisation Bill: http://t.co/vao9Go0imf

Another view on ability grouping/tracking in US http://t.co/NqkxWKI8qS Will Ofsted report on ‘most able’ reignite debate here?

Another contribution to US debate on ability grouping: http://t.co/WZ59o5vYLx

Fixing America’s Talent Problem (mostly higher education focused): http://t.co/SHHG8n5Smi

CEC press release on the latest moves to introduce a US TALENT Act: http://t.co/8VTwT2f3Wt

NAGC’s Press Release on the Talent Act: http://t.co/gWK0WVBy0m

A real slanging match in the comments on: ‘The Anti-Gifted Sentiment Behind Closing the Gap’: http://t.co/D8lXzc7a76

A giftedness blog in British Columbia has come back to life: http://t.co/Bpvs6bvgzh

Ending the neglect of Illinois’ gifted students: http://t.co/mEVTVGWiiB

This page carries a link to a powerpoint on gifted education (for women) in Costa Rica: http://t.co/yAdl2mOnQa

NYC gifted education again: http://t.co/BQtVIm1Qnk  (including the judge who needs a crash course in gifted education)

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Asia

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi donates $10m to Permata Pintar gifted programme in Malaysia: http://t.co/wW1IetQpik – Jealous!

There’s a talk in Cambridge next week on gifted education in Kazakhstan: http://t.co/dIhXx7J8RY

Next round of gifted education awards in the Philippines: http://t.co/j2RakCyxBd

New Wikipedia entry on the High School for Gifted Students at Hanoi University of Science: http://t.co/YxC1XdFxg4

Positive outcomes of Malaysia’s Permata Pintar Gifted programme via @noorsyakina: http://t.co/E20rqM9yrn

Over in Hong Kong, HKAGE is running a student conference on giftedness and creativity in November: http://t.co/kXbbHsEAOX

Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education needs Associate Director for Student Programmes and Services: http://t.co/gkvdkumROH

A very brief item on Kuwaiti gifted education from the national news agency: http://t.co/Y3pp2uLaGa

Interesting feature on giftedness from the Bangkok Post: http://t.co/BunytKPhTI  (don’t be put off by the awful stock photo)

Recording of that Cambridge seminar I referenced on gifted education in Kazakhstan: http://t.co/F4DOdMdXdP

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/325213559476867073

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Bloom Nepal sounds like a valuable gifted education initiative in that country: http://t.co/IOwuufRCCL

Is Vietnam’s national gifted education programme a waste of money? http://t.co/0w2EBYNK8o

A Talent School of Academic and Arts (TSAA) is opening in Makati, Philippines: http://t.co/FqPGmUIrrZ

A Glance at Gifted Education in Singapore: http://t.co/eDSr2TBN7u

Brief piece on gifted education in Bahrain: http://t.co/Y65v1z2OP3

Mawhiba (gifted education in Saudi Arabia) is supporting over 12,000 students in its third phase: http://t.co/WiyZVElRTW

Evaluating the Effects of the Oasis Enrichment Model (on gifted education in Saudi Arabia): http://t.co/SGRmBNiRUz

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/339412463302893569

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Feature on China’s School for the Gifted Young: http://t.co/aBOMYNSig6 with an interesting opening line

RT @noorsyakina: First Lady of Mozambique visits Permata Pintar in Malaysia http://t.co/dnANlt76BU

There’s now a National Association of Gifted Education in India. Here’s its test website: http://t.co/dPGDamYkXu

Expansion of Saudi Mawhiba gifted summer school plus international girls’ programme involving CTY http://t.co/KiJ1jmUbmT

Bahraini students will take part in the Mawhiba-CTY girls only summer school: http://t.co/dkdufvfgYW

UKM in Malaysia has signed a MoU with Kazakhstan University including gifted education collaboration http://t.co/hA9sB4GbV7

The Eden Center: A Haven for Korea’s Highly Gifted Kids: http://t.co/GHeLfktoQz

A piece on teaching mathematically gifted Muslim girls from India: http://t.co/a90Tm7wzkN

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayed Intellectual Schools needs teachers (to teach in English) http://t.co/vjjkIed6Ty

Jakarta Post features an academy for poor but gifted students in Sumatra: http://t.co/Tf71eMTGar

China has launched a first Regional Talent Competitiveness Report: http://t.co/h9IvtwqDDO and http://t.co/lPk4yXgGjL

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Australasia

Gifted Kids in NZ has appointed a new chair: http://t.co/obXU0lMRb9

RT @jofrei: Gifted Resources March newsletter can be read online at http://t.co/Gratg3fUQm

Gifted education is a focus in state elections in Western Australia: http://t.co/jyAqQFFn3F

Feature on gifted education in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand: http://t.co/YYjYqfPT9C

Brief Massey University press release on an upcoming regional gifted education conference in NZ: http://t.co/mpzOjxNeiI

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/313393533061042178

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Guidance from New Zealand about developing Professional Learning Networks in Gifted Education: http://t.co/utariVh8f9

MT @jofrei: Gifted Resources March No 2 Newsletter can be read online at http://t.co/88FWthytvj

New article from New Zealand comparing enrichment and acceleration: http://t.co/m1g8aRSuXH

TKI Gifted in NZ is now advertising the World Council Conference, shifted from NZ to Kentucky: http://t.co/e9Mnm2TqyQ

Bit of a coup for GERRIC, who are running gifted teacher education courses for ESF in Hong Kong: http://t.co/p6tDaQX0A9

MT @jofrei: Gifted Resources April Newsletter can be read online at http://t.co/pOueUEIB8t

State Government’s response to the Inquiry into Victorian gifted education begins to emerge: http://t.co/PNr9auuYJK

University of New England (Australia) seeks Lecturer in School Pedagogy/Gifted Education: http://t.co/ePU1pZqZIz

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/330234232221859840

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MT @jofrei: VAGTC EmpowerED Conference report on Gifted Resources blog http://t.co/G0OjSqlF6B

Extended differentiated Instruction presentation from recent gifted conference in Victoria, Australia: http://t.co/dm1E47L7BV

New Zealand’s Got Talent. The Role of Schools in Talent Development: http://t.co/0EKvjkF6Mn – Unites arguments I support and oppose

Time for the annual New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour: http://t.co/XdT1KDi54K

Welcome to the NZGAW Blog Tour 2013: http://t.co/oXGeftp9fY

‘Your MP is Probably Gifted’: http://t.co/9Fu48aVyFb – a timely comment from New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week

Australian Mensa is worried about what happens to gifted students in Australian universities: http://t.co/M1Zt0KI2WY

A contribution to the ability grouping debate (the one in NZ this time): http://t.co/6Avu7y0R8Y

Young members of Mensa New Zealand: http://t.co/pCD2xPyiQj – a world away from Child Genius!

Picture this: gifted (from NZGAW): http://t.co/e97yIHukn2

Gifted Kids at [NZ] Parliament: http://t.co/aftRSrW7EF – Green Party support for NZGAW

NZ Labour Party supports Gifted Awareness Week: http://t.co/8v4g56ksrT

Another NZGAW offering – Kiwi learners reflect on what it means to be gifted: http://t.co/bQSsLacDnT

Investigation into the Identification of Maori Gifted and Talented Students (from NZGAW): http://t.co/vc0zILWe53

RT @ljconrad: AUS: Gifted Resources Newsletter June 2013 (pdf) from @jofrei  http://t.co/RNxEYa8nu6

Interesting progress report on New South Wales’ Virtual Selective High School, xsel: http://t.co/KEjmg9nTZU

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Europe

It’s Ireland’s 3rd National Gifted Awareness Week soon! Are you a potential sponsor? http://t.co/I9iVAuZouM

European Talent Centre website has ended its hibernation; features an essay by Roland Persson http://t.co/Lgeqj4REBe

Summary of the recent EU Hearing on Talent Support: http://t.co/Umk3BKVOeN – No comment.

The EU Talent Centre has finally published volume 2 of International Horizons of Talent Support: http://t.co/MYTWMSAmwt

ECHA is calling for bids to host its 2016 conference http://t.co/98uHStXGsz and http://t.co/oUzo2GGgPW – Deadline 10 April

Maltese Education Department reforms to support high achievers. Report: http://t.co/A4JYf7xlYI – coverage: http://t.co/psoqdt8bo3

Potential Plus and Silverman on Tour in Denmark: http://t.co/8ZUBGlrcpS

Contributions to Denmark’s 2013 Symposium on gifted including contributions from Potential Plus: http://t.co/nSYL0CAnYe

RT @GTNIrl: What if Giftedness was not defined as SEN in Ireland? http://t.co/JVQSh5AL5J

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/330190074148962305

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EESC Opinion Unleashing the potential of children and young people with high intellectual abilities in EU: http://t.co/J9E0hwsukb

MT @Dazzlld: Some news from the Irish Gifted Education Blog: http://t.co/ay09uPNlPU

MT @peter_lydon:Gifted And Talented Network Ireland helps parents of gifted children to support each other http://t.co/1253SSD58e

Gifted education arrives in Gozo: http://t.co/FxsZuuS6bE

RT @Begabungs: The first Gifted Awareness Week in Germany – June 3rd to June 9th 2013 https://t.co/uMtCNEKEES

Supply of Turkish gifted education inadequate to meet demand (courtesy of @ljconrad): http://t.co/MfPzEzTHpa

CTYI/DCU setting up Irish Centre for Gifted Research with support from College of William and Mary: http://t.co/R0HpozNZyr

Armenian scholarship fund for gifted learners at Dilijan International School: http://t.co/8tLFu5KNTb and: http://t.co/rUU5kh6e4Z

MT @Begabungs: Article from France! Thank you France! http://t.co/ZSbBrhlC2A

Legislative Strategies to Promote Talent in Romania (full text via PDF link): http://t.co/lFWXzY5kLQ

RT @Begabungs: The Development of Giftedness and Talent in 21st Century October 5th – 6th, 2013 Toulouse http://t.co/16J0IxGqXj

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UK Coverage

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News and Developments

Dance and Drama Awards Guide for 2013/14 (New Students): http://t.co/tFqhAJEHFf

Dear Treasury: economic growth is driven by human capital. Jerrim makes strong case for investment in high achievers http://t.co/ZJLRxj49gl

TES on How to Meet the Needs of Child Prodigies http://t.co/UcL9k1MtUB plus article featuring my alter ego:  http://t.co/wRp4Q8JqHn

A positive profile of Chetham’s, part of the MDS and an important part of our gifted education provision: http://t.co/32dtGvkOS1

Gove concedes that ‘there is much more that we can do’ to support high achievers: http://t.co/ZGicrHF4sn (Col 652) We’re all ears

Will removal of a flexi-schooling option impact disproportionately on gifted learners? Evidence?: http://t.co/PO7c9E1TGB

New Ofsted Report on Schools’ Use of Early Entry to GCSE Examinations (March 2013): http://t.co/5yWot7W64K

TES: Familiar portrayal of Chinese education ethos http://t.co/WtDQUxnkaz Author (a head) wants to ban use of ‘gifted and talented’

Adonis is new chair of trustees at IPPR: http://t.co/vBrUPuECIA so maybe they’ll show some interest in future of gifted education

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/312150806172418049

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Cridland speech to #ascl2013 asks whether gifted learners get the challenge and support they need: http://t.co/fDqdQx0mLM

Q. How can education best contribute to Cameron’s ‘global race’? A. Partly by investing in tomorrow’s high achievers: http://t.co/jaiOGpmi15

Concern at the plight of EAL support – will hit the oft-forgotten EAL gifted learners: http://t.co/7wgrOeYasU

Reports on safeguarding at Chetham’s: http://t.co/jZW9f4zhc2  and http://t.co/omukgQctTI  – will there be wider implications for MDS?

@judeenright Amazingly I’ve just had a pingback from a post on Dux you published 362 days ago!: http://t.co/nBduvBiE1p

Will Gilbert’s audit push Thurrock to improve gifted education? This mum hopes so: http://t.co/351GRxdWOH – I won’t hold my breath

RT @DMUVC: Hundreds of secondary school pupils have been on campus for DMU Gifted and Talented programme http://t.co/lJEPoRRadi

New DfE research on KS2 Level 6 Tests: http://t.co/2FdvVGeoKY – Critical of lack of guidance; doesn’t mention disappearance of L6

“It is the unfortunate nature of state schools that gifted children are often limited”: http://t.co/u8nHPUqy0G

Somewhere in England there’s a school that thinks NAGTY still exists: http://t.co/uny4HkWtUc – It closed in 2007

Sutton Trust’s future strategy features Open Access (bad) and Helping the Highly Able (depends how) – see p5 http://t.co/cUt0swcx09

TES says Government is no longer promoting setting: http://t.co/ZkVd71YWKY – but what will Ofsted say about impact on highly able?

How Level 6 tests are viewed in secondaries: http://t.co/Ie7nzkOWOA Gifted learners suffer badly from this poor transition practice

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/325906314293305344

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Waiting to see whether and how high attainers will be accommodated in TechBacc: http://t.co/vZRkJOHy83 and http://t.co/ZDW6dxiJ7h

Cybersecurity’s the latest industry to harness the power of gifted learners: http://t.co/yPMEixt8Bk

We had the school that thought NAGTY still existed; now we have the College seeking to re-energise YG&T: http://t.co/ACToxSXdnd

Still no TES this morning so you’ll have to make do with my new post on KS2 L6 and prospects for a Summer of Love: http://t.co/EWOMHD0sql

THE article on Universities’ sponsorship of academies http://t.co/py3vPFq91f and my piece on 16-19 maths free schools http://t.co/UQDNCNXwuX

Collaborative support for gifted education in Dudley: http://t.co/7UElTLGmCH

The importance of cross-phase collaboration: http://t.co/ge0Gpe6fp7 – critical for gifted learners as the KS2 L6 report showed

Abuse enquiries spreading across MDS schools: http://t.co/bLYoPGN2yE – Presumably some central action is under consideration

One of Labour’s policy forums urged review of gifted education policy: http://t.co/ynPH77YZJN (more detail in linked Word doc)

Cambridge University willl be sponsoring the Villiers Park Scholars Programme in Hastings: http://t.co/sc1JivwZHd

IGGY’s reached 2,500 members: http://t.co/a3rqhHEsN2 and http://t.co/75yQ79Q89K That’s slower progress than I’d anticipated

My post on IGGY discusses its membership/targets: http://t.co/ruSQuV6EUO 3,000 members’ claimed in 2012 v ‘over 2,500’ now?

Kings College 16-19 Maths School’s appointed a Head http://t.co/NQGPXxxClo My progress report on 16-19 Maths Schools http://t.co/UQDNCNXwuX

This TES report states explicitly that 16 16-19 maths schools are planned: http://t.co/NQGPXxxClo – Would like to know the source for that

Hoping for crossover between Ofsted’s upcoming reports on highly able and gap-narrowing. Excellence gaps need closing http://t.co/giEK2eymau

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/340878084758704128

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Estyn’s Report on KS2/3 Science says more able pupils are insufficiently stretched: http://t.co/17iWrTpNEP

TES on threat to NASA’s space education budget: http://t.co/Am5IouEKeK – would be a significant loss to gifted education

Timely publicity for Government-supported Cyber Security Talent Search for KS4 students: http://t.co/o2VvpILuOn GCHQ is a sponsor!

Thought-provoking piece ahead of ‘Child Genius’: http://t.co/x0W3a67Z6y Penultimate paragraph is the killer

Latest edition of the gtvoice Newsletter: http://t.co/Ht0vtI8Sn8 Mentions two very important meetings in this ‘Summer of Love’

Congratulations to Horndean Techonology College for being one of 8 lead schools for more able http://t.co/4RHBV3CuDM  Not sure whose scheme?

Sweeteners for university sponsors of 16-19 maths free schools http://t.co/cEcP8nIKs3 My analysis of progress to date http://t.co/UQDNCNXwuX

Here’s a brief report on Fair Access issues, especially some news about the Dux Award Scheme: http://t.co/krPc7Uweo4

STA received 240 complaints re non-registration of KS2 pupils for Level 6 tests post-deadline: http://t.co/zYAuduZ0ST (Col 531W)

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Ofsted Report

Still wondering why Ofsted’s rapid response gifted education survey: http://t.co/PyLE23L00o – isn’t yet listed here: http://t.co/ZItPkhyO0u

HMCI still bigging up Ofsted’s upcoming report on highly able: http://t.co/QeNdhwvv2A Identification, tracking sure, but streaming?

Telegraph says Ofsted’s ‘Most Able Pupils’ report will issue next week, but no new details of likely content http://t.co/wg9OhTcmvn

Telegraph calls the Ofsted Able pupils Report ‘damning’; Ofsted will now routinely check whether their needs are met: http://t.co/a2wB03Gc9a

Guardian coverage of the Ofsted Able Pupils Survey launch says it based on visits to 41 non-selective schools: http://t.co/ymHoV9RefL

Independent on Ofsted Able Pupils Survey: some schools not identifying most able (which was a requirement up to 2011): http://t.co/jDmAn41lfH

BBC coverage of Ofsted Able Pupils Report leads on failure to translate L5 to A* HMCI advocates setting/streaming: http://t.co/xeHiKGKBvB

Sutton Trust wants Government to fund trials of best ways to support gifted learners: http://t.co/nKlvxkMMV4 So a job for the EEF Sir Peter?

This short piece on gifted education and Learning Schools should’ve been published elsewhere today It wasn’t http://t.co/6MOnrWm6do

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/345080217297117184

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In which I propose a National Network of Learning Schools (to complement the Teaching Schools Network): http://t.co/6MOnrWm6do

RT @dandoj: Interesting Ofsted story on schools failing to challenge the brightest – particularly true for the poorest http://t.co/S6rTQaVKbX

@rchak100 @brianlightman @dylanwiliam There’s more data than you can shake a stick at in my analysis here: http://t.co/J0Kt7Aegpl

Ofsted Report on the Most Able Pupils now published: http://t.co/SrxQMNn1vP plus press release http://t.co/Rpdd3li9q2

Ofsted report says in only 20% of 2327 lessons observed were able pupils supported well or better: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn (p7)

Also surprised that Ofsted most able report is silent on school-to-school collaboration. My own modest proposal here: http://t.co/6MOnrWm6do

Key Finding 1: In many schools expectations of most able are too low: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 2: In non-selective schools 65% of those achieving L5 in Eng and Ma didn’t get GCSE A*/A (2012): http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 3: School leaders ‘haven’t done enough to create a culture of scholastic excellence’: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 3 (cont) Schools don’t routinely give same attention to most able as they do to those struggling http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 4: Transition arrangements don’t ensure high attainers maintain momentum into Year 7: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 5: KS3 teaching is insufficiently focused on the most able: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 6: Many students become used to under-challenge. Parents and teachers accept this too readily: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 7: KS3 curriculum and early GCSE entry are key weaknesses; homework insufficiently challenging: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 8: Inequalities amongst most able aren’t being addressed satisfactorily. Particularly FSM boys: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 8 (cont): Few schools are using Pupil Premium to support most able from disadvantaged backgrounds http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 9: Many schools aren’t using assessment, tracking and targeting effectively with most able: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 10: Too few schools worked with families to remove cultural/financial obstacles to HE admission http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 11: Most 11-16 schools visited were insufficiently focused on progression to HE: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Key Finding 12: Schools’ knowledge/expertise on application to top universities not always up-to-date: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 1: DfE should ensure parents get annual report showing if their children are on track http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/345102728479006720

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Ofsted Recommendation 3: DfE should promote new destinations data on progression to (leading) universities: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 4: Schools should develop ethos so needs of most able are championed by school leaders http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 5: Schools should develop skills/confidence/attitudes to succeed at best universities: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 6: Schools should improve primary/secondary transfer and plan KS3 lessons accordingly: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 7: Schools should ensure work remains challenging /demanding throughout KS3: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 8: Senior school leaders should check mixed ability teaching is challenging enough: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 9: Schools should check that homework is sufficiently challenging for most able: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 10: Schools should give parents of more able better infromation more frequently: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 10 (cont) schools should raise parents’ expectations for more able where necessary: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 11: Schools should work with (poor) families to overcome obstacles to HE progression: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 12: Schools should develop more expertise to support progression to top universities: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Recommendation 13: Schools should publish more widely a list of university destinations of students: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/345107211372093440

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Ofsted Commitment 2: Will focus inspection more on use of Pupil Premium for most able disadvantaged learners http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted Commitment 3: Will report inspection findings more clearly in school, 6th form and college reports: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

Ofsted has today called for a new progress measure from KS2 to KS4/5 for most able pupils: http://t.co/Td95IwjFIn

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report – NAHT: http://t.co/3zwKMnEJTF

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report – ASCL: http://t.co/9V18fM4eXE

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report – NUT: http://t.co/RAnjMTlSFG

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report: NASUWT – http://t.co/2w0Png0y7c

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report – Voice: http://t.co/xWRPFZK8lu

What the Unions think of Ofsted’s Most Able Students Report – ATL: http://t.co/4qVn0Ii1vR

Potential Plus (formerly NAGC) press release on Ofsted’s Most Able Pupils Report: http://t.co/7gqpdttJBz

David Laws video response to Ofsted Most Able Students response: http://t.co/9Og9iuQlLs – no new commitments

Twigg: ‘David Cameron and Michael Gove have no plan for gifted children’: http://t.co/wc8VS43rPj but no commitments

Review of today’s Ofsted report on most able by @pwatsonmontrose: http://t.co/SeMs66WQ3e (thanks for the links Patrick!)

Inspired by ASCL I’ve just checked what the 2012 KS2/4 Transition Matrices say about high attainers’ performance: http://t.co/96vG1mezxX

Apropos Ofsted’s Most Able report 2012 Transition Matrices show only 50% of KS2 L5A in Maths got GCSE A*: http://t.co/YkCno8Digi

Apropos Ofsted’s Most Able Students report 2012 Transition Matrices show only 47% of KS2 L5A in English got GCSE A*: http://t.co/YkCno8Digi

IoE reminds us that some GS have an issue with able learners (and inter-departmental variation’s also problematic): http://t.co/81S00tlnhK

Sutton Trust blog on today’s Ofsted report: http://t.co/1k0KpUAACH  still wondering when we’ll hear outcome of their own call for proposals

Skidmore thinks the answer is setting (and streaming?): http://t.co/8rTqoVPR8z  Will his Select Committee explore these issues?

RT @RealGeoffBarton: From last night: ‘Pass the G&T’: my blog on a depressing day for Ofsted and state education: http://t.co/nzC4QMpFAp

This Telegraph commentary on the ‘Most Able’ Report asks whether Gove(rnment) will step up to the challenges it poses http://t.co/uRXNxl2eF4

Standard predicts that schools will introduce predictive GCSE ‘report cards’ following yesterday’s Ofsted report: http://t.co/rK5F5k9fLb

Wilby questions evidence base behind Ofsted’s ‘Most Able’ Report but this evidence shows he hasn’t read it thoroughly http://t.co/h6RduI3O0K

Spectator insists Ofsted’s ‘Most Able’ report vindicates Govian policy: http://t.co/ZziGgqmlhQ But is the challenge/support balance optimal?

RT @federicacocco: My factcheck on evidence behind Ofsted’s latest report on bright children in Comprehensive schools http://t.co/Xvuamw1Yt3

And, further to Factcheck, this is what the fine level transition matrices tell us about high attainers’ progression http://t.co/96vG1mezxX

So What Does Gifted Mean Anyway? http://t.co/mNY6mut1Ty ID’s part of assessment; teaching to the top’s admirable and integral to ID

RT @headguruteacher: NEW POST Today: My take on the OfSTED report: The Anatomy of High Expectations http://t.co/qqvvWVgiEB

Huge thanks to everyone who promoted my megapost on Ofsted’s ‘Most Able’ Report: http://t.co/J7BTMsfGdt Especially @headguruteacher

Stephen ‘Up to two-thirds of teachers do not at heart approve of special programmes for the most able’: http://t.co/5aRjGDNYoh

Telegraph take on yesterday’s ‘Most Able’ Ofsted report: http://t.co/x51mfCwb9z  – Nothing here about supporting schools to improve

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Thematic Coverage

 

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Reasoning Training Increases Brain Connectivity Associated with High-Level Cognition by @sbkaufman: http://t.co/uJJX9XAfPG

A dose of realism over genetic selection for high IQ: http://t.co/c1ufVl1pMS

Two contrasting views of Obama’s new BRAIN initiative supporting neuroscience: http://t.co/noY9ry09by and http://t.co/bDsYRPHQ7m

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/322612090626002944

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A round-up of developments in working memory research: http://t.co/f4tlxChwxm

MT @NAGCBritain: Schooling Makes You Smarter: What teachers need to know about IQ: http://t.co/ATTRhNriT7

In Defence of Working Memory Training: http://t.co/RA0mWpzp4E

Intelligence can’t be explained by the size of one’s frontal lobes! http://t.co/41NP8kSOSJ

Yet another warning that research on the relationship between IQ and race is incendiary: http://t.co/WLMkMESmbG

Informative piece on the pernicious influence of ‘IQ fundamentalism’ in the wake of Richwine: http://t.co/CpFnGhCXx5

The impact of transcranial random noise stimulation on cognitive function: http://t.co/agCIcawpFX (I kid you not)

Intelligence as a function of other people’s perceptions: http://t.co/RSGk24ykRM

The distinctinction between intelligence and rationality: http://t.co/kUnP2az3hR

More about eugenics and cognitive genomics: http://t.co/LrMPD26kPg

Motion Filtering Ability Correlated to High IQ: http://t.co/yowFYoSObk

‘Intelligence is largely a hereditary trait’ states @toadmeister on meritocracy: http://t.co/NwxhBBmsHX That’s highly contestable

Neat post on Intelligence, Genetics and Environment drawing on Nisbett et al’s 2012 paper: http://t.co/85ocdVn46y

Eight ways of looking at intelligence: http://t.co/PQ4VzX9jU2

Redefining Intelligence: Q and A with @sbkaufman: http://t.co/utkNwRaHSG

MT @WendaSheard: An antidote to neuromyths perpetrated in K-12 ed conferences and publications. http://t.co/cMleiKfk2r

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Creativity and Innovation

Start with small steps when nurturing the next Van Gogh (about fostering creativity in learning): http://t.co/i8Q5lfpsrv

A simply outstanding piece about domain dependency and ‘epistemic chameleons’: http://t.co/wEBg595RwB

Creativity lies in combining ordinary things in extraordinary ways: http://t.co/9r8jWh9AYT

OECD post on creativity: http://t.co/eD9YygkcDo and associated Education for Innovation in Asia conference papers: http://t.co/pNSGuPKeHV

Intuition as the basis for creativity: http://t.co/fddE5v5bl1

Profiling Serial Creators by @sbkaufman http://t.co/ozUtLRwdD0

I do so agree with this dismissal of Robinson’s TED flummery: http://t.co/J9WsNqqffn  – gets far more attention than it deserves

Turning adversity into creative growth: http://t.co/U8yZya0rbD

@BSheermanMP @DrSpenny I spent some time trying to get a grip on Robinson’s take on talent: http://t.co/op4PaJF2Vq – wasn’t impressed

Does education marginalise spatial thinkers? http://t.co/7596uBqu0y

RT @HuntingEnglish: Why We Should Mistrust Ken Robinson http://t.co/iqPyBVKgCi – Glad I’m not the only one!

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Twice-exceptional

The Invisible Side of ‘Special Needs’ Gifted Students: http://t.co/VDzO4Bhgpt

Twice-Exceptional: When Exceptions are the Norm: http://t.co/55szvEVsca

Belin-Blank presentation on Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children: http://t.co/6bPRNeNX9f

Belin-Blank has funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to support twice-exceptional students: http://t.co/7eUZ1GKDhM

Twice-exceptional, from an Indian perspective: http://t.co/Vxd8UXnhYy

Raising the Autistic Gifted Child: http://t.co/zYvUgg9Zz8

Belin-Blank on twice-exceptionality: http://t.co/M6gIucLSqv  featuring their resources

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Gifted Research

You can access this morming’s study of ability grouping and summer born children here: http://t.co/kIgY8ZgVm8  (link at bottom)

Here’s the associated IoE press release about the MCS ability grouping and summer born children paper: http://t.co/ODOkRyJ1mR

Research showing gender differences largest in maths but smallest in reading amongst high attainers http://t.co/BVdSoqSDQL

Brown Center pieces on the incidence of ability grouping and tracking and advanced 8th Grade maths courses: http://t.co/xkRjC49dVf

Elite Athletes Also Excel at Some Cognitive Tasks: http://t.co/UzcWxtBLZv

Why Gifted Low Income Students Don’t Go To the Best Colleges: http://t.co/IIq6o1viJl

School makes you smarter: http://t.co/iKQ91VSJNg

Defining Mathematical Giftedness in Elementary School Settings: http://t.co/Kx51V6bPfO

US follow-up study finds similar academic growth rates for high-achieving students at high and low income schools: http://t.co/j8N4IbAiL5

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/317196072705478656

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How important is maths ability for scientific success? http://t.co/IgfDfVviwI

Brand spanking new post on The Limited Accessibility of Gifted Education Research: http://t.co/joOIDs23dJ

More on Wai’s study on the relationship between wealth and ability: http://t.co/ry5c1QQZxX

So much for 10,000 hours of deliberate practice: http://t.co/SnRXDKtC7S – hard work doesn’t deliver for everyone

The Complexity of Greatness (including more about deliberate practice) from @sbkaufman: http://t.co/OKoEbwKLdg

Are gender differences increasing in mathematical ability at the upper end? http://t.co/uK06d8JKNp

Interesting piece of open access research (hooray) on Renzulli Learning: http://t.co/YEhLzFpmBO Relevant to other providers

2 Indian publications: Introductory Reading on Giftedness in Children http://t.co/dr1UPJOp4B Case Profiles http://t.co/Lql3tnP7YV

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Gifted Commentary

 

Gifted Phoenix

A huge(ly ambitious) new blogpost: The Economics of Gifted Education Revisited: http://t.co/jaiOGpmi15

@jakeanders @drbeckyallen What did you make of http://t.co/jaiOGpmi15 – What prospect of serious analysis of smart fraction from your ilk?

The @GiftedPhoenix Manifesto for Gifted Education: http://t.co/7a1Fhr99uK

MT @peter_lydon: The most important statement on Gifted education this year  http://t.co/DhOTt7Ee61 I’m seriously flattered. Thanks!

Peter Lydon blogs on (and reproduces) The Gifted Phoenix Manifesto for Gifted Education: http://t.co/DhOTt7Ee61

RT @peter_lydon: Special #gtie Chat on Sunday 9pm GMT ‘The Gifted Phoenix Manifesto for Gifted Education’. http://t.co/DhOTt7Ee61

Explore The Gifted Phoenix Manifesto for Gifted Education via #gtie at 21.00GMT on Sunday 24 March: http://t.co/FqKGNOvNM0

Here’s a selective, reordered Storify transcript of last night’s #gtie chat on the Gifted Phoenix Manifesto: http://t.co/UppAtGsjum

I’ve also included some tweets in the Gifted Phoenix Manifesto post, to give the flavour of #gtie discussion http://t.co/FqKGNOvNM0

Fascinating and troubling equally that positive reaction to my Gifted Manifesto is all from outside the UK! http://t.co/7a1Fhr99uK

Planning a 16-19 maths free school? Want to know more about the KCL or Exeter projects? Here’s some essential reading http://t.co/UQDNCNXwuX

GEI has now published the dialogue between Barry Hymer and yours truly (£) but original on my blog): http://t.co/dypWHntkp9

This first post in my new ‘Summer of Love’ series is mainly about Key Stage 2 Level 6 tests: http://t.co/EWOMHD0sql

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/336915540188725248

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My new post is a transatlantic exploration of support for high-ability low-income learners building on US NAGC’s work http://t.co/XREYgg8bmO

My new post on Indian Gifted Education: http://t.co/TWgmrtPQLu

I’ve finalised my brief post of yesterday about the future of Dux Awards, now renamed Future Scholar Awards http://t.co/krPc7Uweo4

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Twitter Chats

MT @gtchatmod: #gtchat transcript: Coping When Extended Family Doesn’t Get Giftedness http://t.co/92FJzIaS4O

MT @gtchatmod: Storify transcript of #gtchat: Book Lists for Gifted Learners http://t.co/AmZSlPbwrM

RT @gtchatmod: “Do gifted learners think differently?” will be our #gtchat topic Friday @11PM UK http://t.co/Iqo1hvXFDF

MT @gtchatmod: Storify record of last night’s #gtchat: Do gifted learners think differently? http://t.co/AMhVQbF3lB

MT @gtchatmod: Storify transcript of last night’s #gtchat: The Value of Twitter Chats http://t.co/YliKuZ4nUq

MT @gtchatmod: Storify transcript of last night’s #gtchat: Organising the Gifted Learner http://t.co/VwhdUgDjq9

Transcripts of yesterday’s #gtchats: http://t.co/Uv1fLChSI2 and http://t.co/Ibw8nF6VAS

Transcript of last week’s #gtchat on Teaching Strategies for Underachievers: http://t.co/9xukcShsn7

MT @gtchatmod: New post: “The Misdiagnosis Initiative: An Interview with Dr. James Webb” http://t.co/cyPHeWakeC

RT @gtchatmod: Transcript for “Asynchronous Transitioning to Adulthood” now available @ #gtchat blog. http://t.co/luHZLW1uTx

RT @gtchatmod: Transcript for Supporting Exhausted Parents of Gifted Children? now available @ #gtchat blog http://t.co/09wdOxNKpd

MT @gtchatmod: Transcript from 5pm 28 June #gtchat on ‘Rigour’ now available at http://t.co/yuu0JRScDp

RT @gtchatmod: “A Multi-Talent’s Growth with Dr. Edith Johnston” New post on #gtchat Blog! http://t.co/QVpHuENlxm

MT @Frazzlld: Transcript from tonight’s #gtie chat (March 3): http://t.co/Ot8gjKSJDL

MT @Frazzlld: Thanks, everyone, for a great #gtie chat. Here’s “The Trouble With Boys” transcript: http://t.co/QIMghMo2B3

Transcripts of recent #gtie chats on Gifted Support Groups: http://t.co/owAyU1gRV3  and http://t.co/Oa3r8h1uz4

RT @GTNIrl: Support for Teachers of Gifted Students (#gtie transcript) http://t.co/3H6KCk1GoO

MT @CatherinaFisher: For those who missed #gtie chat on Sunday: Social Media and Gifted Education Awareness http://t.co/2DoNvQq4Kk

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Other Posts

RT @ljconrad: New post @GPS, “Preaching to the Choir: They Need to Hear the Message, Too!” http://t.co/FQ96YvmRji

MT @ljconrad: “Best Practices in Gifted Parenting” is my new post @Gifted Parenting Support http://t.co/ikxXwjd6VR

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/305325059839508480

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Social Challenges of Gifted Adolescents: http://t.co/ef1N0sQtOO

Sorry but…Your Exceptional Child Might Not Be Gifted: http://t.co/1P6UP7qIkF

‘Studying to be Gifted’: http://t.co/1vf7yJcyxL

Gifted Kid Syndrome: http://t.co/RUOCqKbjt0 – I really like the directness of this; others won’t

How to create a science prodigy (from @JonathanLWai): http://t.co/HuOyAaf3qA

Gifted Children: Skipping Grades: http://t.co/1Gv5quZ9Va

Never trust a journalist who puts the word gifted in quotation marks: http://t.co/qOihMCcf43

The Lowest Common Denominator: http://t.co/t6YMu3kLqK

MT @ljconrad: The Socialization Question, Homeschooled and Gifted Children: http://t.co/bUzKjneASS

Giftedness should not be confused with mental disorder: http://t.co/tQSZ34XCqJ

Using the ‘G word’ with kids: http://t.co/bwx1Dh4eco

(More on) Gifted and Racially Balanced Education: http://t.co/IJTYtNxLcq

Giftedness and Non-Conformity: http://t.co/acTmwyby5Z – Reading that is just like looking in the mirror

Transcending Race in Gifted Programs: Are We There Yet? http://t.co/WvBKX9p6cw

Do Schools for the Gifted Promote Segregation? (I refuse to adopt the quotation marks): http://t.co/L84DUSOGHg

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/315392301260226560

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MT @karlaarcher: “Giftedness and Boredom, Part Two: Tackling the Issue Head On”  http://t.co/QfIy3BIfxD

MT @ljconrad: “An Educational Paradigm Shift for Low-Income Gifted Students” http://t.co/3XakgtI3uG

Your Child is Gifted: A Parent’s Reaction: http://t.co/O2u1KeMqDl

Do GATE Programmes Take Resources Away From Needier Students? http://t.co/NCORWJIoEc

“Live life to the fullest and rejoice in your moments of triumph because you are the best you there will ever be”: http://t.co/Cj2VWax1g9

Why is it challenging to be challenged in public schools? http://t.co/waaJKkl5qb

Gifted Doesn’t Equal Segregation: http://t.co/jpDUKhzeUd

The Misunderstood Face of Giftedness: http://t.co/c92FH39d6p

Harnessing the power of social media to advocate for gifted education: http://t.co/5ETcVaf97x

What Does ‘Gifted’ Look Like? http://t.co/HJEzyF121X

Australian opinion piece on gifted learners: http://t.co/28mAFmCb50 – has more than a whiff of suspect old-fogeydom

Choosing the right college for gifted students: http://t.co/tNwYKlypRq – much wisdom in this post

Why isn’t my child as clever as me? http://t.co/fzjeIe3jAT – nice counterbalance to parents worried about the reverse scenario

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/326944367350800384

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Gifted children need help too: http://t.co/x85YbzXqSe  – a piece from South Dakota

We mustn’t neglect gifted students: http://t.co/CAVe77l4dc  – a call to arms by P O-K and the Tennessee Association

The illusion of the gifted child: http://t.co/mUFbVOL9h8  – is actually about ways of improving gifted education

Gifted Children…how can we start? http://t.co/7ZsDhLWO0x  – A blogpost from Mexico

MT @BYOTNetwork: BYOT in the Gifted Classroom: A Perfect Fit! Guest post by @abkeyser http://t.co/vxk7T9waem

Does the gifted label help or harm? An ongoing conversation on Reddit: http://t.co/yHnzfM2heS

More gifted myth debunking: http://t.co/ToGoV4mzb9

Cretal reports back to Planet Zoran on Earth’s approach to education (courtesy of @sbkaufman): http://t.co/9MLFIAO9vm

Changing the label on gifted programmes: http://t.co/PzibyqZyCT – the pros and cons

The Grown-up Gifted Child: http://t.co/I2oLmUstEU

20 Reasons why it’s Awesome Growing Up Gifted: http://t.co/SN61yShixU

Problem-based learning and gifted students (from CTD): http://t.co/uBGxg98YMk

Paula O-K on flexible ability grouping: http://t.co/2MljhIIxlM

Making Room for Talent: http://t.co/tqbedBHg3q

Sharing the Gifted and Talented Curriculum: http://t.co/qHTqcIKbEb

The gifted child’s lament: How to adjust to an unjust world: http://t.co/LLqHHFUu7w

Is Talent a Defunct Concept? http://t.co/zC8axv2AvZ – Some would have you believe so but it’s more complex than that

Is divergent thinking valued in your gifted child’s classroom? http://t.co/smIwhKzZ7m

How parents can challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about giftedness: http://t.co/fs9DuiYE0W Have problems with para 3

Some teacher appreciation from Unwrapping the Gifted: http://t.co/1ZoAe1Es9d

RT @Begabungs: Day 1 – Gifted Awareness Week in Germany 3rd-9th June 2013 http://t.co/yPlDIxfYt9

Pros and cons of pull-out versus in-school enrichment: http://t.co/E1PgcPmGkT

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/343298853140828160

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The Matthew Effect in Educational Technology: http://t.co/NuZWT3OdJu (including an aside about identifying gifted learners)

RT @Begabungs: Interview with Prof. James Webb (USA) http://t.co/0R1SiLioLf

Social Development of Gifted Children: http://t.co/MAiv80JmFw – Highly recommended (because I agree with the analysis)

The Dichotomies of Giftedness: http://t.co/EzY5U47yyr

RT @ljconrad: New post at Gifted Parenting Support, “Are You Nurturing Your Gifted Child?” http://t.co/ZK1PYP2fww

The Parent Challenge (NZGAW contribution from @Dazzlld and @Frazzlld): http://t.co/eO8QlGPh4J

@donnayford Hi Donna. Do you now advocate selection/ID solely on the basis of attainment? This made sense to me: http://t.co/fr0lmTHnpn

What to say to your gifted child about being gifted: http://t.co/WlPmoybuM0

How best are the gifted lifted? Lots of common sense in this post: http://t.co/NBorF6LUDa

24/7 Challenge (for NZ Gifted Awareness Week): http://t.co/EIro3ThjYR

Debate on Ofsted’s Most Able Report has resonance in US and worldwide http://t.co/hXV1hIksb5  – kudos to @ljconrad (and Tom Bennett)

Advocacy Versus Curriculum: http://t.co/BUFvLK636I

‘G is for Gifted and that’s good enough for me’: http://t.co/eJ0nwH6xgJ

RT @ljconrad: New post at GPS: “The High Ability – Gifted Conundrum” http://t.co/1wlBx0BH9u

The contribution that chess can make to gifted education (from NZGAW): http://t.co/5uK6olCNlU

Stop underestimating children: http://t.co/AVx7CFz503

The gift of independent learning projects: http://t.co/QQ1cPMpoE4

Is Your Child Ungifted? by @sbkaufman – Required reading for all gifted advocates: http://t.co/LGryTncjPo

RT @peter_lydon: Are you a gifted advocate? Add your name http://t.co/dk57ygQFJ0 Find other tweeps http://t.co/Cc06yCYZjq

Choosing Your Battles (from NZGAW): http://t.co/0LFJaaMjG0 – Messages for the NZ Government and Ministry of Education

Differentiating Homework for Gifted Students (from NZGAW): http://t.co/mUDuBedsys

Giftedness in our classrooms – removing the ceiling- an Iowa perspective: http://t.co/qCFbXME2Ve

My Gifted Education Soapbox: http://t.co/SpFpDAvc7M

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/352315292627632128

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Hochbegabtenforderung an Schulen mittels Blended Learning: http://t.co/Q5kNpP8llU

RT @jtoufi: Es posible un sistema educativo orientado al desarrollo del talento? http://t.co/zyQWtlUHPR

RT @jtoufi: Promover el talento en Europa: White paper from Austria http://t.co/qOdbg5XJnT

RT @jtoufi: Francoys Gagne en My Friends’ corner http://t.co/eQEjzoOng7

Joseph Renzulli en My friends’ corner: http://t.co/PqIIXbW04k

RT @jtoufi: Karen Rogers en My Friends’ corner http://t.co/2HWZU3fGi5

RT @jtoufi: Rena Subotnik, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius y Frank Worrell en My Friends’ corner http://t.co/GaXvzd48qN

MT @jtoufi: Diane Montgomery en My Friends’ corner http://t.co/zoaQPp9a4Z (that’s the English DM by the way)

RT @jtoufi: Que pasa en el mundo con la atencion al desarrollo de los más capaces? http://t.co/GtZRlHqRUd

RT @jtoufi: Es tiempo reconstruir la educacion que queremos: Talento, Escuela, Tecnologia http://t.co/f8z44G5AJk

RT @jtoufi: Transforma Talento: un informe que hay que leer http://t.co/3wrnsRdXeo

RT @jtoufi: El Estado de la Nacion: o de como tomarse en serio el desarrollo del talento! http://t.co/RPJnK83Acp

RT @jtoufi: Diferenciacion del curriculo y la instruccion. La NAGC nos lo cuenta http://t.co/5J2erRhNtf

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IGGY – The International Gateway for Gifted Youth

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This post is an in-depth review of IGGY, a service for gifted learners hosted by the University of Warwick in England.

IGGY_Logo_Blue_DDAI met IGGY’s Academic Principal at the 2012 ECHA Conference in Munster, Germany and undertook to feature the new set-up in an upcoming post. This is the product of that commitment.

An earlier post, from July 2010, included some detail about IGGY’s activities in Africa, but it has radically changed is character since then.

This post traces the transformation of IGGY from, first and foremost, an international summer and winter school provider into an education social network. It attempts a balanced scrutiny of current provision, identifying weaknesses as well as strengths.

The IGGY logo is reproduced here with permission. I stipulated the blue version, for the pink is not at all to my taste. (I expect it goes down well with 13-19 year-olds but it’s far too vivid for me.)

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/276734194313474048

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IGGY’s Origins and Early Development

From 2002 until 2007, Warwick University held a contract with England’s education ministry to run the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, but chose not to compete for the subsequent contract to run Young, Gifted and Talented (YG&T), which was won by CfBT and ran until March 2010.

This new contract was to support all learners aged 4-19 identified as gifted and talented by their schools and colleges, whereas NAGTY targeted the top 5% of 11-19 year-olds (an estimated population of 200,000).

NAGTY itself evolved from summer school provider towards a blended learning model which relied increasingly on online provision, driven by the demands of scalablity within a limited resource envelope. YG&T also faced the same imperative, compounded by the fact that it served a target group five times the size of NAGTY’s.

Both experienced major challenges in combining effective brokerage of third party learning opportunities with a vibrant online learning community. The comparative advantages of a social network model were already becoming apparent towards the end of the NAGTY contract and in the initial stages of YG&T, but the idea seemed ahead of its time.

Decision makers found it hard to grasp the opportunities presented by this model, but understood only too well the not inconsiderable threats it posed. The balance was not attractive to inherently risk-averse organisations. Some major risks were exposed which IGGY will also have to manage and, if necessary, overcome.

Back in August 2007, Warwick hosted the biennial World Council Conference with financial support from the Government. This was, in effect, NAGTY’s swansong.

But the University chose this opportunity to announce the creation of IGGY, a new international organisation ‘targeted at the top 5% of 11-19 year-olds from around the world’.

The implication was that Warwick would capitalise on the expertise it had developed in the NAGTY years, with the University itself as the primary beneficiary.

The press release said that a pilot programme for up to 1,000 students would begin in spring 2008, followed by a full launch in the UK and an unspecified Asian country the following autumn. Subsequent rollout would extend the programme into two or three additional countries by autumn 2009.

It promised an inaugural summer school for 150 participants in summer 2009, and an intention to offer similar events in more than one country in subsequent years.

These signature events were to become part of a blended learning offer:

‘At the heart of the “IGGY” experience will be a developing personalized online learning network: a community-led site where leading national and international Higher Education institutions, educators, companies and others will deliver content, provide expertise and offer students learning activities and development opportunities (both online and through events) to enhance their learning and social development and to both contribute to and support their mainstream educational progress.’

Contemporary materials still preserved on Warwick’s website throw more light on the original plans and how they developed over time.

A presentation from June 2008 defines IGGY’s bipartite offer:

  • A ‘collaborative online learning space’ backed up by an archive of material created by and for its members;
  • Face-to-face activities provided through international partners with a ‘summer university’ as the centrepiece. The first of these – a two week event – is scheduled to take place in Warwick in August 2008 with four courses on offer for about 100 participants. There will also be a ‘winter university’ probably hosted abroad.

The presentation notes that ‘IGGY is a key project within the university strategy’ citing multiple benefits for Warwick’s international profile and branding, its student recruitment and wider reputation.

However ‘initial University investment will be limited’ while fees will be deferred initially and subsequently kept low. This means the rate of expansion will be heavily dependent on income generated from partners. It was this equation which initially drove IGGY in a philanthropic direction (though always with an eye towards international recruitment in developing markets).

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Progress from 2010

A second presentation from April 2010 says that membership has reached around 2,500, drawn from 40 different countries.

Four ‘IGGY universities’ have been held since 2008, two more are planned for August 2010 and there are initial plans for an event in either Australia or South Africa in 2011.

An imminent event located in Botswana is described as ‘the main focus’ in the short term. The parallel Warwick event is expected to cater for 125 students and will host a delegation from Brunei’s Ministry of Education.

A 2010 University Corporate Planning Statement states categorically that:

‘An IGGY U[niversity] will be run in partnership with Monash [University], Australia in 2011’

but I can find no record of it having taken place, probably because the IGGY vision was undergoing radical transformation by this point. (IGGY is not mentioned explicitly in a university partnership recently concluded between Warwick and Monash.)

Other initiatives have been pursued alongside these summer and winter schools, including a series of Junior Commissions – based on an existing Warwick Commission model. These support ten members to work collaboratively on a year-long research project. IGGY has also administered a Litro Short Story competition with prize money provided by a Warwick alumnus.

Although not mentioned in the presentation, a separate entity called IGGY Juniors had also evolved by this stage, targeted mainly at younger children.

The precise relationship between IGGY and IGGY Juniors remains unclear. The new IGGY website doesn’t mention IGGY Juniors, even as a partner, though there is a page on the University website.

This refers to the ‘Da Vinci Group’ as the supporting ‘online intellectual membership community’ for IGGY Juniors, with a membership fee of £35 per month.

But the self-same Da Vinci Group is advertised as a service provided through another body called OLP. Their website seems largely dormant, though some 2012 courses are advertised.

The University publicised some of these developments in a 2010 press notice selecting February 12 2010 as the date of its announcement:

‘The national (English) Young Gifted & Talented website currently says “The Young Gifted & Talented website will be closing at the end of Friday 12 February 2010”.  However on that very same day that gifted programme’s original home at the University of Warwick will announce a range of new opportunities for its global membership of gifted young people in its thriving International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY).

The University of Warwick was host to the original “National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth” for five years. Warwick moved beyond a focus on England alone and is now home to IGGY – a network of the world’s brightest and most creative young people aged 11-19.’

It is easy to suspect an element of schadenfreude in this statement, for the closure of the YG&T website marked the imminent end of its contract – and of Government-led investment in the education of gifted learners. This left the way open for IGGY to expand its domestic operation in an open market with negligible UK-based competition.

Whether IGGY could be described as ‘thriving’ at this point is a moot point. Membership of 2,500 after three years is arguably a relatively poor return on the University’s investment. There are obvious problems of scalability with the face-to-face events.

Within the presentation, the online dimension is described as dependent on an ‘interim website’ which is old-fashioned and not designed on social media principles. Online presence is recognised as key to scalability and described as a priority over the coming year, but there are clear (if undeclared) tensions with the philanthropic direction of travel, because of the limited reach of sophisticated broadband-reliant social multimedia in sub-Saharan Africa.

There have been software trials involving Cisco and a project officer has been appointed but development appears to have been slow, perhaps because the University was not able to reconcile these competing ‘high-tech’ and ‘philanthropic’ aims.

While social networking is perceived as key to the future vision, the cost is prohibitive, so Warwick is exploring prospective partnerships. There are plans for a ‘rolling programme of themed online provision’ but partnership funding will still be necessary to achieve ‘a sustainable funding position’.

The points made in 2008 about limited scope for income generation from fees and a low ceiling on University subsidy are repeated verbatim. The accompanying notes read:

‘real progress made but still haven’t had that one big donation that would allow a step-change’.

This is perhaps understandable, because the benefit stream to prospective sponsors is not entirely clear. Moreover, they are being asked to subsidise an endeavour that places Warwick in a privileged position in the race to recruit potentially lucrative international students. One can imagine that several potential sponsors might prefer a model that distributes the benefits more widely.

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IGGY Changes its Delivery Model

The Director of IGGY at this time was Warwick’s Deputy Registrar and former NAGTY Operations Director. The re-invigoration of IGGY can be linked to his return to Warwick as Registrar in February 2012.

Though IGGY’s new direction was already established by summer 2011, its former Director retained a role in its development while employed elsewhere.

An article on Warwick’s intranet from June 2011 confirms that IGGY has been working towards a predominantly online delivery model through partnership with IBM and CISCO.

Pre-testing began with existing members in May 2011 focused on computer programming, creative writing and global leadership. This was intended to pave the way for a more ambitious summer pilot, with the aim of launching the full service in September 2011.

A University strategic presentation dating from September 2011reveals (in the associated speaking notes) that Warwick is sticking with its existing IT partners. Cisco has sponsored IGGY’s graphic designer while IBM has provided ‘Lotus Live software plus expertise’.

Promotion activities are scheduled to begin in autumn 2011, and declared targets at this stage are for IGGY to recruit:

  • 6,000 members by 2012, so more than doubling its membership in 2010;
  • 50,000 members by 2014, implying rapid eight-fold expansion over the two succeeding years; and
  • 40% of members from ‘low income homes internationally’ (this presumably applies domestically as well).

There may be the possibility of cross-subsidising members from poor backgrounds by charging the relatively wealthy a premium fee.

IGGY will also be a ‘key component’ in Warwick’s campaign to raise £50m (though it is noteworthy that it isn’t mentioned as such on the campaign pages).

But, by November 2011, there has been a significant change of tone. Warwick announces the appointment of a new Director who is to begin work the following month.

The aims are highly ambitious. The new Director:

‘served for almost 5 years as Channel 4’s Head of Education where she led a major strategic shift in Channel 4 Education from TV programmes to digital projects, successfully targeting teen audiences with innovative digital content. That experience will greatly assist her to realise IGGY’s next stage: a new online network offering significant, high quality content to over 100,000 gifted young people across the globe.’

No timetable is applied to the fulfilment of this latter ambition, which doubles the declared 2015 target.

Progress during the first half of 2012 was mostly low-key.

By April, IGGY membership had increased by 500 or so to ‘over 3,000’ but curiously the number of countries supplying members has reduced from 40 to ‘over 30’. Maybe some of the summer and winter school beneficiaries were less attracted by predominantly online provision.

It is interesting to speculate whether an increase of 500 members in two years – even though it could be seen in a positive light as 20% growth – was viewed by Warwick as relatively underwhelming, especially since the distribution between countries has fallen by up to 25%.

It leaves Warwick needing to recruit 3,000 more members in eight months to satisfy its target of 6,000 members by the end of 2012.

A June 2012 feature on Merlin John’s Blog provides some interesting insights into how thinking is developing:

‘Students take up subscriptions with IGGY through the website, authorised by their teachers who are an important key to the service. IGGY will be a subscription service but will offer up to half of the memberships free to disadvantaged students. The subscription price is still to be confirmed but will be in the region of £120 a year with substantial discounts for schools,’

We will look at the final arrangements in more detail below.

The new Director undertook a series of meetings with UK gifted education interests, to update them on plans and lay the groundwork for mutually beneficial partnerships. I met her myself in April 2012 when plans were mentioned to run a ‘Global and Gifted Conference’. This duly took place on 4 July at Warwick, but no invitation arrived.

The Storify record says there were over 100 people present.  Though billed as having ‘a focus on new international research and developments in gifted education’ there were just three presenters: Joan Freeman, Jonathan Hare (a freelance research scientist) and, IGGY’s newly-appointed Academic Principal.

The presentations were initially published but are no longer available online. There was relatively limited coverage of the topic specified. The fundamental purpose of the event is rather unclear, but it will not have positioned IGGY at the heart of contemporary debate about global gifted and talented education.

Two other announcements of note were made during the summer of 2012:

  • In June 2012 IGGY offered free membership to all 1,470 Year 9 students nominated for the education ministry’s Dux Award Scheme. The Ministry makes no reference to this in its own materials, so it is not officially endorsed. It would have been impossible to pass on student details to Warwick because of data protection restrictions, but maybe the list of participating schools was shared. We do not know how many Dux participants have taken up the offer, or to what extent this has contributed towards the achievement of IGGY’s membership targets.
  • In August 2012 IGGY and Warwick’s Institute of Education jointly offered support for two part-time PhD research scholarships in gifted education, with funding to cover full fees (£2,340 in the current year) plus £500 per student for expenses. Doctoral supervision is to be shared between IGGY’s Academic Principal and a WIE lecturer. Those eligible are required to:

‘keep abreast of the latest research developments in gifted education; produce a 2,500 word report each quarter detailing their findings; contribute to IGGY’s annual conference; publish papers in academic journals and present at relevant conferences’.

This sounds like a cunning plan to strengthen IGGY’s gifted education expertise, so giving it the wherewithal to contribute to developing thinking in the field. It may also help to provide some evaluative capacity (the Academic Director’s job description requires him to develop systems to assess the impact of IGGY’s activities). It is similar in many respects to arrangements made during the NAGTY era, when an in-house research capability was evolved. While it may enable IGGY to develop a ‘thought leadership’ capability, there is a risk that these students may be perceived to have too close and reliant a relationship with IGGY to be entirely objective, especially if they are to be utilised as evaluators.

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The IGGY Relaunch

The new-style IGGY opened for business in September 2012 as planned.

Warwick’s internal news service reports that initial priority is being given to English, maths, science and history. Ten postgraduate mentors have been recruited and partnerships established with Severn Trent Water and the National Grid to ‘involve students in real-life projects and issues’.

We are not told whether these two organisations have provided financial support or if the relationship is confined to ‘in kind’ support.

Not only will IGGY offer free membership to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it will also extend this to all eligible students at Warwickshire and Coventry schools (a sure-fire way of increasing numbers, though not entirely equitable). An earlier offer of free places for all until early 2013 seems to have fallen by the wayside.

There is provision for pilot schools, another mechanism allowing IGGY to recruit members en masse. The first is located in Leamington Spa, on Warwick’s doorstep. It is evident that the University is pulling out all the stops: expensive banner advertisements for IGGY appear in at least one national newspaper for several weeks.

The September 2012 announcement confirms that the likes of Cisco and IBM have been set aside in favour of ‘local games company Fishinabottle’. It is not clear whether this work was procured competitively.

Strangely, the Company fails to list IGGY amongst its clients, though it has released a press notice announcing the launch of the new website:

‘IGGY.net features full social profile building functionality, forums for discussion and debate and a “Knowledge” section, in which members can tackle challenges and take part in activities either collaboratively or as individuals. The site offers deeply rooted ‘gamification’ in its social aspects; members gain experience, earn awards and prizes and are attributed statuses as they progress in the world of IGGY. This ‘gamification’ drives engagement and encourages exploration, two of the most important factors in creating digital materials for the educational space.

The biggest challenge in creating IGGY was ensuring a safe and secure environment for our members. To that end, we developed an enrolment process whereby members are confirmed by both their parents and their school in order to gain access to the community. This provides accountability as well as strengthening the authenticity of IGGY’s membership.’

 A second phase of website development was launched in October 2012:

‘Members can now create their own profiles including a public or private blog, comment on articles and debates, build an activity page, earn points and achievements for the things they accomplish on the site, make friends and collaborate with other gifted students around the world.’

A further release is scheduled for late December 2012.

During October the IGGY Office moved to Senate House at the centre of Warwick’s campus. One might read into that an intention to make it more central to the University’s wider business, or possibly a determination on the part of Warwick’s senior management to keep a closer watch on proceedings – perhaps both simultaneously.

The University hosted a launch event at this time, captured by this podcast. Clearly a profile-raising opportunity, there was negligible press coverage. No invitation reached Gifted Phoenix Towers.

At this point, the appointed Director is still in place, at the head of a staff of twelve. But some three weeks later she has been replaced.

Warwick announced that:

‘IGGY, the University’s online network for gifted students, is expanding and has appointed Adrian Hall as its Managing Director. Janey Walker becomes Director of Partnerships and will focus on building new relationships with funders and content partners… Adrian has been working with IGGY as Content and e-Learning Advisor since May 2012’

It is difficult to know what to make of this, though it cannot be a vote of confidence, nor can it mark complete satisfaction with the progress made during the preceding year.

The logo received a makeover at around this time and the change at the top also coincides with a big increase in complement: the staff now numbers 18, a 50% increase within a month.

Warwick stocks most of the job details on its website, so it is possible to estimate the approximate expenditure on salaries. Unfortunately, the posts advertised do not correspond exactly with the current organisational structure.

However, it seems likely that total salary expenditure is somewhere between £600,000 and £700,000 a year, implying annual expenditure on salary and on-costs of around £1m. That is a big investment for a single university, especially if sponsorship remains thin on the ground.

In early November it was reported that IGGY would organise a third Junior Commission in 2013. The supportive quote is supplied for the first time by Hall rather than Walker.

IGGY merits a brief reference in Warwick’s Access Agreement for 2012/13, setting out how it plans to support fair access to the University for those from disadvantaged backgrounds:

‘The International Gateway for Gifted and Talented Youth (IGGY) will offer free membership and access to its resources for eligible students from low participation neighbourhoods helping to raise their aspirations through on-line resources and networking events.’

The 2013/4 Agreement repeats this verbatim, but also mentions a relationship with Warwick’s Goal Programme, the university’s principal fair access initiative:

‘The programme recruits a new cohort of 100-200 disadvantaged students each year, giving them access over four years to a programme of bespoke activities and free access to the wider YG&T provision… All members of Goal automatically become part of IGGY’.

So more grist to the recruitment mill.

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P1020159

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Recruitment Targets

Membership targets have been adjusted but also front-loaded:

‘IGGY aims to reach 15,000 gifted students in its first year and 50,000 after 3 years. Applicants will have to be endorsed as gifted by their schools. As well as UK students, IGGY is already recruiting new members as far afield as South Africa, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.’

One must assume that the ‘first year’ is now academic year 2012/13. If IGGY is to achieve 15,000 members by August 2013, that will require a five-fold increase in 16 months.

The use of the word ‘reach’ may hide a multitude of sins. Whether it is a looser construct than membership remains unclear, but making it so would arguably be statistical sleight of hand.

The 50,000 figure for 2015 has been scaled back by 100% compared with a figure of 100,000 mentioned in the Academic Principal’s job description dating from early 2012. So the autumn 2011 target has been doubled and then halved again, indicating some tempering of the University’s ambitions by realism.

Another job description indicates that half of the 50,000 target for 2015 – ie 25,000 – must be international members. Obviously then, 25,000 must be drawn from the home countries.

There is no further reference to the original 40% target for learners – national and international – to come from low income households (‘up to half’ in the John blog post), although I have taken the latter figure into account as a continuing assumption when considering the implications for income generation below.

The volatility of these targets suggests they have been plucked from the air rather than based on any projection or realistic assessment of what is achievable.

The overall size of the global pool in which IGGY is fishing is almost impossible to calculate, but it is much easier to analyse the domestic market.

If we leave aside post-compulsory education (including around one million 16-19 year-olds) the total number of 13-19 year-olds in UK schools – maintained and independent – is around 3.55m.

Assuming 5% are eligible for IGGY membership that gives a potential pool of 177,500 school-based students. (There is no reference to further education on the website so I am assuming this is not currently a target.)

If we assume that 50% of IGGY members are to be drawn from the UK, this means that:

  • By September 2013, the target is to enrol 4.22% of all eligible students, or roughly one in every 24;
  • By September 2015, the target is to enrol 14.08% of students, or roughly one in every seven.

But, as we shall see below, the 5% assumption is not really reflected in the eligibility criteria.

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Eligibility Criteria

IGGY was originally intended for 11-19 year-olds, as was NAGTY before it, but the lower age limit has now been raised to 13. Why this step was taken is not explained, though it probably rests on the assumption that a social networking environment is relatively less suitable for 11-13 year-olds, while the associated risks are that much greater.

Prospective members need to demonstrate:

‘The potential to perform in the top 5% of their peers worldwide in at least one curriculum area’

But this is inherently unmeasurable, so a degree of subjectivity is inevitable.

Emphasis is seemingly placed on:

  • Ability rather than achievement and
  • Ability in one or more school curriculum subjects, as opposed to all-round ability, or talent in practical fields such as art, music, sport or leadership.

Within the UK, however, this translates into one more specific criterion:

‘The potential to achieve level 8 grades in SATs at the end of Key Stage 3 (year 9) and A*/A grades at GCSE and A level.’

These are of course attainment measures. Presumably students who have already achieved at least one Level 8 or one GCSE A grade automatically become eligible.

Only students not yet at the end of Year 9 and those with a string of Bs at GCSE must necessarily rely on showing potential, as opposed to achievement. There is scope to accommodate students who have underachieved in KS3 and/or KS4 assessments, provided they can supply evidence that they are expected to do better in future.

It is instructive to compare these measures with the 5% threshold.

  • In 2012, just 1% of pupils achieved level 8 in KS3 teacher assessment in English and science, but 8% did so in mathematics. As far as I am aware, national teacher assessment data is no longer collected for non-core subjects, but it will continue to be available in schools and so would qualify under these eligibility criteria;
  • In 2012, the percentage of entrants achieving a full course GCSE grade A/A* across the UK varies from 4.7% (Other Technology) to 61.4% (Classical Subjects). The average percentage across all subjects is 22.4%.

This suggests that the IGGY entry threshold is pitched extremely low, especially at KS4, and when one reflects that it requires only (typically higher) predicted rather than actual grades.

Of course that significantly improves the probability of recruiting members but, conversely, it threatens to dilute the academic experience of many joining in expectation of a challenging experience amongst their intellectual peers.

The reference to SATs, GCSEs and A levels is also rather Anglo-centric, suggesting that the other home countries are not a priority (or at least some neglect of their sensibilities).

For those outside the UK eligibility depends on ‘the potential to achieve top grades for their particular mode of assessment’, which is largely a subjective measure.

Four other less specific evidential measures are mentioned (the criteria aren’t specific on the point but presumably only one criterion needs to be satisfied by each applicant):

  • ‘in the top one or two students in the average class of 30 students in an averagely-performing school’;
  • ‘regularly outperforming their peers in assessments’;
  • ‘on the schools [sic] ‘gifted and talented register’;
  • ‘have been accelerated in school (eg moved up a year or started higher qualifications earlier than their peers)’.

Some of these are rather vague and variable. Some schools even manage to include all their pupils on a gifted and talented register, and not only selective schools either! The final criterion leaves open the possibility that some under 13s will after all be admitted.

Eligible students must have applications endorsed by their school and approved by their parents (or presumably their carers, though IGGY uses ‘parents’ as its standard terminology).

No evidence of ability is required:

‘We do not ask for written evidence that a student is gifted but we do require an email…to confirm they are gifted and would benefit from membership’.

Schools are encouraged to sign up groups of students and are incentivised to do so by receiving discounts on fees.

The registration process is kept as light-touch as possible:

‘If you want to register your students for IGGY membership contact us at info@IGGY.net. We will contact you to discuss how many students you want to enrol and whether any are eligible for free membership, and agree the overall cost. Your school will then be given the appropriate number of codes and you will allocate these to the individual students.

Your students have to register themselves online. An email will be sent to their parents asking them to confirm the student’s details and explaining they are joining IGGY. Once the parents have confirmed these details the student’s account will be activated.’

As far as I can establish, this is a once-only process so students, once admitted, remain members until they exceed the upper age limit. Those who move from one school to another, or who transfer at age 14 or 16, do not seem to require additional endorsement from their new institutions.

It follows that many institutions will not know, unless they check, that some of their students are IGGY members (unless IGGY approaches them for payment of the annual fee, having been refused by the student’s former school).

While this is no doubt attractive to schools – apart from the last detail above – it rather leaves open to question whether IGGY genuinely caters for the top 5%.

Pragmatically of course, IGGY has everything to gain from a liberal set of eligibility criteria, especially while it is striving to build up numbers. There is an associated risk though that membership becomes less attractive simply because it is less exclusive.

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Pricing

Since 15 October 2012, IGGY has been charging members an annual subscription which it says is highly subsidised by the University. The current subscription is £120 per year for members resident within the UK and £200 per year for those resident elsewhere. These rates are not necessarily fixed.

This differential is justified on the grounds that:

‘It is more expensive for us to deliver student mentoring, arrange and deliver face to face events and generate content partnerships with organisations outside our UK base, and we do need to ensure that these additional costs are covered.’

This seems a little unfair since most overseas members are likely to access the online environment rather than face-to-face experiences. It is unlikely that such events will be offered free at the point of delivery: if there are additional costs, those would be recouped in the additional charges levied.

The FAQ written by the Academic Principal contain a section: ‘Why is IGGY only offered online’ which tends to contradict the rationale given above.

In effect the price differential means that overseas members are cross-subsidising those resident in the UK. Such an arrangement could be open to challenge.

What IGGY calls ‘sponsored memberships’ are available for UK disadvantaged students if they are:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Children in care
  • Live ‘in an area that has low participation in higher education’.

The latter provision can be applied wholesale where school-level applications are made. Other extenuating circumstances may be considered for individual applicants.

It is curious that this entitlement is not extended to all otherwise eligible learners aged under 16 in England who qualify for the Pupil Premium since that would be much simpler administratively for schools.

The inclusion of an area-based low HE participation criterion – both at individual and school level – will extend eligibility to relatively advantaged students who live in relatively disadvantaged areas, so generating significant deadweight.

Presumably the POLAR classification is applied, though it is open to question whether schools are always aware of their POLAR classification.

For members outside the UK, the definition of disadvantage is:

‘Based on whether students already receive educational financial support or if they are living in an area that has low participation in higher education.’

Quite what that means in practice is unclear, though overseas applicants faced with the higher basic fee are quite likely to find some evidence to back up a claim of disadvantage.

Schools that take advantage of the opportunity to register groups of students with IGGY can qualify for additional discounts.

A three month trial for up to 10 students attracts a one-off fee of £450. Otherwise discounts are on a sliding scale, depending on the number of students admitted.

It costs:

  • £1,200 to register up to ten students, then £100 per additional student;
  • £2,500 to register up to 25 students, then £80 per additional student;
  • £4,000 to register up to 50 students, then £60 per additional student;
  • £6,000 to register up to 100 students, then £40 per additional student.

So there is clearly an incentive to schools to maximise enrolments rather than limiting recruitment to students who genuinely fall within the top 5% by ability.

This provision also favours selective schools and those in the most advantaged areas with a heavy concentration of high attaining students.

The online guidance makes clear that some schools pass on membership fees to parents, whereas others pay subscriptions themselves or share the cost. Since schools qualify for discounts even when parents pay, there is scope here for institutions to play the system, passing on full fees to parents while only paying the discounted fees to IGGY.

If we ignore the impact of discounts, assume that 50% of places are free and 50% of the remaining 25,000 are recruited from abroad, the maximum annual fee income from 50,000 members is:

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(12,500 x £120)  + (12,500 x £200) = £4.0m or £80 per student.

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The maximum fee from 15,000 students is:

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(3,750 x £120)  + (3,750 x £200) = £1.2m or £80 per student.

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Given the salary and on-costs outlined above above, plus other development and running costs, it is likely that IGGY will not break even for some time.

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P1020218

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The Relationship with Schools and Partners

Schools are advised that they will receive ‘a content plan’ and ‘usage statistics’ though it is not quite clear whether these are generic or specific to each learner.

There is also an option to register as ‘IGGY Pilot Schools’. The financial basis of this arrangement is unspecified, as are the specific benefits for the schools concerned. Ten English pilot locations are currently named on the website, the majority located close to Warwick.

Trinity Lismore Catholic College in New South Wales, Australia is also mentioned, as are ‘Al-Hussan National Schools’ – three English-medium day schools in Saudi Arabia. Neither website seems to mention their relationship with IGGY. The Australian school does however feature its gifted and talented provision.

There is a revealing section of the IGGY website headed ‘How much work will this mean for teachers?’

The answer supplied is:

‘Apart from the initial conversations with IGGY to decide how many students to enrol, you won’t have to do much at all.’

But this is surely disingenuous, since the onus clearly rests on schools to ensure complementarity between members’ in-school experience and what IGGY provides.

The comparative inattention given to this crucial connect was a significant weakness of the NAGTY approach and there is a risk of repetition. IGGY would be much better served by an explanation that this is both necessary and critical. Services should be available to schools to make it easier for them – above and beyond usage statistics and a generic content plan showing what provision is available.

At the very least, there should be a portfolio service enabling students and their schools to build and access records of engagement with IGGY. This may be under development, however.

From January 2013, members will be able to undertake:

‘The University of Warwick approved IGGY Award accreditation at Bronze, Silver and Gold Level.’

It may be that this will include a portfolio service, since accreditation will require details of students’ online engagement with IGGY to be stored and verified.

No further details are available, including whether additional fees will be charged for the privilege. The idea is a good one in principle but the devil is in the detail. Quite what value the accreditation will have remains open to question. Warwick would no doubt like to see it feature on future university applications, but whether it will gain any significant currency remains to be seen.

IGGY claims ‘the support of top academics and businesses’ but there are only two declared business ‘content partners’ to date and the vast majority of the content  emanates from Warwick. The internal arrangements – and funding – necessary to support this activity are not made public. It would be interesting to know whether the costs are passed on to IGGY or expected to be swallowed by the faculties that generate them.

The two ‘content partners’ – Severn Trent Water and the National Grid – are not particularly forthcoming about the benefits they foresee, though presumably they might expect some business advantage from IGGY’s ‘junior think tank’ capability.

Four ‘gifted and talented partners’ have recently been added to the website – CTY Ireland, NACE, NAGC and Villiers Park – but only in the first and last  cases do we get any real insight into the nature of the partnership.

CTYI will share ‘good practice and research’ while Villiers Park will provide content in return for sponsored membership for those undertaking its Scholars’ Programme. (The site does carry a second Q and A supplied by NAGC comprising ‘the top ten questions they are asked by parents’. This might imply the future development of parental services in conjunction with NAGC and parallel professional services in collaboration with NACE.)

IGGY says ‘it is always looking for new partners’ but it seems to have a relatively narrow conceptualisation of what it is seeking. The benefits of partnership, other than reputational value, are far from clear, especially for those working outside the educational sector.

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What Kind of Service Does IGGY Provide?

The website provides access to a range of open-access material which prospective members, their parents and schools can use to judge the nature and quality of what lies behind the subscription paywall. Another section carries an index of materials that members can access.

As we have seen from the Fishinabottle press release, IGGY has nailed its colours firmly to the ‘gamification’ mast. That will help to give it a more contemporary feel for users, but may also attract criticism from those who believe this approach has its own significant shortcomings.

I offer no assessment of the quality and educational relevance of the materials, or the ‘gamified’ structure – that is for others to judge – but much can be gleaned from other parts of its website about the nature of the service IGGY seeks to provide.

IGGY markets itself as providing the extra ‘challenge’ and ‘stimulation’ that learners might not receive through their mainstream education. It provides a supportive global network and community that boosts learning and self-esteem.

It promises to provide a weekly diet of new interactive content, challenges, debates and competitions. There will be a mixture of short puzzles and longer-term research projects. Students can opt to work alone or collaboratively. According to the Beta Website, the initial subject offer has been extended to include creative writing, maths, science, history and politics. There is as yet no timetable for extension beyond those fields.

I cannot find any substantive treatment of the different ways in which schools might utilise the service – whether exclusively for independent learning outside school hours, or integrated into lesson time, or within extended day activities. That is a missed opportunity from the marketing perspective.

An upcoming highlights page is published frequently – it is not clear whether this is the same content plan promised to teachers, or if they get a more developed service.

Other parts of the service include:

‘A support network that includes University of Warwick academics and student mentors…Events, conferences and gatherings for members across the world…Support and advice for gifted students and university applicants.’

But the detail of what exactly is and will be provided under these heads is still rather sketchy, so members cannot see exactly what they will get for their money.

A series of ‘FAQs for Students Parents and Teachers’ authored by the Academic Principal admit that IGGY is ‘primarily an online initiative’:

‘The financial argument is simple. Face-to-face events are relatively expensive compared with online communities of the same scale, yet they only benefit a fraction of the number of people. In order to keep our membership fees as low as possible, to create the best content with the best academics, to allow students to connect with other international students and to make IGGY a sustainable community, we have decided to use an online model. However we do plan to offer some face to face events and will be asking the IGGY community what developments and events they want to see over the next year.’

The FAQs also describe the’ intended learning outcomes’:

‘IGGY aims to encourage independent learning and critical thinking as well as getting students to work collaboratively…encourages students to have an international perspective and understand the impact of globalization… stimulates students to utilize social media and tools to advance their education… each IGGY member can tailor their involvement to match their own areas of interest and personalise their learning experience.’

Moreover:

‘The aim is to develop appropriate 21st century skills for IGGY members, including critical and creative thinking, communication, research and independent learning skills…IGGY’s learning principles are broadly aligned with Vygotsky’s social constructivist approach, which is based on learning through discovery and social interaction’.

Later on the Q and A describes IGGY’s service as fundamentally enrichment-based rather than accelerative, though with some degree of ‘content-based acceleration’. Both these dimensions need to be planned into schools’ understanding of their learners’ experience, to ensure the right fit between their IGGY and school experiences.

Members are expected to take primary responsibility for their own learning. They score points for their involvement in activities and can record what they’ve undertaken via their profile page. (Whether this yet amounts to formal tracking of progress and achievements as claimed is open to question.)

Student mentors also provide feedback but it is not yet clear whether they will play any role in supporting accreditation for the upcoming Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.

In answer to a question about the quality assurance measures that apply in lieu of a test for IGGY membership, the Principal argues that ‘the research literature is currently showing a paradigm shift towards giftedness as a developmental concept’ hence the admissions criteria are deliberately flexible.

This is fair up to a point, but no actual quality assurance measures are cited. One presumes that the only real measure is the freedom for learners to leave IGGY (or, more accurately, become inactive) if they feel that it is not for them.

Some degree of selectivity is implied by a reference to the possibility that applications can be rejected, in which case candidates can re-apply after a period of twelve months. In reality, it seems unlikely that few if any applications will be rejected given the generosity of the eligibility criteria.

Some of the terms and conditions for IGGY members appear rather draconian:

  • IGGY can’t be held accountable if the site is unavailable, regardless of the duration of the gap in service;
  • If usernames or passwords are made public, they can be disabled;
  • Users can print off only single copies of material on the site for personal use, though reproducing content for ‘non-commercial educational use’ also seems to be permitted. (The terms don’t say explicitly whether this allows a school to use the material with other pupils who are not members but, if so, such materials must not be altered in any way.)
  • Anything posted on the site can be used by Warwick for any purpose ‘in any media across the world’ as long as that is consistent with the declared privacy policy. They can change and adapt that material as they see fit. These rights aren’t exclusive, however, so others can be granted similar entitlement. (This presumably applies to any content provided by third parties.)
  • The terms of use can be changed at any time

IGGY even seeks to control links to and from third party sites. Authors must:

‘Make sure you do it [ie link] in a way that is fair (and legal!) and doesn’t damage or take advantage of our reputation’.

They ‘can withdraw permission to link to IGGY whenever we like’, though that begs the question whether permission is required in the first place.

One sincerely hopes that an honest, balanced and constructive review which highlights shortcomings as well as good points doesn’t amount to reputational damage…and that the hyperlinks in this post are unexceptionable.

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Overall Assessment and Prospects for Success

Some of the commentary above may appear to have accentuated the negative, but I have been stress-testing deliberately some of the more vulnerable aspects of IGGY’s delivery model.

It is early days, at least for the relaunch, and several issues should be ironed out as they emerge through careful monitoring.

The overall concept is sound and I strongly support the broad social networking model which IGGY has adopted:

‘Because social media can address so many of the problems faced by gifted learners, while also capitalising on their familiarity with the online environment, it is tempting to regard the relationship between gifted education (in this narrow sense) and social media as ‘a marriage made in heaven’.

But it is too early to speculate whether or not IGGY will be successful. The final judgment will need to take account of several factors, including:

  • Whether the social network is attractive and addictive enough to pull gifted learners away from Facebook and Playstation for worthwhile periods. Is it a viable alternative, or is it doomed to be a poor second-best, scorned by the majority because of its worthiness and endorsement by parents and teachers?
  • Assuming that IGGY is attractive enough to secure and maintain a substantial audience of 13-19 year-olds, what level of engagement it will engender in its users. Some members may treat IGGY like any other social network, dipping in and out as the mood takes them and valuing the experience primarily for the social interaction. Others may be more engaged with the learning activities, possibly even undertaking them on a systematic basis, so achieving the planned accredited awards. Like its precursors, IGGY’s success must be judged on the number of genuinely and consistently active members (rather than the number of members per se).
  • Whether a methodology is established to secure genuine and system-wide integration with learning in schools. Bolt-on enrichment has very limited value in itself – the added value is only derived when the enrichment activities become a fully integral part of the learners’ educational experience. But that requires significant input on the part of schools, with obvious implications for teacher time. IGGY will need to adjust its position on this and evolve effective tools to support school staff with this process.
  • Whether the educational benefits are confirmed through robust evaluation. This must be able to isolate convincingly the impact of IGGY from all other factors and quantify the benefits, not least the impact on individual and collective educational achievement and on fair access to competitive higher education.  Good evaluation is expensive and one dimension must necessarily be longitudinal. (Like all gifted and talented education interventions, there is a potential contribution to excellence and another to equity. Both are important and must be kept in balance.)
  • Whether IGGY can balance income and expenditure and so achieve longer term financial sustainability. Upfront and running costs are significant and IGGY is unlikely to reach financial equilibrium for some time. It would be interesting to see an evaluation of the monetary benefits likely to accrue to Warwick from this investment, and the probability of those being realised. Ultimately income has to depend on membership rather than sponsorship. There are several more established competitors worldwide, especially those located in the United States. It will be hard for IGGY to attract business away from them, so the alternative is to become established in new markets. The international business brings obvious benefits for Warwick and for learners, but there is a risk that it could deflect the organisation from an initial priority to secure its domestic audience.

There are several other conspicuous risks, not least the following four:

  •  IGGY is ‘high maintenance’ in that it relies on the availability of a never-ending flow of high-quality content, much of which has a cost attached. Should that stream ever falter – even when IGGY has built up a sizeable repository of old material – the value to members will decline significantly.
  • Online security is similarly ‘high maintenance’, carrying with it a huge reputational risk if there is ever a serious breach. IGGY has evolved a relatively light touch procedure which – while it does not inhibit recruitment – could potentially be compromised.
  • The domestic and global markets might evolve in a way that is unhelpful to IGGY. It is vulnerable to bigger generic players choosing to extend their services to gifted learners. Competition here in the UK is currently negligible. While it is open to question whether a continuing IGGY monopoly would be in the best interests of UK gifted learners, the evolving market for HE-driven MOOCs may pull demand away from IGGY if they are deliberately marketed towards younger students. (It is noteworthy that Warwick is a partner in Futurelearn, the new endeavour led by the Open University. The evolving relationship between IGGY and Futurelearn will be interesting to chart.)
  • IGGY is leaving no stone unturned to secure a critical mass of members in line with its targets, but this may compromise the value of the service to learners who are genuinely within the top 5% by ability. There are conspicuous advantages to open access on one hand and strict eligibility criteria on the other – and there may be some cause to suggest that IGGY has fallen between these two stools.

The acid test will be whether IGGY can successfully reconcile its twin imperatives – to improve significantly and measurably the education of a critical mass of gifted learners and, simultaneously, to generate the flow of benefits that will give Warwick University a competitive advantage over its peers.

The UK gifted education community is fragmented, competitive and highly suspicious. There is precious little effective collaboration. IGGY might usefully position itself to change that but, to be successful, it must be fully open and transparent in its proceedings and prepared to learn from the mistakes of the past, not least by opening itself up to constructive criticism emanating within and outside the gifted education community.

I said it was too early to speculate on IGGY’s chances of success but, if pressed (and setting aside my innate pessimism), I would put them close to 50/50 as things stand. We should have a much clearer picture in twelve months’ time.

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GP

December 2012

Review of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) Conference 2012

 

This post contains my reflections on the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) Conference 2012 which took place from September 12-15 in Munster, Germany.

From 2004-2008, I attended three ECHA Conferences in succession – Pamplona (2004), Lahti (2006) and Prague (2008) – but missed the next event in Paris (2010). I hadn’t intended to be in Munster either, until Javier Touron suggested I might chair a Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education.

There is a commentary on that session below, but I begin with a review of the wider Conference. I have also included some observations drawn from my experience of live tweeting the event.

All these comments are set in the wider context of what I said about gifted education conferences in the post I wrote for the Symposium.

My argument is that face-to-face academic conferences of this kind are fundamentally inefficient, whether as a vehicle for professional development or the wider dissemination of research.

Careful use of social media offers one way to improve efficiency by ensuring that:

  • more people derive more benefits and
  • there is a better, closer fit between the flow of benefits to each individual and their particular needs.

My earlier post added, with some acerbity:

‘Conference keynotes are invariably dominated by the pantheon. They tour the circuit dispensing the ideas on which they built their reputations, while more junior researchers and other stakeholders compete for tiny audiences much further down the bill. Conference audiences are complicit in this since they are drawn to attend conferences by the big names, apparently regardless of whether they have something new to say. Consequently, old ideas are slow to be challenged and replaced, different models are regarded as mutually exclusive and the gifted education community makes no real effort to achieve broad consensus.’

I was interested to discover whether the Munster Conference would change that perception.

I conclude this post by offering some  suggestions for improvement and reform ahead of the next ECHA Conference in Slovenia in 2014.

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The Conference Location

There was upside and downside to Munster as a location.

On the downside, it wasn’t the easiest location to reach. The conference website  referred potential delegates to ‘the International Airport Münster-Osnabrück’, but the airport’s website reveals that travellers from London must first fly to Munich! (Ironically, a direct connection to London City Airport is being introduced next month.) The easiest and fastest way I could find to get to Munster was to fly to Dusseldorf and take a two hour train journey.

On the upside, Munster is an attractive, small and relatively compact city with some 270,000 inhabitants. It is pleasant to walk around the city centre, provided one successfully avoids the superabundance of bicycles – there are said to be almost two for every resident. I would very happily revisit as a tourist.

Three of the University of Munster’s buildings were used to host the Conference, which ran alongside a parallel German-speaking ICBF NationalConference. The organisers were supported by a core team and an ever-helpful host of student volunteers who helped us to navigate between and inside the venues.

Where we held the Symposium (courtesy of Javier Touron)

It was announced that over 1,000 delegates attended the Conference from 43 countries, though the first figure must account for both conferences rather than ECHA’s alone. I estimate the number registered for the ECHA event at between 200 and 300.

A quick review of the ECHA Conference programme suggests that there were speakers from 38 countries, including 26 in Europe, so slightly over half of all European countries were represented in this fashion.

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Content

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Keynotes

Eight keynote speeches were included in the programme, but two sets of two were originally scheduled simultaneously. In the event, one of the European keynoters did not appear and was substituted by one of the previously parallel events. This gave a total of seven keynotes, although with one pair still scheduled simultaneously.

The majority – four of the seven – were given by American speakers (Colangelo, Feldman, Renzulli and Subotnik). Even allowing for the absence of one European speaker, it struck me as questionable policy to draw half of the keynotes for a European conference organised by a European organisation from a single country located outside Europe. Can you imagine that scenario ever happening in reverse?

But no doubt the organisers had gone for members of  the pantheon to attract more delegates. The majority of the pantheon is located in the United States.

I attended five of the seven surviving keynotes, missing Feldman and Tirri (the latter being scheduled against Subotnik).

Of the American contingent, Colangelo and Renzulli turned in their usual polished performances – a variety of edutainment – but neither had anything terrifically new to communicate.

I thought Subotnik did a very good job of conveying lucidly the main thrust of the lengthy and complex papershe recently produced with Olszewski-Kubilius and Worrall.

The European keynotes were provided by Peter Csermely and Heidrun Stoeger. Peter covered the same ground he visited at the 2011 EU Talent Day Conference in Budapestand in his TEDx talk. Heidrun Stoeger discussed her work on self-regulated learning.

All five keynotes I attended were pitched to those in the audience who had never heard these ideas before, including many who do not have English as their native language. It follows that they were not quite so satisfactory for delegates who did not meet this description.

Of course I recognise the difficulties, but I would have been impressed by a more strenuous effort on the part of the speakers to differentiate their material – to offer greater stretch and challenge to those amongst their audience who would benefit from it. There was a certain irony in this shortcoming given the topic we had all assembled to consider!

Some of the keynoters were offering additional ‘in-depth workshops’ and may have deliberately whetted our appetites, reluctant to impart too much and so duplicate the content of those sessions. But this is not of itself a strong enough justification for the relatively low pitch of their keynotes.

I was reminded of references made by Joan Freeman during our Symposium to the relative superficiality of social media compared with other forms of interaction. I do think that this criticism may be justifiable – see for example my comments below about our Symposium – but it can also be levelled at the typical academic conference keynote.

My contention is that, by combining traditional forms and social media – and by planning for a continuum of interaction between expert and audience – one can more easily provide the differentiation that is otherwise lacking.

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Other Presentations

There is a rigid hierarchy to ECHA conferences. I attended three of the nine sessions by invited speakers – basically second division keynotes – but found them rather disappointing. Maybe I was unlucky, but they seemed rather thin. Each could have been accommodated comfortably in one of the 20 minute slots allotted to the standard third division presentations. (I never found the posters that made up the fourth division.)

The third division had been divided into triads – so three presentations taken together in a one hour session – on the basis of a logic that often escaped me. Sometimes I could spot different groupings that would have made more sense but, on other occasions, one could see that the organisers had no option but to force at least one square peg into a round hole.

A more flexible structure – perhaps permitting presentations to be grouped in twos, threes and fours – might have been preferable. I do not underestimate the timetabling difficulties caused by several presenters offering multiple presentations, although those could be reduced if some sessions were used to accommodate two or more contributions from a single presenter (ie the organising principle becomes the presenter rather than the theme).

Invariably there is a single presentation one wants to hear and a supporting cast comprising two rather less valuable offerings. And of course several sessions of this kind are blocked against each other, which causes one to miss many interesting presentations, especially if one is unwilling to be impolite and disruptive by flitting constantly between sessions.

In one case, two of the three presenters did not turn up, leaving a solitary speaker to fill up the hour available. One had scratched before the conference began but the other had reportedly ‘gone home’. The optimal choice would have been to leave and join the next best session, but how could we treat the last surviving presenter so brutally?

Some such timetabling arrangement is clearly necessary if the organisers are to fit the proceedings into the limited period available, but this perfectly illustrates the point I made in my blog post about the fundamental inefficiency of conferences organised in such a fashion.

The quality of these presentations was also highly variable. It seems unfair and unreasonable of a native English speaker to complain, but a few of the presenters did not have the requisite standard of spoken English to undertake the task.

Perhaps there is already some simultaneous translation software good enough to tackle this problem. Perhaps the answer lies in posting a multimedia online presentation instead (as opposed to the ‘fourth division’ poster, which has surely had its day).

Some of those with a much stronger command of English also had relatively little of significance to convey, and the very worst examples exemplified both of these shortcomings simultaneously.

Several of the better presentations I attended were largely descriptive of particular localised interventions. Yet this information could also have been conveyed much more clearly and efficiently online. We could not get beyond the description to consider in detail the strengths and weaknesses of the models being described.

There was very little indeed that dealt with gifted education at a strategic level and spoke to the (ex-) policy-maker.

I live tweeted from most of the sessions I attended and, in several cases, found the source material available on websites that I could have consulted from the comfort of my home, incurring much less expense in the process.

I don’t want to give the impression that all the presentations were unremittingly poor. Some were very good. Something akin to the Pareto Principle was in operation, in that I derived 80% of my learning benefit from 20% of the presentations I attended. Unfortunately that was a relatively small return on the outlay of time and money I had expended.

I am not for one moment suggesting that the content of this Conference was any worse than others I have attended. In many respects it was significantly better. But I believe that, as 21st Century conference-goers, we should actively question whether we get real value for money from events that cling to a 20th Century format and, if not, we should begin to request more substantive fare.

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An Aside About Networking

Faced with recognition that a conference does not quite live up to their expectations, many conference-goers will rationalise their disappointment by observing that the formal proceedings are far less significant than the peer-to-peer networking that takes place in the margins of the event.

I could not undertake much of that on this occasion owing to ill-health. I had no energy left to spare after a full day of conference sessions and retired to my hotel room to rest. I don’t know how I would feel about it if I had been healthy. (For the introverted amongst us, the peer-to-peer element can be by far the most difficult and tiring to undertake, even when we are fighting fit.)

From a purely mercenary perspective I find that face-to-face networking at conferences is rather over-rated. Pleasant though it is to spend some time socially with people one has not seen since the last event – and I really enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with several delegates that I already knew – the professional and business benefits that one realises by establishing brand new contacts are rarely worth the effort invested.

I understand the importance of making connections to establish a bigger, stronger network. After all, my blog post on the benefits of social media is based on that very principle. I recognise that face-to-face conferences offer significant potential to build such connections, but too often those interactions prove fleeting and transitory.

It requires sustained follow-up to translate them into something more lasting and meaningful – and that is where social media comes into its own. New contacts made face-to-face can be developed and sustained via Twitter and Facebook, but only if both parties are active users. Social media is the glue that can extend and build those initial relationships into something more substantive and valuable.

Which is a neat transition to…

 

Our Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education

I did not have high expectations of the Symposium. Past experience has confirmed that such events suffer typically from three shortcomings:

  • If the session is reliant on technology, something is bound to go wrong.
  • There is too little time to accommodate all the speakers and, partly as a consequence of that, plenary discussion is desultory at best.
  • Rarely if ever is there substantive agreement about the outcome of the discussion or the immediate next steps that should be taken. The leap from the theoretical to the practical and immediate is somehow too daunting to contemplate.

On this occasion the speakers surprised me by their collective willingness to fit their contributions into a ten-minute slot. It may have helped that all presentations were already in the public domain and that all the presenters were highly-experienced. Despite an exceedingly tight timetable we started on time and even finished slightly earlier than planned

However, the technology let us down. We could not get the projector to give sufficient magnification to the Twitterwall, so it was far too small for the room and only a few of the participants could follow the Twitter conversation by that means. The wall did not scroll automatically either, so our willing helper had to move it on manually throughout the session.

The plenary discussion inside the room did not exactly catch fire, though some interesting and valuable statements were contributed.

Although we had uploaded all presentations ahead of the session, so that everyone could internalise the key messages and frame questions in the light of them, there was negligible interaction of that kind from the Twitter audience. It seemed that they were satisfied with the capacity to ‘listen in’ and were much less inclined towards vigorous discussion.

There wasn’t too much in the way of high quality interaction between those tweeting from inside the Symposium and those following online. The number of people overtly involved via Twitter was also lower than I would have liked (but we have no way of knowing how many were lurking).

A handful of us managed to provide the lion’s share of live tweeting from inside the Symposium. (I am very grateful to @SilverDay and @Kariekol in particular for their help.)  A few other audience members were also active, but not too many.

Participants took photographs of all the speakers in action, which really helped to convey a better sense of the proceedings to those following on Twitter. I particularly liked this close-up of one of the graffiti-covered desks.

Overall I felt we successfully demonstrated how Twitter can be used as a simple tool to open up conference sessions to a much wider audience, but we were markedly less successful in generating active discussion and developing a way forward. Because of that, our session did not always manage to pull itself out of the superficiality that is associated with negative perceptions of social media.

So we exceeded my expectations but fell somewhat short of the fully interactive ideal. I’d grade us at B- or thereabouts.

Perhaps I am being over-critical. Our experienced moderator – @gtchatmod, aka Lisa Conrad, from #gtchat – was much more positive about the event from her Twitter perspective.

https://twitter.com/gtchatmod/status/246249343894577153

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Lisa has very kindly uploaded a full transcript of proceedings so you can judge for yourselves.

I have also published a somewhat shorter version with most of the repetitious retweets removed. Both are on Storify, so include the pictures that were taken at the event.

It remains to be seen what if anything will change as a consequence of the Symposium. I would like to see the open development of a Europe-wide social media strategy for gifted education which takes in ECHA and the European Talent Centre in Budapest, but is not owned or dominated by either of those entities.

The strategy should be consulted on widely, and revised in the light of that consultation, with every effort made to secure buy-in and commitment from all parties.

The guiding principle must be to build connections for the mutual benefit of every European engaged in supporting gifted education – the individuals as well as the local, regional, national and international organisations – rather than creating an exclusive membership-based network which benefits some at the expense of others.

And if the strategy is devised with the understanding that gifted education is on the verge of becoming globalised (as I argued in my previous post), it follows that it cannot relate solely to Europe but must adopt a worldwide perspective.

 

Live Tweeting from the Conference

There was a good deal of live tweeting from the Conference, with substantial contributions in Dutch, English, German and Spanish. Unfortunately, there are relatively few reliable free options for archiving the full record. Some I tried did not work particularly well.

You will find what I believe is a full record of the #echa12 feed at Twubs.

As ‘belt and braces’, there is also an Excel file containing all of the tweets found by SearchHash.

The latter is less visually attractive but perhaps more permanent, given the relatively short shelf-life of some Twitter-related services.

This was the first conference I have live tweeted. I would have been far too slow on the tiny keyboard of a mobile phone, so I decided to take my full-sized laptop for the purpose. I had to make use of the sockets in the smaller rooms used for normal presentations so I had enough battery juice to make it through the keynotes.

I ran out of battery only once – towards the end of the Subotnik keynote – and had to resort to notebook and pen. I converted these notes into Tweets later that evening.

Live Tweeting became my replacement for personal note-taking (since I could not do both simultaneously). So my record of proceedings is permanent but it is also public. I have published a Tweetdoc which captures my personal contribution for posterity! (The PDF file is here in case Tweetdoc also disappears.)

I had in mind Twitter followers who wanted to know the substance of what had been said during any given presentation, but also people attending the Conference who were following the Twitter feed too.

It struck me that the latter in particular would benefit from quick access to supporting material rather than near-verbatim summaries of the arguments being advanced by the speaker. So, during the presentations, I researched the background of speakers, their websites and publications. This enabled me to post a number of links to useful attachments

I have no idea whether anyone actually used the service I was providing in the manner I intended. I couldn’t help feeling that the provision of such a potentially valuable service ought not to depend entirely on the voluntary services of Twitter users providing an unofficial conference backchannel. There is a case for an ‘official’ Twitter feed to provide at least some of this material.

 

What are the Learning Points for ECHA 2014?

 

Principles

The next ECHA Conference takes place in two years’ time, in Ljubljana, Slovenia. What lessons could the organisers learn from the Munster experience and how can they best utilise social media to make their conference successful?

I would urge them to start from the principle that their face-to-face event in September 2014 is part of a continuum of provision spanning the period between the event just finished in Munster and the conference that will follow them in 2016.

  • How can they maintain contact with the delegates who attended in Munster, sustaining and building that network through social media in the run-up to 2014?
  • How can they design a conference in 2014 that serves as a key-staging post in this continuum, adding significant value for those who attend as well as those who participate from a distance?
  • How can they support the next organising committee in the parallel transition to their face-to-face event in 2016?

They might plan with the specific objective of providing the best possible online access to those who cannot attend the Conference in person.

Rather than supply this service through social media tools and an aggregation of stand-alone services, they should explore delivery through a single learning platform. They should contemplate developing a fee structure that will enable them to recoup the cost of providing the service.

As far as content is concerned, the conference should be designed explicitly to fill gaps in our collective knowledge of gifted education and/or tackle collective problems we face in the design and delivery of gifted education programmes. In other words, there should be a significant, positive, tangible outcome for the gifted education community as a whole.

The conference should also be differentiated throughout, to ensure that participants from different stakeholder groups and with different levels of experience are well provided for. That should apply as much to world-leading experts as to novices in the field. Every participant should have a means of contributing significant value to the conference and of receiving commensurate benefit in return.

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Practice

At the same time, the organisers should take practical steps to harness the power of social media to deliver an improved conference experience for all participants, whether they come to Ljubljana or access the event online.

  • It is good that the 2014 Conference organisers have already established a Twitter Feed as well as an embryonic website. This might usefully be complemented by a Facebook page and possibly a blog too. A steady flow of information about developing plans for the Conference will help to engage prospective delegates, especially if there are opportunities for them to contribute to the conference design.
  • Once the conference programme starts to take shape, social media could be deployed to build discussion around the key themes that emerge. Potential presenters could develop their contributions to address the issues that surface from such discussions, or to illustrate how their policies and practice might be adapted to inform provision elsewhere in the world.

This would help us to move away from conference sessions that are mere reportage – whether of programmes underway or research undertaken – and so to concentrate on identifying gaps in our knowledge and understanding and how best to fill them. There would be much more discussion and much less presenting.

  • A week or so before the conference, all presentations could be uploaded on to the conference website, so that delegates and others could read them and reflect on points to raise in discussion. Wherever possible presentations would carry hyperlinks to all the documents and materials they reference.
  • Instead of preparing a fat and heavy conference brochure, including the programme, abstracts and biographical detail, all this information could be supplied online, in the form of a searchable database. Such a database should also be made available as a mobile app. Delegates could download it before they attend, or – if they preferred – receive it on a flash drive. (They would no longer need a conference bag, so the savings on bags and folders could be redirected to pay for the flash drives, or a sponsor might supply a batch as support in kind.)
  • There should be a multimedia conference blog to supply news, report on highlights and generally capture the spirit of the event. Short snippets of film could be prepared and edited for this purpose as an alternative to the conference film that was shot at Munster, which was said to have required excessive work to complete.
  • The organisers should arrange an official conference Twitter feed, linked to the blog, to carry news and highlights of the main sessions. Other Twitter users should use the stream as a back-channel to pose questions and points to be addressed during discussion. This would enable those not physically present to engage directly in the debate. There should be a prominent Twitterwall in each session and in the main meeting areas where conference delegates assemble.
  • Rather than publish a set of ‘proceedings, whether as a hard copy or a DVD, the Conference website should preserve the database of presentations and supporting material, with authors given the option of uploading further material relevant to the issue at any point after the Conference. Responsibility for maintaining this database would either be handed over to the next conference team at an appropriate point or passed back to ECHA. Either way it should be free for everyone to access.

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Conclusion

Ljubljana Dragon courtesy of Arbo Moosberg

It cost me about £750 all told (about 936 Euros currently) to attend the Munster Conference and I am really not sure whether that investment was justified by the benefits I have derived from doing so. It is probably too early to judge.

Were the reforms I have suggested to be introduced, participants would have available a cheaper means of access to much of the conference proceedings. They would be able to exercise choice over how to interact with the event, with cost as one factor influencing their decision.

Effort would be invested in ensuring that the flow of benefits from the event is personalised to meet the very different needs of participants – and that the collective benefit to the gifted education community is significant and tangible.

We would have made a valiant effort to shift an outdated and inefficient format into the 21st Century. We wouldn’t get everything right first time, but we would learn from our evaluations and continue to refine our strategies, taking full advantage of new and more sophisticated technologies as they emerge.

Or else we could gloss over the shortcomings of the current model and persuade people to attend such conferences as we have always done – by holding them in attractive places that people want to visit. The closing ceremony at ECHA 2012 offered us filmed advertisements for the glories of Antalya, Auckland and Ljubljana respectively.

They all looked very pleasant, but that’s not really the point, is it?

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GP

September 2012

Can Social Media Help Overcome The Problems We Face In Gifted Education?: Part Two

 

Part One of this post was my best effort to explain the context for the arguments I will now advance, supporting the hypothesis that social media can help us to address some of the major problems we face in gifted education.

Part Two is organised around the five aspects of gifted education I identified: advocacy, learning, policy-making, professional development and research.

It is my personal assessment of how social media is already helping us to tackle some of the issues and problems that we face – and how the global gifted education community might deploy social media to make further progress in each area over the next few years.

Each section of the commentary that follows expands on the broad nature of the challenges we face in relation to the relevant dimension of gifted education, considers briefly and in general terms how social media is being used now to respond to those challenges, and offers constructive suggestions for how we might build on those foundations.

It concludes with a brief analysis of the some of the weaknesses in a social media-driven approach, some of the obstacles to progress that we face and to what extent these are surmountable in the short to medium term.

The five dimensions are again introduced in alphabetical order – no assumptions should be derived about their relative importance.

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Advocacy

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The Nature of the Problem – Challenges We Face

Advocacy is heavily dependent on the capacity to build links with other people who have similar concerns and priorities, joining forces to influence more effectively the decisions and behaviour of third parties. It depends so heavily on making connections that the synergy between it and social networking is self-evident.

Advocacy typically originates in separate, personal interaction between the parent of a potentially gifted learner and his or her teacher.

Because gifted learners are relatively scarce (however the term is defined), the parent is unlikely to have contact with others who are experiencing the same issues. The teacher may also be unused to addressing the needs of gifted learners, and gifted education is unlikely to be a top priority for the school, so a degree of persuasion may be required.

The parent typically engages with a teacher – and often subsequently with the headteacher – to achieve shared understanding of the learner’s educational needs and how those needs can best be met within the resources available.

Even though parents are the customers that schools serve, whether in the public (state) or private (independent) sectors, they may feel at something of a disadvantage, especially if they find themselves questioning school practice, challenging teachers’ professional expertise or even seeking alternative provision that better meets the learner’s needs.

Before navigating these waters, a wise parent will want to access reliable sources of information, advice and support. They can strengthen their position as an advocate for their own child through interaction with other parents of gifted learners, and with educators and other professionals who have expertise in giftedness and gifted education but are not connected with the learner’s current educational setting.

They typically secure this interaction by forming a personal support network, very similar in concept to the personal learning network explored in Part One, though the interaction may not necessarily take place online.

The intersection of many different personal support networks creates a social support network which enables support to flow through its members in different directions. The parent who sought support may be able to offer advice and support to others, at least for the period during which he or she still needs to receive it.

Critically, the social support network should also generate wider benefits, achieved through collective advocacy at local, regional or national level. This is typically co-ordinated through an organisation.

Historically, such organisations have often sought to restrict the benefits they offer to a defined membership who pay for the privilege, with the income generated used to support the continued operation of the organisation. The benefits of belonging to the organisation are not accessible to those who, for whatever reason, do not meet the membership criteria, or who cannot afford the cost.

To function effectively on the national stage, an advocacy-driven organisation must itself have national reach. Regional or local networks may succeed better in effecting localised change, but it is otherwise inefficient to rely on many smaller, fragmented networks with relatively limited access to information, advice, support and expertise.

Resources are scarce so duplication is wasteful. Small organisations struggle to survive, especially if they operate on a voluntary basis. Small networks suffer disproportionately from the departure of individuals with experience and expertise.

It seems that gifted advocacy often fails. Networks are insufficiently strong or too patchy in their coverage. Too few volunteers have too little time. Organisations are unable to secure consistently the baseline funding they need to thrive. Personal differences arise and cannot be overcome (and it may even be possible to attribute this to the malign influence of so-called ‘gifted intensities’).

Given a globalised environment and globalised gifted education, the logically optimal solution is a global network, openly accessible to everyone who needs its services, which depends principally on a large number of volunteers each making their own small contribution and receiving commensurate benefits through the free flow of information, advice and support.

But while that might serve the needs of those requiring such support, it does not address the lobbying function, ie it does not provide the leverage that advocates require to persuade key opinion formers to change their policies and/or allocate scarce resources to gifted education.

If we are realistic, we should accept that advocates for gifted education have been rather unsuccessful in this respect in many (perhaps most?) countries around the world. To be fair, advocates have often achieved small local victories but rarely have they swayed state or federal governments. If they had been successful on the bigger stage, effective gifted education would be much more prevalent than it is today.

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Current Response via Social Media

Gifted advocacy has developed a significant online presence. Originally this was used to share information and advice primarily on a top-down basis, but more interactive communication began with the introduction of online discussion forums, several of which continue to this day.

In recent years, advocacy groups have begun to make use of social networking tools. Some host their own blogs. Several have established social network pages and/or post frequently on pages established specifically to facilitate international networking, such as International Gifted Education and Mary’s Gifted Contacts, both on Facebook. A few host their own webinars or podcasts.

Twitter is particularly active with hundreds of gifted education advocates posting regularly under the #gifted, #gtchat, #gtie, #gtvoice, #2ekids, #hoogbegaafd (in Dutch) and #nagc hashtags. The vast majority of posts include shortened links to resources and news stories elsewhere on the Internet, including material made available via other platforms.

Of the hashtags mentioned above, #gtchat, #gtie and #nagc run chats – real time discussions with regular timeslots and pre-announced topics enabling Twitter users worldwide to engage with each other and to share resources.

Many advocates, especially parents, say that they rely heavily on Twitter – especially on weekly chats – to establish and maintain contact with others in a similar situation, wherever they may be located.

Connections can be made globally, so advocates can support each other regardless of nationality or geographical distance (though the time of day can be a problem). Translation tools enable one to understand Tweets in a foreign language, but are not yet good enough to support direct communication.

I use my @GiftedPhoenix Twitter account to publish analysis and commentary on English education policy and global gifted education using hashtags to differentiate the two streams. It is part of my personal advocacy effort to expose my education policy followers as well as ‘lurkers’ (those who read posts but do not post or follow others) to information about gifted education, including more detailed pieces posted on this Blog.

Some of those followers – and probably some ‘lurkers’ – are key education opinion formers and leaders in the field. I think I can detect limited positive influence through these efforts but the impact is impossible to quantify.

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How Can Social Media Improve Advocacy Further?

Social media can play a major role in developing and sustaining the personal support networks that provide the foundations of the gifted advocacy movement. Moreover, to the extent that time and language differences allow, they can have a genuinely global reach. Many social media users derive considerable personal benefit from their engagement.

But this benefit is currently confined to the small minority of parents, educators and other stakeholders who are actively involved with the relevant social media and have come to understand its value as an advocacy tool.

There is capacity to expand this activity significantly, building national and international networks to accommodate all those able and willing to communicate in this manner. Numbers are increasing and some well-known names are actively engaged, but critical mass has not yet been achieved.

Most of the leading membership organisations and centres of gifted education continue to rely principally on traditional methods of communication, notably face-to-face conferences, subscription journals and newsletters. They may host their own discussion forums but are only occasionally active on social media. The majority seem to prefer such interaction to be controlled and undertaken by their own members in a closed environment.

They typically use open social media to announce news and events rather than to interact with other participants. They can seem unduly defensive, reticent about exposing themselves to external scrutiny and reluctant to engage with any form of challenge or criticism. This serves to reinforce a silo mentality which is not helpful to the gifted education movement.

So there is currently huge untapped potential to develop this kind of advocacy through social media. The reach and quality could be significantly increased if organisations like ECHA were to place it at the core of their business rather than dabbling at the margins. They might consider switching the focus of their communications away from the traditional formats, so as to free up resource for the purpose of building their social media presence.

Were the number of users to increase substantially, these social media tools might also be utilised more systematically for advocacy directed at external players, designed to improve the funding, provision for and general status of gifted education.

With the full commitment of all the major organisations in the field, it would be possible in future to plan and run vigorous awareness-raising or lobbying campaigns but, for the time being, this is a bridge too far.

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Flower courtesy of GP Junior

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Learning

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The Nature of the Problem – Challenges We Face

Gifted learners need personalised education to meet their needs. Because gifted learners are more likely than most others to require customised provision, they are also more likely to receive education in more than one setting. The greater the number of settings involved, the greater the risk of fragmentation.

It is essential that the different elements are drawn together into a coherent programme, ideally comprising a judicious blend of acceleration, enrichment and extension – and that progress is monitored carefully. When there is an accelerative dimension, there must be a long term plan with a clear end point, including opportunities for learners to step off the fast track without loss of esteem

Because gifted learners (however that term is defined) are relatively scarce, it is often difficult to bring enough of them physically together – whether in a class, a school or a local area – to make separate provision economically justifiable.

It may be organisationally difficult for a school to maintain appropriate accelerative options, whether they involve maintaining a faster pace in specific subject areas, full transfer into an older year group, or early entry into a different educational setting.

Moreover, effective provision can place significant demands on teachers’ pedagogical skills and subject knowledge. In primary settings where the teacher is likely a generalist, they may not have the necessary subject knowledge to provide sufficient stretch and challenge.

And gifted learners are not exempt from wider problems associated with the traditional model of face-to-face schooling, especially when they live in rural settings or in urban settings where the supply of suitable school places is insufficient to meet demand.

So the education of gifted learners can be a complex matter, requiring close collaboration between parents and providers over an extended period and especially at key transition points in the host educational system. Some are fortunate to find the right learning environment which adjusts with them as they develop; others may experience periods in which there is a significant mismatch between their educational experience and their needs.

But many gifted learners are also highly active independent and online learners, relying extensively on the material they can access – and on a variety of peer-to-expert and peer-to-peer interaction – to supplement their formal learning activities.

Because social media can address so many of the problems faced by gifted learners, while also capitalising on their familiarity with the online environment, it is tempting to regard the relationship between gifted education (in this narrow sense) and social media as ‘a marriage made in heaven’.

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Current Response via Social Media

The emergence of online and distance learning has provided new options for gifted learners which can be applied in any of the contexts outlined above.

By linking learners regardless of geographical location, at least some of the organisational difficulties potentially inherent in gifted education can be overcome. Younger gifted learners can more easily access learning opportunities designed primarily for older students, including higher education courses.

Complexity of provision can be organised, managed and monitored through e-portfolios and similar online tools.

A crude taxonomy of online provision for gifted learners would comprise:

  • virtual schools specifically for gifted learners – though Hoagies currently lists just five providers, all of them USA-based
  • virtual schools that take gifted learners as part of a wider service
  • online extended learning opportunities provided explicitly for gifted learners by specialists. Several of the leading providers have invested in online services to complement their face-to-face provision. Perhaps the first to enter the field was Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth which ran its first course for gifted students in 1992. Several providers are active in Europe. Those based in the UK include IGGY and OLP.
  • generic online courses, including many higher education courses which accept younger students
  • an ever-increasing range of generic learning platforms, some of them social learning environments, some of them MOOCs (these two subsets are not mutually exclusive)
  • a vast array of independent learning opportunities inherent in materials freely available online. These may be entirely self-standing, or pre-organised into a sequence or package, or accessed through an imposed framework of some kind. They may be curated and indexed, or they may be found through a search process instigated by the user.
  • the organisational and record-keeping tools mentioned above, which are sometimes stand-alone and sometimes integrated within one of the forms of provision above.

Although the concept of a PLN is typically applied to adult learners, it can equally apply to those of school age. Hence gifted learners may also be learning informally through everyday engagement with peers through generic social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

And it is not difficult to find specialist social networks that focus on particular topics where gifted learners can engage with others who share that interest. If there is no extant social network, it is straightforward to use one of the generic platforms to start a new one.

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How Can Social Media Further Improve Learning?

The supply side of the market has developed many competing online learning platforms and services, some espousing social learning principles, others adopting a more traditional didactic teacher-student learning model.

A few niche providers are catering solely for gifted learners but, rather surprisingly, I can find no evidence that any of the big players has overtly identified gifted learners as a significant sub-population amongst their users.

There is also very little signposting of the different services available from a gifted education perspective (although there are several directories of varying quality providing details of online resources for home schooling).

Although it would be a major task, an organised effort to establish and update a database of formal online learning options suitable for gifted learners would have significant value.

Such a resource could be designed for global use, cataloguing formal learning opportunities by type, subject area, language, pitch and age appropriateness. The database could be crowdsourced, so compiled from details submitted by gifted learners, parents and educators. An Amazon-style rating and review system would provide a basic quality assurance mechanism.

A search engine would allow users to find learning opportunities that match their needs, and maybe even suggest possible progression routes to related subject matter or the same subject at a more advanced level. A visual representation, similar to Khan Academy’s Knowledge Map, would allow learners to navigate easily between topics and levels.

A database of this kind could be further enhanced by recording ‘learning pathways’ taken by gifted learners through the resources it contains, enabling other learners to trace the same routes. Such pathways could even incorporate stand-alone learning resources found online.

There would be significant potential in encouraging gifted learners to act as curators developing their own ‘learning pathways’ to share with others. Mentormob is one platform supporting learning-based curation of this nature.

It might even be possible to accredit some of these learning packages as a contribution to formal education by mapping them against any set of curriculum requirements and adding appropriate assessment tools. (Online learning could be combined with computer adaptive testing for this purpose.)

Further stimulus could be given to peer-to-peer learning between gifted learners, perhaps through partnership between gifted education providers and one of the existing social learning platforms. It would be relatively straightforward to build multimedia online learning communities around any of the resources in the database.

The nearest equivalent I can find to this currently is Cogito, established and supported by CTY at JHU. But that is confined to maths and science only and members must be aged over 13. There are also similarities with Renzulli Learning Systems though that is a commercial operation with access sold through schools rather than to individual users.

Both are US-based and seem to stock English language resources only. A multi-lingual approach would have wider global reach. It would enable gifted learners to develop foreign language skills by learning other topics through the target language. Learners with first languages other than English could also form learning communities with others in countries where those languages are spoken.

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Harbour View courtesy of GP Junior

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Policy-making

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The Nature of the Problem – Challenges We Face

The global gifted education community has probably made least progress in this area, in terms of recognising and responding to the particular needs of gifted education policy-makers, whether they operate at local/district, regional/state or national/federal level.

The leading international organisations have not developed a critical mass of members who have policy making functions, nor do they offer services designed to meet policy makers’ needs.

This may be chicken-and-egg in that gifted education policy-makers have shown no great propensity to organise themselves as a coherent subset within the gifted education community, or indeed within the wider education community.

There is consequently little communication between policy-makers, or between policy-makers and the other key stakeholder groups, despite the fact that such communication would be mutually beneficial.

To undertake their functions effectively, policy-makers need access to high-quality research to provide a comprehensive evidence base. They also need access to reliable information about the way in which other districts, states or countries have tackled the problems inherent in the delivery of gifted education, plus any evaluations of the effectiveness of such programmes.

An evidence base of this kind helps guard against the worst excesses of ‘policy tourism’ and the selective use of evidence to justify contentious political decisions. It also means that policy makers do not waste time and effort in ‘reinventing the wheel’, or in replicating failed initiatives that have been tried already and found wanting in other jurisdictions.

Policy making can also be undertaken collaboratively, across local, regional and national borders where that makes sense, for example where a policy impacts on two or more jurisdictions. Those engaged in policy-making need a location, physical, online or a mixture of both, in which they can undertake this activity.

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Current Response via Social Media

Barely any gifted education policy makers are active within social media and any who are will most likely have a parallel role that aligns them with the professional development and/or research fields. (It is not unusual for the policy-making function to overlap with others in this fashion.)

Twitter provides the nearest equivalent to an education policy forum in which gifted education-related issues can be aired and discussed but, because so few policy makers are active, such discussion tends to be with other stakeholder interests.

As far as I am aware, this is the only blog that addresses gifted education issues from the national policy perspective, so providing an information source of direct use to policy makers. Some other blogs make occasional forays into the policy-making sphere, but not from a policy-maker’s perspective.

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How Can Social Media Further Improve Policy-Making?

An online Gifted Education Observatory, serving as a repository of information, research and data about gifted education worldwide would be of direct use to policy-makers and to all other stakeholder groups within gifted education.

For example, gifted learners engaged in peer-to-peer learning could understand more about the systems in which their peers are educated, parents could research provision prior to relocation or emigration and researchers could access material to inform comparative studies.

If the Observatory were designed on social media principles, policy-makers and other stakeholders could engage collaboratively with such materials, so supporting the policy-making process.

It could host collaborative effort to develop international gifted education policy, such as the roles and responsibilities of the European Talent Support and Resource Centre, now being established.

It could support all five areas of gifted education by engaging all stakeholder groups in the development of International Quality Standards for gifted education, as well as providing a forum for the development, comparison and revision of National Quality Standards.

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Flower courtesy of GP Junior

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Professional Development

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The Nature of the Problem – Challenges we face

Within any particular country, the incidence of gifted education-specific initial training and professional development will depend in part on the relative priority given to gifted education in that jurisdiction. Since the priority generally attached to gifted education is relatively low, this means that high quality development opportunities are likely to be comparatively scarce.

With initial training there is the additional problem that too many topics are vying for attention within a very limited training period. If it features at all, gifted education may be addressed with extreme brevity.

That may be no bad thing, since it is arguable that relatively more experienced teachers with a larger range of classroom experience may be better able to grasp the complexities of differentiation at the extremes of the ability range. But, if coverage is delayed until later in a teachers’ career, participation is more likely to be voluntary, meaning that a significant proportion of the teacher force may never develop the knowledge and skills they should desirably possess.

Top-down national or state training programmes are increasingly rare, because the cost is prohibitive and there is often an ideological preference for bottom-up solutions driven by schools through inter-school collaboration. It is argued that training by teachers for teachers is more likely to be relevant and satisfy identified development needs.

That may be true, but there is a concomitant risk that professional development will reflect known practice rather than best practice, and may be overly focused on what works in the classroom. By failing to provide a proper understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of effective practice, such professional development may not secure reflective gifted education practitioners.

Moreover, bottom-up strategies depend on a comprehensive and effective network comprising all schools, with sufficient expertise distributed within the network to enable every single school to benefit. There is a significant risk that some schools will not do so, especially if the network is not centrally co-ordinated. Limited investment in quality assurance can mean that some providers within the network are of questionable quality.

It is likely that most countries that have invested in professional development packages have done so without reference to existing materials already produced elsewhere. Since the issues associated with gifted education are broadly common, there is likely to be significant duplication and unnecessary expenditure. There are also relatively few examples of collaborative effort to produce jointly useful materials.

The default model for providing professional development remains face-to-face interaction between a trainer and a group of trainees, though online or blended provision is now increasingly common.

Postgraduate courses in gifted education are provided by many higher education institutions worldwide, but are much more prevalent in some countries than others. Face-to-face and blended courses are typically offered as full-time or part-time options requiring attendance at a specific location which may be geographically distant from the participant.

Face-to-face conferences provide opportunities to access valuable professional development but are fundamentally inefficient, since the number of participants is limited by the accommodation and the number of topics by the range of presenters available.

Informal learning opportunities are similarly restricted by the number of colleagues one comes into contact with so, unless there are frequent chances to move outside the normal working environment, the individual will encounter relatively few colleagues, most of whom will work in that same environment. Hence the personal learning network is limited.

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Current Response via Social Media

There are several online postgraduate courses in gifted education, most of them based at American universities. Hoagies lists about twenty providers, including five or so offering online and/or blended options, but other online postgraduate course listings seem to include some provision not covered by Hoagies.

This offering from the University of Connecticut is typical of such online provision. There is some interaction:

‘You will explore the material you are reading through sychronous and asynchronous online discussions. Some [classes] may use streaming video/audio and simulations.’

But this is not at the cutting edge of learning driven by social media.

In Europe, ICEP Europe offers an online Certificate in Teaching Gifted and Talented Students which is much the same. As far as I can establish, the ECHA Diploma and Certificate courses are not offered in online or blended format.

IPEGE, the International Panel of Experts for Gifted Education, drawn from Germany, Switzerland and Austria published in 2009 a document Professional Promotion of the Gifted and Talented that proposes common content standards for Masters level and more basic professional development courses. It does not mention mode of delivery, so should be assumed to apply to all modes, online provision included.

Gifted educators are amongst those benefiting from social media to expand their PLNs. Some educators believe that social networks have the capacity to replace old-style professional development but others are more wary.

This post compares Twitter to Marmite – because educators either love it or hate it.

This paper by the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning sets out a more reasoned case for social media’s contribution to professional development, including several case studies.

It concludes:

‘The people and organisations profiled in this report have all found that using social media has brought rich rewards. Through blogging, tweeting and participating in online forums they have been able to access the thoughts and ideas of education professionals across the world. They have been able to reflect on their own practice, and to use that reflection to shape their teaching. They have found new ways to engage with their pupils, parents and the wider community, and to use the insights they have gained to improve the learning in their school.

Social media will not provide a silver bullet. Engaging with colleagues in this way can be frustrating, time-consuming and demanding. Challenging yourself, or being challenged by others, on the way you approach teaching and learning is not for the faint-hearted. But if school leaders and policymakers are serious about raising teaching standards, the potential of social media to engage, support and inspire teachers should not be ignored.’

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How can Social Media Further Improve Professional Development?

As long as the use of social media continues to increase, one might reasonably expect more stakeholders in gifted education to become active and persuaded of the value for their own professional development and that of colleagues too.

It is incumbent on advocates for the power of social media to make the case – and hopefully this Symposium will play some small part – but it would help if organisations like ECHA were to commit themselves fully to this cause, and preferably not by establishing closed communities available only to ECHA members, but in an open and inclusive fashion.

Perhaps the ECHA diploma and certificate should be available online – and perhaps candidates should be actively encouraged to use social media for interactive support. (The ECHA diploma network already operates its own Facebook page, though this operates largely as a news broadcaster for members of the network, which is closed.)

The idea of an observatory, discussed above, would have major benefits for professional development worldwide, first and foremost by spreading knowledge and understanding about practice in other countries. If this were linked directly with a social curation and learning platform, there would be substantial two-way benefits.

Users would be invited to submit materials relevant to professional development that are freely available online. Those materials could be catalogued according to country of origin, date of publication, language, media (eg written, video, multimedia) and topics covered. Research could be included. Users could be invited to review and rate resources, again using the Amazon model.

Users could also be invited to draw these resources together into professional development ‘learning pathways’ which could be incorporated into larger professional development programmes, or initial training, or even be accredited and used as stand-alone courses. Groups of gifted educators worldwide could learn together by interacting with these materials and with each other. Specialist tutors could be trained to lead such activity.

If this rich online professional environment was coupled with the equally rich gifted education environment outlined above, the synergy thus created would directly benefit both endeavours.

The professional development benefits could also be extended to school improvement if learning resources were linked directly to quality standards and school improvement plans derived from them. It would not be impossible to develop a whole school improvement programme driven by gifted education with built-in formative and summative evaluation.

There would also be potential to accredit formally the learning undertaken by gifted educators through other social networks. For example, a Twitter user might submit a log of his Tweets, including engagement through relevant #chats, as evidence of learning, understanding and thought leadership in the field.

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Flower courtesy of GP Junior

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Research

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The Nature of the Problem – Challenges we face

From my (admittedly biased) perspective there are several problems with the current research environment for gifted education:

  • Useful research is inaccessible because there is no single dedicated online repository of the kind described above. Much of it is located in academic journals which, although they now permit online access, typically levy an exorbitant charge for reading even a single article. Sometimes the research may be accessible after a timelag, but not always, and often the timelag is far too long so the research is outdated once it can be accessed free of charge. (There are, of course, some honourable exceptions.)
  • The other principal form of research dissemination is the academic conference, which is inefficient for the reasons I have already cited, expensive to attend and rarely provides delegates with a full record of all the keynotes and presentations given (or does so only at a price). It is pleasant to meet colleagues face-to-face once in a while – and some real value can be derived from personal networking – but these benefits are rarely lasting. Conferences are like occasional feasts, with far too much consumption packed into a tiny window, when they should ideally be staging points in a much richer continuum of engagement.
  • From an outsider’s perspective, gifted education researchers often seem to work in relative isolation from each other. It may be a caricature, but I suspect the ‘pantheon of gods’ rarely if ever convenes as a pantheon, whether physically or virtually, since that would compromise their status. Academics with seniority and big reputations may allow a coterie of younger researchers to sit at their feet, but there seems to be little systematic interaction of this kind within the research community between experienced and younger researchers.
  • Conference keynotes are invariably dominated by the pantheon. They tour the circuit dispensing the ideas on which they built their reputations, while more junior researchers and other stakeholders compete for tiny audiences much further down the bill. Conference audiences are complicit in this since they are drawn to attend conferences by the big names, apparently regardless of whether they have something new to say. Consequently, old ideas are slow to be challenged and replaced, different models are regarded as mutually exclusive and the gifted education community makes no real effort to achieve broad consensus.

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Current response via Social Media

Gifted education researchers are slowly being tempted to engage with social media, but not always for the right reasons. There is still a school of thought that advocates the use of blogs and Twitter as secondary tools for ‘marketing’ research – no doubt a means to drive an audience towards the journals and conferences where serious ideas are presented and discussed.

Several US-based centres are active on Facebook and Twitter, but this role is typically undertaken by the communications lead rather than by the academics who lead the centres. Rather than using social media to convey and discuss new ideas, they deploy it to sell places on their summer schools, or books written by their academics.

A few habitués are dedicated to sharing and discussing gifted education research, principally via Facebook and Twitter, but most of us are not academics in the strict sense. We confine ourselves largely to open access materials, since authors and publishers can do their own marketing – we are not in the business of generating profit for them. (I nearly always avoid priced resources, unless I have written them myself, and I do not follow people or retweet messages that seem exclusively focused on self-publicity or income generation.)

Several useful research-related social media tools and networks are now available, including Academia, Mendeley and ResearchGate. But few gifted education researchers use them.

At the time of writing, Academia lists 154 people with a research interest in ‘gifted education’ (though there are smaller groups associated with slightly different terms) and 39 people with a research interest in ‘giftedness’. They are almost exclusively graduate students, young academics and those already involved with other forms of social media. Not one of the ‘pantheon’ is active.

Academic conferences in gifted education remain resolutely traditional in format. I tried to introduce a different mindset when part of the Organising Committee for the 2007 World Conference in Warwick. I have made similar overtures to the 2013 organising committee, so far with no perceptible success (though they have set up a conference blog, which is a small step in the right direction).

A few of us are offering live Tweets from ECHA 2012, but there are too few to provide any meaningful coverage of the event. As far as I am aware, this Symposium is the only session offering any specific connection with social media, whether as a subject or a medium of communication.

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How can Social Media Further Improve Research?

In December 2010 I wrote a post ‘An International Online Network for Gifted Education Researchers?’ setting out the case for such an entity. Having explored the options, I suggested that it made sense to use ResearchGate as the platform, proposed further consultation and concluded with a suggestion that fell on deaf ears:

‘One option that emerges naturally from a social networking approach is to devolve, distribute and democratise the task, by inviting the gifted education research community to undertake the process voluntarily through researchgate.’

No-one took up the suggestion; nothing happened.

But if an observatory cum repository cum social learning environment could be developed, it should certainly incorporate research. It could give priority to effective dissemination of high quality research, the professional development of young researchers, and collaboration between researchers and with the other stakeholder groups in gifted education. It could provide the basis for an international think tank dedicated to solving the problems that we face in contemporary gifted education.

In the short term, we could make excellent progress if every delegate at this Conference were to commit to using Facebook and Twitter to share their presentations and papers. By such means we might entice a cross-section of delegates to experiment with social media as a means of engagement – with each other and with the wider gifted education community – between now and the next Conference in 2014.

For the concept of a PLN surely has just as much to offer the researcher as it does the educator, does it not?

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Windows courtesy of GP Junior

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The weaknesses of a social media approach and obstacles to progress

It would be quite wrong to portray social media as a panacea. It will not solve entirely the problems I have identified in this post and it may pose new problems that we do not face in our current transitional scenario.

For I am making an assumption, on the basis of the evidence cited above, that the influence and reach of social media will increase dramatically over the remainder of this decade and beyond.

It is unlikely that education – even comparative backwaters like gifted education – will be left behind, especially since huge organisations like Newscorp and Pearson have identified online education as an investment priority.

But it will be incumbent upon the gifted education community to ensure through advocacy that gifted education is at the forefront of such developments, rather than an afterthought.

There are significant problems to rectify and issues to address if progress is to be made. They include:

  • Resources: Although very significant progress can be made by relying on free software and services, the opportunities for customisation are relatively limited unless fruitful partnership can be established with companies willing to invest to capture the gifted education market. Moreover, those who run free services will often plan towards a subscription model to achieve longer-term sustainability – free services do not always remain so.
  • The pace of change: Social media is evolving with great rapidity, especially in the education market. It would be very easy to adopt an approach or a partnership agreement that led up a blind alley, so any development strategy needs to be flexible enough to permit horses to be changed midstream.
  • Fragmentation: The nature of social media is such that a huge choice of opportunities exists. Unsuccessful enterprises go quickly to the wall while exciting new services appear at the same rate. A wise social media strategy will embrace a few different providers anyway, because no single service covers every element required and users have different preferences that need to be satisfied. But that raises the difficulty of how to bind and hold the different elements of a strategy together – a difficulty that is compounded if there are too many elements in play.
  • Linguistic diversity: Although quality has improved dramatically in recent years, we have not yet reached the position where a written document can be  translated instantly and perfectly into any other language, or where two learners without a common language can communicate sufficiently to learn together (except maybe in areas like maths and music).
  • Safety: Sadly, the internet is not a fully safe environment, especially for children. While it is imperative that they are protected from harm – whether from predatory adults or from their peers, via cyberbullying – this acts as a brake on innovation, requiring safeguards to be installed that may run counter to the optimal conditions for learning. This trade-off is unfortunately inescapable and must be planned for from the outset.
  • Resistance: It is certain that participants in this Symposium are a highly biased sample. While one would like to think that everyone in the gifted education community is open to persuasion, there will be those who oppose the use of social media, or who argue that the benefits are over-rated. This doesn’t entirely correlate with age, but older people generally seem more resistant. Those who remember a largely computer-free world may be less likely to espouse social media than later generations who have grown up with it.

It is common for critics to argue that they haven’t the time to engage properly with social media, that they are too busy already. But that is often because they regard social media as a bolt-on extra, an extravagance that they must fit in alongside all other demands, rather than something they can integrate fully into their lifestyle, in work and at leisure, and so improve significantly their productivity. Engagement with social media demands a time investment, but the investment yields added value, as well as scope to save time elsewhere. The social media enthusiast gives – and receives commensurately in return.

 

Last words

What then are we to conclude about the contribution that social media can make towards resolving the problems we face in gifted education? For me, the learning points are these:

  • The problems I have identified are longstanding and significant, but not insurmountable.
  • Gifted education needs to adapt if it is to thrive in a globalised environment with an increasingly significant online dimension.
  • Social media form part of that environment and also offer one promising means to address these problems.
  • Social media will not eradicate the problems but could support progress by virtue of their unrivalled capacity to ‘only connect’.
  • Gifted education is potentially well-placed to pioneer new developments in social media but is not properly aware of this opportunity, or the benefits it could bring.
  • We have not yet effected the transition from ‘early adoption’ to mainstream practice, but we need to begin to accelerate that process very soon, otherwise we will be left behind.

In the UK we are striving to establish an online social media hub for GT Voice, intended to form part of a global network representing all key stakeholder groups in gifted education.

Progress has been painfully slow as we struggle with very limited human and financial resource, the not inconsiderable fissures within the gifted education community, sheer apathy and an enduring desire to be spoonfed by others rather than networking together to effect real change and improvement.

We will continue that struggle, but would be aided considerably by joining a bigger movement to bring greater coherence to gifted education throughout Europe. The European Talent Support and Resource Centre is an excellent opportunity to make such a connection.

But, if it is to be successful, the Centre must devote itself to a distributed model, building capacity by developing nodes in every country and relying extensively on social media to establish connections between them. It will not succeed if it is – or if it is perceived to be – a mechanism for centralising power and influence in Budapest.

The Centre could supplement its own budget through a co-ordinated bid for network funding under the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme, but the deadline is fast approaching and this opportunity will soon have passed.

I have a nagging fear that, somewhere in Hungary, plans for the Centre are already formulated and signed off by the bodies that are providing the initial funding – whereas the better approach would be to open up the planning process at the earliest possible stage, so that we can secure collective buy-in and ownership across the Continent.

As part of that planning process, I propose a multinational working group to develop a pan-European social media strategy for gifted education, drawing on some of the ideas suggested in this Symposium, for incorporation into the business of the Centre and the international network surrounding it.

For I firmly believe that effective use of social media is a necessary condition for the success of that network.

Moreover, social media can make a substantial and lasting contribution to the scope, value and quality of gifted education, to the benefit of all stakeholders, but ultimately for the collective good of gifted learners.

No, ‘can’ is too cautious, non-assertive, unambitious. Let’s go for WILL instead!

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GP

September 2012

Can Social Media Help Overcome the Problems We Face In Gifted Education?: Part One

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This post:

  • reviews some of the key problems we face in securing effective gifted education
  • examines how – in the context of increasingly globalised gifted education – social media are helping to address those problems
  • proposes ways in which social media’s contribution might be enhanced and strengthened and
  • considers whether and to what extent social media might contribute towards the resolution of those problems.

The post is divided into two parts, with Part One providing a foundation for the arguments advanced in Part Two

It sets out my broad approach to this issue, explains the key concepts relating to gifted education, social media and globalisation respectively and provides background information and data about social media usage, especially in a European and educational context.

While I have tried to maintain a consistent and logical argument, you may find this somewhat more discursive and opinionated than my usual posts. I want to be provocative to promote discussion, but there is nothing here that I do not personally believe. I may be guilty of want of tact, in which case I plead guilty as charged.

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Background

Until now this blog has devoted little attention to the current and potential contribution of social media to gifted education, despite comprising one very small element of the social media revolution that is already impacting upon it.

The organisation of a Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education – part of  the imminent 13th International Conference of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) in Germany – provides the perfect opportunity to rectify this omission.

I outlined our plans for the Symposium in my last post, introducing the participants and the abstracts of our presentations.

We intend that it will explore:

  • The extent to which social media have been applied to gifted education;
  • The benefits and the risks that social media can bring, whether for learners, parents, educators or policy-makers; and
  • How this field is likely to develop over the next few years.

We will discuss what further collaborative action might be undertaken by the gifted education community in Europe and beyond, to capitalise on the potential for social media to build and maintain valuable connections between them, for the benefit of all involved.

Our treatment will be located within the wider context of research on gifted education and social media respectively, but we will be focused primarily on the development and support of effective practice.

I have invited all presenters to publish their contributions a little way ahead of the event, to allow the other participants to familiarise themselves with the arguments they advance, and so come better prepared to take the discussion forward (but I recognise that this may not be possible for everyone given that the Conference takes place immediately after the holiday season).

I will upload materials and presentations and/or post links from this Blog so that everything that is published before the Symposium can be easily found.

There will be a Twitter Wall inside the Symposium, so that – technology and reliable free wi-fi permitting – some of the power of social media can be harnessed to support the event. We will invite those physically present to live Tweet highlights of the presentations as well as their own contributions.

We have also arranged a special edition of Global #gtchat powered by TAGT (the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented) to coincide with the Symposium, so that those among the worldwide gifted education community who are active on Twitter can follow proceedings and hopefully take an active part in the live discussion.

For my part, I have decided to set out my contribution to proceedings as a fairly typical Gifted Phoenix blog post. This will provide the basis for a much briefer 10 minute presentation during the Symposium itself. But industrious delegates will have been able to familiarise themselves with the full, unadulterated version – and so be able to discuss that more substantive text if they wish.

Birds courtesy of GP Junior

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My Abstract, Biases and Hypothesis

 

Abstract

For ease of reference, here again is the abstract that summarises my contribution:

‘Within education as a whole we are only beginning to utilise the huge untapped potential of social media to revolutionise learning, professional development, advocacy, research and policy-making.

The global gifted community is starting to realise that social media can provide part of the solution to many of the issues that it has been wrestling with for decades.

But the number of enthusiastic ‘early adopters’ is still relatively small, the majority are not yet fully engaged or persuaded and a few feel excluded or even directly threatened.

This presentation analyses the problems and priorities faced by the global gifted community, as seen through a European lens. It examines how social media might be harnessed to address these and reviews the progress made to date.

It identifies concrete action that could be taken to secure further and faster progress. It also isolates some of the key risks associated with a social-media driven approach and considers how those might be mediated or circumvented.

Participants will be strongly encouraged to share their own perspectives and experience, regardless of whether they are experts, beginners or somewhere in between.’

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Biases

I bring my own fair share of subjectivity and personal bias to this treatment, and it is important that I make a clean breast of that at the outset.

This analysis of the issues faced by the global gifted community will inevitably be Eurocentric, given my geographical location, though my perspective is fundamentally the globalised view of gifted education that serves as the leitmotif of this Blog.

It will also be influenced by my background as a policy-maker: one who understood part of that function to involve promoting engagement within and across the gifted education community, drawing in all the key stakeholder groups, as well as networking with and learning from the experience of those with similar responsibilities throughout the world.

Although I approach these issues from a broadly academic perspective, I am relatively more sceptical about the contribution of ‘proper’ academics than any other group within this community. That may be because – with honourable exceptions, some involved in this Symposium – I perceive them to be rather more concerned with their personal academic theories and reputations (and sometimes the reputations of their institutions) than they are with working collaboratively to resolve the common problems that we face.

Sometimes it feels as though the gifted education community is over-dominated by a pantheon of academic gods, each demanding that we worship at his or her shrine. Of course it may be a fault in the worshippers, rather than the worshipped, that this situation has come about.

I also start from the contestable premiss that our collective efforts to secure effective transnational collaboration in gifted education to date have been sadly deficient, especially in recent years.

Hence I am rather critical of ECHA’s track record, and that of the World Council, which places me in a somewhat difficult position relative to those organisations and others like them, especially when I am utilising their conferences to advance my views!

This may be cause to label me an outsider, even a maverick. But, paradoxically, my core message is an inclusive one, for part of the problem I see with these organisations is that they rely too heavily on a traditional closed membership model, which seems to me rather outmoded and out of kilter with the more inclusive, open-access, networking principles embodied in social media (at least up to the point where they collide with an imperative to generate subscription-based income).

These organisations also appear to be over-dominated by the academic contingent, somewhat to the detriment of the other stakeholder groups within the wider gifted education community, which weakens their overall impact.

I should also warn of possible bias when it comes to the social media I espouse and those I hold in somewhat lower regard. As will be apparent from my own digital ‘footprint’ I see great value in blogging, microblogging (via Twitter), learning platforms and collaborative platforms or online ‘hubs’ (such as the low-budget option we are developing for GT Voice).

I am somewhat less convinced of the value of Facebook, Linked In, Google+ and Second Life, though I recognise that they can make a valuable contribution. I see huge potential in social bookmarking and curation tools, as well as a variety of other useful applications.

But I believe that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. The trick lies in using these various instruments as seamlessly as possible, to create an accessible, effective and supportive social media environment.

I am sure you will hold a quite different perspective, but don’t let that prevent you from engaging with what follows! I have striven to hold these biases in check during the remainder of this post, though you may still see a trace here and there.

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Hypothesis

My fundamental hypothesis is that social media may well offer our best chance of realising E.M. Forster’s famous injunction to ‘Only Connect’, so linking together socially and geographically dispersed individuals, organisations and stakeholder groups, for the mutual benefit of all.

(The referencing of Forster’s epigraph in this context is not without precedent, as this early paper on ‘Computer-Mediated Association and Community Networks aptly illustrates.)

This is important because the fundamental weakness of the gifted education community lies in its fragmentation, its over-emphasis on points of difference and disagreement rather than points of similarity, and its overall unwillingness to collaborate to achieve broadly positive outcomes.

Some parts of the community are also bedevilled by insularity, failing to recognise that their part of the world does not have the monopoly on effective policy and practice and that they can learn from the experience of other countries, provided that they avoid the worst excesses of ‘policy tourism’.

I am not messianistic about the capacity of social media to generate a new world order in gifted education. I recognise that there are significant obstacles to the realisation of this outcome, some of which may prove insurmountable. But I do think that we can make significant further progress by building firm and sustainable social media foundations that will be beneficial to the future development of the European and global gifted education communities.

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Chipmunk courtesy of GP Junior

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The Meaning of Terms

This post brings together three complex concepts, each of which can be hard to pin down, namely gifted education, social media and globalisation. Relatively few readers are likely to be fully familiar with all three, and my interpretation may be somewhat idiosyncratic, so it is important to clarify what I mean by these terms.

 

Gifted Education

I tend to use ‘gifted education’ as a convenient shorthand for all activities associated with the identification, education and support of gifted learners, however that population is defined (and of course there are multiple definitions, with huge variation in the span and pitch of abilities accommodated, as well as the evidence of their existence required).

I use ‘gifted learner’ to mean all the beneficiaries of such activity, regardless of their age and whether they are receiving formal education, though children and young people of school age are foremost in my thinking.

I intend ‘gifted education community’ to include all those with a primary interest in giftedness, as well as all those engaged in some capacity with gifted education (and we know that those two factions do not always co-exist harmoniously, even in a social media environment).

Some might argue that my use of the terms ‘education’ and ‘learner’ is misleading, because they do not apply to some activities and settings I want to include. But that reinforces a tension between two parts of the community which seems to me reconcilable, if we can accept that all of us are engaged with education and learning in the broadest sense.

This is a broad church indeed, and the definitional variations I have mentioned make this even more pronounced. Sometimes it seems that the only common feature within this community is disagreement.

But part of my premiss is that only through collaboration can we accumulate sufficient power and influence to achieve the broadly common outcomes sought by the many different elements within the gifted education community. More specific preferences may have to be sacrificed for the common good. Social media can help to support such collaboration, helping us to circumvent the fragmentation that will otherwise undermine our collective efforts.

In this post, I have divided the gifted education enterprise into five areas, each of which is (stereo)typically associated with a particular stakeholder group, shown in brackets below.

These groups feature significantly in my subsequent treatment of problems and solutions. But I have avoided categorisation by group because each area is not entirely defined by the dominant group and, conversely, the activities of each group are not entirely defined by the area in which they typically feature. For example, it is quite reasonable to accept that teachers contribute to all of the five areas below.

The list is ordered alphabetically – no inference should be made as to the relative importance of the five components, all of which are critical to the success of our collective endeavour:

  • Advocacy (parents) incorporates all activity designed to raise awareness of the needs of gifted learners and those involved with their support – as well as the full range of personal and social benefits that investment in meeting those needs can secure – and lobbying to persuade those in positions of power and influence to address those needs and so generate those benefits.

This may be undertaken through organisations and networks specifically established for the purpose, or through more general governance arrangements (whether the governing body of a single school, a national parliament or something in between).

The most basic form is one-to-one interaction, typically between a parent and a teacher. It can take place face-to-face, online, or even in a blended environment. It may be highly formal, entirely informal or located at any point between those two extremes.

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  • Learning (learners) incorporates all activities and services that contribute towards the formal and informal education of gifted learners. In the case of learners of school age, the formal dimension will likely involve some element of compulsory schooling or its equivalent, typically but not exclusively provided through some form of differentiated classroom teaching, whether in a selective or mixed ability setting. Home schooling is of course an exception.

There may also be a significant element provided through additional extended learning activities that take place outside school hours, in the evenings, at weekends or during school holidays.

The distinction between formal and informal – already blurred to some extent through these out-of-school activities – becomes even more indistinct within an increasingly significant third component, namely voluntary, independent learning, now typically undertaken online and facilitated by social media.

The degree of independence varies, in that such online learning may be entirely separate from formal education, or fully integrated with it, or loosely connected.

The balance between these components can also vary enormously. In some blended learning models – often gathered under the general term flipped classroom – the independent online component is dominant, reversing the more traditional model in which face-to-face classroom learning predominates and is supported by additional online interaction.

One might expect the educational experience of gifted learners to require relatively more customisation and so typically include more out-of-school and online activity. Given that assumption, gifted learners are an important customer group for online learning providers to satisfy.

If we can also assume that education in future will be provided increasingly through online environments, then gifted learners can and should be at the forefront of that transformation.

But regardless of the balance, it is critical that these different elements are fully integrated and mutually supportive. If any part of the educational menu is perceived as second-order and ‘bolt-on’, the learner will suffer as a consequence. It follows that the organisation and recording of learning is essential to avoid fragmentation of the individual learner’s education experience, and social media can also support this.

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  • Policy-making (policy makers) denotes the development and delivery of all services designed to meet the needs of gifted learners and their families, as well as those engaged in associated advocacy, professional development and research.

This is likely to involve selection and assessment of different policy options, resource allocation, choosing a delivery mechanism, implementing a delivery process and evaluating outcomes. Policies and programmes must satisfy the political requirements of the entity responsible for approving them. They must also fit snugly in the wider policy context, supporting broader educational and social objectives wherever possible.

The communication of policies – how they are perceived by stakeholders affected and by the wider population – is a critical factor, and much of this engagement now takes place online. Policy makers are encouraged to use social media to conduct preliminary research, to consult stakeholders and as a feedback channel to inform the wider policy development process.

Although policy-making is assumed to be owned by those formally responsible for the design and delivery of services, whether at local/district, state/regional or national/federal level, that is not always the case. Concepts such as crowdsourcing and open and contestable policy-making are paving the way towards a much more distributed model.

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  • Professional development (teachers) comprises the initial training and subsequent development of all those engaged in educating and meeting the needs of gifted learners. This is not confined to teachers, though they will form the majority of beneficiaries. Other educators and paraprofessionals will also feature, some of them working directly with gifted learners, others engaged in related activities such as school leadership or academic research. Parents and carers may also benefit and there is a ‘training the trainers’ dimension too.

As with learning, professional development incorporates formal programmes that can be undertaken face-to-face, online or in a blended format. Provision may range from a full postgraduate degree at one end of the spectrum to a module requiring an hour or so for completion at the other.

And professional development is also making increased use of social media to provide the basis for collaborative interaction in a rich, multimedia online environment. As online and blended options become more popular, one might expect traditional face-to-face models to decline in popularity.

Meanwhile, social media also host a substantial and increasing volume of voluntary, independent professional development undertaken through personal and social learning networks (of which more below). And the distinction between these two strands is becoming increasingly blurred as those undertaking both at once build links between them so that formal and independent learning become mutually supportive.

This increasing reliance on social media and social networks is congruent with a widespread shift in the delivery model for professional development, away from top-down centralised models and towards devolved, bottom-up networked solutions that depend principally on educators supporting each other. Social media can help to combat the disadvantages of this distributed approach by extending its geographical reach and helping to ensure consistent quality.

Because educators are, by definition, at the forefront of pedagogical innovation, they too have a strong interest in pioneering these developments, testing out new approaches to learning on themselves.

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  • Research (academic researchers) includes all activity devoted to the production of knowledge about how best to meet the needs of gifted learners and those supporting them, as well as evaluation of the costs and benefits of doing so.

It may be undertaken in a formal context – typically a university or think-tank – and the product may be a research paper, report, lecture, presentation or book. Such research may be expected to inform advocacy, learning, professional development and policy-making but, if it is to do so, it must be shared openly with the relevant stakeholder groups rather than remaining in locked repositories.

Through the open access movement there is increasingly pressure to ensure that the outcomes of academic research are fully and freely available online, so that knowledge is not restricted to those in formal research environments and others with the ability to pay. Social media provide the means to distribute such research outcomes widely

But research may also take place in a different organisational environment, such as a third sector organisation, or be undertaken by advocates and/or educators working individually or collaboratively (including via a social network). It may be published through social media, perhaps in the form of a blog post or a wiki.

This democratisation of research, enabling those outside higher education settings to generate, publish and disseminate their findings, parallels similar developments in the other facets of gifted education already summarised above.

Whereas roles and responsibilities were once rigidly defined and allocated to specific subsets of the gifted education community, social media are beginning to bring about a more inclusive scenario – one which calls into question the relationships between different stakeholder groups that previously existed.

This provides an opportunity for those who were once in relatively subservient positions – or felt themselves to be so. But it also poses a threat to those who were formerly in positions of greatest power and influence. If I am right that the academic element has been over-dominant in the gifted education community, then social media may provide a means to rectify that imbalance.

But policy-makers and educators will also need to resign some of their former influence in this new environment. Indeed, as noted above, none of the five areas I have defined is any longer the province of a single stakeholder group. We must all work more closely together to make progress in each of the five.

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Lizard courtesy of GP Junior

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Social Media

This term is also convenient shorthand, typically used to describe the online environment, including the various platforms and tools that people use to interact, through the publication, curation, sharing, discussion and collaborative development of different kinds of content.

In the last few years there has been a tendency to use the alternative term ‘web 2.0’, as a synonym, distinguishing social media from the earlier, non-interactive phase of internet development, but this seems now to be yesterday’s jargon, especially as various attempts have been made to delineate a new ‘web 3.0’ phase (so far without much consensus over the meaning of the term).

Strictly speaking, the human interaction undertaken via these social media is more accurately described as networking. When using social media one sees constant reference to social networks and personal networks and, in an educational context, the word ‘learning is often added. But it is hard to find straightforward explanations of what exactly these two phrases mean.

This is my current imperfect understanding:

  • Social learning network synthesises two different concepts that predate the internet and sets this hybrid in an online context. One is the idea of networked learning, achieved through communication between members of a learning community; the other is the social network, originally describing any social structure comprising individuals and groups. The latter phrase is now more commonly used to describe online interaction between a group of users who share a common interest and/or use a common platform.

A social learning network is essentially a group of users who form such an online community for the purpose of learning. There is an ever-increasing range of social learning platforms which embrace a variety of different models. Some are more accurately described as teaching networks, because they feature a fairly traditional teacher-student relationship; others are designed to support collaborative peer-to-peer learning.

A subset that receives particular attention is caught by the acronym MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Some MOOCs are hosted by traditional universities and there has been a spate of recent high profile launches. Enthusiasts regard MOOCs as precursors of fully scalable free online higher education which could rival more traditional cost-bearing university-based courses.

Others are less sure, with some critics suggesting that a certain adherence to traditional lecturer-student relationships is out of kilter with the core principles of networked learning. Commentators are beginning to highlight more of the downside.

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  • Personal learning network (PLN) is a popular phrase amongst educators who are active social media users. Essentially it describes participation in networked learning from the individual’s perspective, being the network of other people that the individual interacts with for the purpose of learning. It can also be interpreted as including the platforms and tools the individual uses for that purpose, though that is sometimes conceived of as a separate ‘personal learning environment’.

Such learning is self-directed and typically informal. Lalonde describes it thus in his thesis on The Role of Twitter in the Formation and Maintenance of PLNs (I have removed some of the academic references to improve the flow):

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a network of people you connect with for the specific purpose of learning. These people may assist you in your learning by acting as a guide, direct you to learning opportunities, and assist you with finding answers to questions.’

Lalonde adds this helpful gloss:

‘…PLNs also appear to differ from similar informal learning constructs, such as a Community of Practice (CoP) or a Network of Practice (NoP) in that both CoPs and NoPs are bound by a common practice, or specific domain of knowledge or interest..

…While people may follow similar people within their PLN, the PLN is an autonomous construct that is uniquely created by each individual to serve their specific learning needs. Therefore, there is no collective intention driving the development of the PLN as there is with a community, but rather a personal intention on the part of the person constructing the PLN…’

A PLN – or, more accurately, a PLE – may be constructed on the basis of several different tools and platforms, though most people come to rely principally on one or two. It is of course preferable that time and effort is invested predominantly in the most effective routes and that one aims for synergy between the tools/platforms selected.

To take a personal example, I rely predominantly on microblogging via Twitter and this Blog, though I also make less intensive use of Facebook and Linked In. I deploy various secondary tools to support this approach – eg Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Bitly, Memolane – and, from time to time I test out other tools to see whether they would be valuable additions. Because of the development of GT Voice, I am also exploring the interaction between that social network and my own PLN.

The 2012 edition of the NMC Horizon Report for Primary and Secondary Education identifies the use of PLEs as an innovation that will become influential, entering the mainstream within the next two to three years.

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 Globalisation

My hypothesis is predicated on the argument that we are living in an age of globalisation, that globalisation is bringing about globalised education and, that being the case, we are entering a phase of globalised gifted education. Many of our former assumptions about what we can achieve and how need to be recast to fit this new environment.

Globalisation has a general meaning and a more specific economic definition. In general terms it describes a process of increasing integration and interaction regardless of geographical distance and national boundaries. The pace of globalisation has increased as a consequence of improved transport and communication, especially online communication.

Economic globalisation is the process by which national economic markets have become increasingly interdependent. In some areas of economic activity they have already merged into a single world market; in others, that is rapidly becoming the situation.

This has been attributable partly to the increased ease with which the means of production, especially human capital, can be moved physically from one place to another. But improved online communication has also meant that human capital does not always need to move physically to the location in which it is applied.

This is particularly the case in the so-called ‘knowledge industries’ which rely on highly-skilled labour. IT itself is one example; education is another. Many countries have invested heavily in the development of highly-skilled labour with a view to creating a ‘knowledge economy’ which can thrive in a globalised environment.

Education (alongside training) is both the means by which such labour is developed and one of the segments of the knowledge economy, employing a workforce that is engaged in educating the current and future workforce and the production and application of knowledge through research and innovation.

Education is no longer confined by national and geographical boundaries. Learners can more easily move to a learning environment outside their own country, learning providers are establishing bases in different locations around the world and the internet provides a mechanism for increasingly sophisticated distance learning. This applies as much to gifted learners and gifted education (and also related professional development) as it does to any other field.

Some countries have realised that they must invest significantly in gifted education to feed the pipeline of highly-skilled labour that will drive their knowledge economies. Several of the ‘Asian Tigers’ fall into this category, notably Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are other notable examples.

They have recognised the economic value of investment in gifted education in a globalised environment. Other countries, including many of the leading Western economies, seem to prefer a strategy to raise the overall standard of their educational provision while simultaneously reducing achievement gaps between disadvantaged and other learners.

Given the latter emphasis, the rationale for gifted education in those countries may be articulated more in terms of equity and social mobility than in terms of economic investment. Or, where there is no rationale and no investment, the debate may be dominated by the significant gap between the needs of gifted learners and the capacity of the education system to meet those needs.

So some countries are investing in gifted education as a direct consequence of globalisation, but gifted education is also on the cusp of globalised delivery.

As social media create an increasingly sophisticated online learning environment, international exchange will no longer be confined to traditional academic conferences, franchised operations (such as CTY) and occasional opportunities for gifted students to attend summer schools abroad.

But it is not just learning and professional development that are becoming globalised. So are advocacy, policy-making and research. The introduction of online social media is both a driver of globalisation and our most effective means of response, across all five areas of gifted education outlined above.

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Robin courtesy of GP Junior

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How widespread is use of social media?

Before we go further, it is important to offer some further context for those who are relatively unfamiliar with the current reach and sophistication of social media.

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History

This is not the place for an extensive treatment of the historical development of social media since its earliest origins, but those seeking to understand the timeline and key stages of development can gain at least a broad understanding from this selection of infographics available online:

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Scale and Scope

It is less straightforward to convey succinctly to those not closely engaged a clear impression of the current scope of social media – the vast range of tools and platforms available and the way in which they can interact to create a holistic online environment.

I can only exemplify the former by referring unfamiliar readers to this online directory which provides details of and links to several thousand different applications.

These two infographics attempt a taxonomy of social media covering some of the most-used tools and platforms:

Two further infographics give a sense of how these different services mesh together from the perspective of the user:

  • This describes six types of activity undertaken by social media users, providing details of the extent of participation by age in the USA for each of them; and
  • The Social Media Effect is a simple flowchart illustrating how different social media tools and platforms can support each other.

This final infographic – Social Web Involvement – is the best illustration I can find of the huge number of people who use social media for different purposes in different parts of the world. This data is already three years old and the figures provided are likely to have increased significantly between then and now!

(The charts show interesting disparities between different European countries and we shall investigate that further below.)

This more recent Comscore Report from Autumn 2011 provides some mind-boggling statistics illustrating the scale of use and the pace of change:

  • Social networks have 1.2 billion users aged 15+ worldwide – 82% of the global online population
  • Social networking is the most popular online activity accounting for 19% of all time spent online, up from just 6% in 2007
  • Social networking is increasing in every country surveyed – 43 in all
  • The percentage of the online population using social networking has reached 98% in the USA and ranges from 86-98% in the 18 European countries surveyed
  • European females spent an average of 8.2 hours per month on social networks; European males spent an average of 6.3 hours per month.
  • People aged 55+ are the fastest growing group of social network users with 86% of all those active online in Europe now social network users
  • Between 2010 and 2011, use of instant messenger services by 15-24 year-olds declined by 42% and use of email declined by 22%; meanwhile, use of social networking increased by 34%

This post provides statistical key facts and infographics for seven of the leading English language social networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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More about Social Media Use in Europe

An Autumn 2011 European Commission study on adult Media Use in the European Union (27 member states) reports that:

  • 35% of all Europeans use online social networks at least once a week and nearly 20% use them on a daily or almost daily basis. However 44% said they never used online social networks and a further 11% said they had no access.
  • There are significant differences according to age: 56% of 18-24 year-olds use online social networks on a daily or almost daily basis, as do 29% of 25-39 year-olds, 14% of 40-54 year-olds and 4% of those over 55.
  • But there are only minor differences according to socio-economic status (as measured by employment) with 23% of managers, 25% of white collar workers and 20% of manual workers using online social networks daily or almost daily. Some 60% of students fall into this category.
  •  The Netherlands reports the highest usage – 56% of people use online social networks at least once a week. They are closely followed by Latvia (55%), Denmark 54% and Sweden 54%. The lowest usage occurs in Romania (22%), Portugal (24%) and, perhaps surprisingly, Germany (27%).
  • The biggest increases in usage by this measure since 2010 are reported in Luxembourg (+11%), Greece (+10%), the Czech Republic (+10%) and Austria (+9%).

As far as children are concerned, a September 2011 Report by the EU Kids Online Network published results of a survey of 25 European countries, concluding that  77% of 13-16 year-olds and 38% of 9-12 year-olds have a profile on a social networking site.

A supplementary analysis from the same source shows significant variance between countries.

  • The highest percentage of 13-16 year-olds with a social media profile is in Norway (92%), Slovenia (91%), Czech Republic (90%), Denmark (89%) and the UK (88%).
  • The parallel figures for 9-12 year-olds are: Netherlands (70%), Latvia (65%), Denmark (58%), Poland (58%), showing that there is significant variance between these two age groups.
  • The lowest incidence of social media profiles were found amongst 13-16 year-olds in Turkey (61%) and Romania (63%) and amongst 9-12 year-olds in France (25%), Germany (27%) and Spain (28%).
  • Gender differences are small – overall, 58% of boys and 60% of girls have a personal social media profile.

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Magpies courtesy of GP Junior

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In 2010 the European Commission published Learning 2.0 – The Impact of Social Media on Learning in Europe which uses survey evidence from 2008 and 2009.

It found that:

  • In 2009, across 27 countries surveyed, an average 31% of the population aged 16-74 used the internet ‘for seeking information with the purpose of learning’, up from just 8% in 2007. The proportion varied significantly between countries, exceeding 60% in Finland and Iceland.
  • In 2009 5% of the population used the internet to pursue an online course. The percentage per country ranged from 1% to 18% (Belgium)
  • In 2008, 35% of the population and 57% of internet users made use of the internet ‘for advanced communication services related to social media’. For 16-24 year-olds, these percentages rose to 73% and 83% respectively.

A sense of how quickly things are shifting can be obtained by comparing these figures with 2011 data from Eurostat, which shows:

  • 38% of all 18-74 year-olds participating in social networks within the last three months; 80% of 16-24 year-olds and 83% of students met this criterion. The overall percentage ranges between 72% in Iceland and 25% in Romania;
  • The overall percentage of 18-74 year-olds pursuing an online course remains at 5%, but the highest national rate has reached 14% (in Finland). Moreover, 8% of all 16-24 year-olds and 10% of all students are pursuing an online course.  The countries recording the highest percentages for students engaged are: Finland (50%), Lithuania (37%) and (perhaps surprisingly) Romania (22%).

In the UK, ONS Data for 2011 shows that 57% of adults who accessed the internet in the last three months did so for social networking purposes, with the percentage reaching 91% amongst 16-24 year-olds. Seven percent of adults accessed the internet to undertake an online course, including 9% of 16-34 year-olds and 45-54 year-olds.

The 2010 Report also drew on two commissioned research studies of the incidence of learning based on social media, concluding:

‘Within formal Education and Training… a great number and variety of locally embedded Learning 2.0 initiatives have been identified across Europe, which illustrate that social media can be, and are being, used by Education and Training institutions to:

  • facilitate access by current and prospective students to information, making institutional processes more transparent and facilitating the distribution of educational material;
  • integrate learning into a wider community, reaching out to virtually meet people from other age-groups and socio-cultural backgrounds, linking to experts, researchers or practitioners in a certain field of study and thus opening up alternative channels for gaining knowledge and enhancing skills;
  • support the exchange of knowledge and material and facilitate community building and collaboration among learners and teachers;
  • increase academic achievement with the help of motivating, personalised and engaging learning tools and environments;
  • implement pedagogical strategies intended to support, facilitate, enhance and improve learning processes.

The research on learning in informal (online) learning networks and communities… concludes that social media applications provide easy, fast and efficient ways to access a great diversity of information and situated knowledge. They also provide learners with opportunities to develop their competences in collaboration with other learners, practitioners and stakeholders. Additionally, they allow individuals to acquire competences in a holistic manner, embedded in real-life contexts; and effectively and efficiently support competence building in a lifelong learning continuum.

Research on informal learning activities in online networks and communities further suggests that informal Learning 2.0 strategies facilitate the development of key competences for the 21st century.

To sum up, both research lines point to the fact that social media can lead to innovations in four different dimensions. Firstly, social media allow learners to access a vast variety of (often freely available) learning content, which supports learning and professional development in a lifelong learning continuum; contributes to equity and inclusion and puts pressure on Education and Training institutions to improve the quality and availability of their learning material.

Secondly, social media allow users to create digital content themselves and publish it online, giving rise to a huge resource of user-generated content from which learners and teachers can mutually benefit, also encouraging more active and pro-active approaches to learning.

Thirdly, social media connect learners with one another, and to experts and teachers, allowing them to tap into the tacit knowledge of their peers and have access to highly specific and targeted knowledge in a given field of interest.

Fourthly, social media support collaboration between learners and teachers on a given project or a joint topic of interest, pooling resources and gathering the expertise and potential of a group of people committed to a common objective.

These four dimensions (content, creation, connecting and collaboration) have been labelled as the four C’s of Learning 2.0 in IPTS research.’

This December 2009 presentation by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre exemplifies how the 4Cs were then being embodied in online practice.

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(Not Much) More about How Educators Use Social Media

The social media learning environment has improved radically since 2009, providing far more choice and a far richer multimedia experience.

But, while there is an abundance of material online describing how innovative educators are using social media to support pupil learning and their own professional development, it is surprisingly hard to find reliable survey information about how teachers more generally are utilising these techniques and tools.

I can find no recent and reliable survey data for Europe, or even the UK, though there is some limited material relating to US and Australian practice. The Australian sample is very small, while the US survey dates back to 2009.

 

Here ends the first part of this post. In Part Two we will examine more closely the challenges faced by contemporary gifted education, how social media is helping to frame our response and what steps we might take to maximise its contribution.

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GP

September 2012

Contributions to the ECHA Conference Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education

 

My last post set out our plans for a Symposium and Twitter chat on Social Media and Gifted Education, taking place on Thursday 13 September at 14.15-15.55 local time in Munster, Germany. Please consult this link for times in your part of the world.

The timetable for the Symposium is as follows (Munster time):

14.15-14.55 – Introduction and presentations from Javier Touron, Peter Csermely and Roya Klingner respectively

15.00-15.35 – Presentations from Tim Dracup and Albert Ziegler respectively, followed by response from Joan Freeman

15.35-15.55 – Open discussion for local and Twitter participants featuring comments on Twitterwall

We want to give participants – whether in Munster or engaging via Twitter – the opportunity to access material in advance, so they are better prepared to take an active part in the proceedings.

So I am posting here links to all presentations and papers relevant to the Symposium. We now have a full set:

The presentation includes an embedded video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqb8nKbOo-c&feature=channel&list=UL

This summarises a two-part post which sets out my full argument:

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We very much hope you will join us for the Symposium, either in person in Munster or online via Twitter. If you will be joining us on Twitter please use the #echa12 hashtag.

We look forward to a lively and informed debate that is not just theoretical, but will ultimately help to bring about real improvements in how we utilise social media to support giftedness and gifted education.

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GP

September 2012

ECHA Conference Symposium: Social Media and Gifted Education

 

The 13th International Conference of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) is taking place from September 12-15 2012 in Munster, Germany.

One of the sessions is a Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education. It is scheduled for Thursday 13 September from 14.15 to 15.45 local time, which corresponds to these times elsewhere in the world.

The overarching Symposium Abstract says:

‘We will explore:

  • the extent to which social media have been applied to gifted education;
  • the benefits and the risks that social media can bring, whether for learners, parents, educators or policy-makers; and
  • how this field is likely to develop over the next few years.

We will discuss what further collaborative action gifted educators in Europe and beyond might take to capitalise on the potential for social media to build and maintain valuable connections between gifted learners and educators, for the benefit of all involved. Our treatment will be located within research on gifted education and social media respectively, but we will be focused primarily on the development and support of effective practice’.

There are six participants, five of them offering presentations

Given the focus of the Symposium, it seemed especially important to build in a social media dimension, to illustrate the value added to a traditional conference setting.

So we have agreed that there will be a Twitter session during the final hour of the Symposium. This will involve:

  • A link to a special session of Global #gtchat powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented.
  • A special #echa hashtag for this session, which we also hope to use to livetweet from the ECHA conference as a whole (the session will therefore form part of the Conference feed).
  • A Twitterwall inside the Symposium, enabling those in the room to project their Tweets to other participants, and those participating at a distance to interact with those in the room.

The abstracts of the five presentations are set out below. As presentations are prepared and published, I will provide links to them from here.

Depending on the progress we make, it may be possible to engage in social media-driven discussion of the issues raised ahead of the Symposium. We can then use those contributions to help frame part of the Symposium proceedings.

Anyone interested in participating in the discussion – whether in Munster or at a distance – is most welcome to use the comments facility on this Blog. All ideas and suggestions for how we might shape this process are welcome.

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Abstracts of the Five Symposium Presentations

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Social Media Networks and the Talented Youth – Peter Csermely

Social media networks provide contact options having a width, ease and safety unprecedented before. These networks turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge and tacit networks into explicit networks. With well structured net-platforms both communities and their databases (video sharing, links, lists etc.) will be self-organized saving enormous time for talented people and their mentors when trying to find the right information and contacts. Such platforms also have the possibility to form the public opinion of the talented people, their parents and the talent support community.

Talented people especially need these novel forms of social contacts, since

1.) their attention is more multi-focused than others’;

2.) they are often too sensitive to risk the possible humiliation of face-to-face first contacts,

3.) they often have a peculiar daily schedule not shared by the majority.

Despite of these unique opportunities, we are at the very beginning to use social media networks to provide special options for talented people. There is ample room for presenting the “Me-World” for others, and there are more and more special e-courses for the gifted. However, there are very few options for the self-selection of a talented community, and for joint creative project-works of talented people, especially in a cross-country, cross-continent manner. Talented people need both a stable net of trusted contacts and surprise. Therefore, we have to design these networks giving both the “strengthen me with the joy of meeting those who think likewise” and the “surprise me with a new contact option, which gives me the excitement of novelty” options.

The above are some of the goals that the newly formed Budapest Centre of European Talent Support will try to accomplish.

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How Social Media Can Help Us Overcome the Problems We Face in Gifted Education – Tim Dracup

Within education as a whole we are only beginning to utilise the huge untapped potential of social media to revolutionise learning, professional development, advocacy, research and policy-making. The global gifted community is starting to realise that social media can provide part of the solution to many of the issues that it has been wrestling with for decades. But the number of enthusiastic ‘early adopters’ is still relatively small, the majority are not yet fully engaged or persuaded and a few feel excluded or even directly threatened.
This presentation analyses the problems and priorities faced by the global gifted community, as seen through a European lens. It examines how social media might be harnessed to address these and reviews the progress made to date. It identifies concrete action that could be taken to secure further and faster progress. It also isolates some of the key risks associated with a social-media driven approach and considers how those might be mediated or circumvented.
Participants will be strongly encouraged to share their own perspectives and experience, regardless of whether they are experts, beginners or somewhere in between.

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The Importance of Global Gifted Education through Social Media – Roya Klingner

Global networks are increasingly a part of our work and social life today. This presentation examines the importance of networking in the field of gifted education at the regional, national, and in global levels. It describes types of networks through Social Media. Incentives and preconditions likely to make successful networking are examined. I will explain my experiences in Secondlife, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Google plus.

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Social Networks: Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice – Javier Touron

In just a few decades, social networks have expanded beyond all expectations. Instant messaging, whether of everyday chat or serious insights, via smart phones and computers of all sorts, whizz round the world on e.g. Facebook and Twitter, and pictures and images through Flicker and Pinterest. This hyped-up communication, though, is not only a means of social conversation or making business deals, at least for those who have access to it, the social media are a vital influence on the means and outcome of education.

Teachers and parents in their many thousands share their experiences and daily practices in how to help children develop. But it is strange how those who work with the gifted and talented seem slow at catching on to the potential of these vital means of communication. Researchers and thinkers are lagging behind.

In my presentation, I will look at the roles and contributions that scholars of gifts and talents should be able to offer to the web community. In particular, I describe how ECHA and other associations should respond and adapt to the new demands of the populations we are aiming to serve. Our institutions could be the authoritative voice that helps administrators and politicians improve legislation and policy, as well as act as a beacon for teachers and schools. I will illustrate these points through my personal experience as a new Blogger-Facebooker-Twitter user.

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Cyber Mint Communities – Albert Ziegler

In this contribution to the symposium “Social Media and Gifted Education” a complementary perspective is taken. Though social media is usually very broadly defined as all web-based and mobile based technologies that can be used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between participants, the meaning in the field of gifted education is quite restricted. It usually refers only to the information transfer among gifted educators, advocates, giftedness researchers, etc.

However,social media can of course also be used in gifted education. In my contribution I will report of a joint project with Heidrun Stoeger from the University of Regensburg. We founded a virtual community that presently consists of 100 so-called Cyber Mint Communities (CMC). Each of these CMCs, in turn, consists of six participants: three girls talented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and three women working in the field of STEM (professors, engineers, etc.). In the virtual community a wide range of computer-mediated communication is possible that is intended to foster a participatory culture in online STEM activities.

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GP

July 2012