GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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What is the long-term impact of programs for the gifted? What happens to students enrolled in these programs for eight or more years after they graduate from high school? Do they "turn out" any differently from students who are not enrolled in these special programs? Should educators of the gifted focus more on long-term objectives for their students such as preparing them for particular career areas and high levels of post-high school success? Unfortunately, even after thirty years of programming for the gifted in several states, there are not many answers to these and related questions from longitudinal studies, post-high school surveys, or college admissions and undergraduate performance data.
As a result of studies of individual differences in gifted students' abilities, such as those conducted by Dr. Mary Meeker and her colleagues, we have better information concerning how students with different types of giftedness develop and apply their abilities to adult life and work. If educators can use testing instruments such as those developed by Dr. Meeker to place children into different categories of giftedness, then they should be able to design effective programs that expand the abilities defined by these categories. For example, by using a variety of assessment instruments, the following categories of giftedness might be used, beginning in grades 5 or 6: Philosopher-Scientist, Philosopher-Engineer, Writer-Politician, Writer-Thinker, and Leader-Doer.
Dr. Meeker's research on the Structure of Intellect during the last 30 years has concentrated upon identifying children who show different types of giftedness, and giving them an education suitable to their unique abilities. Educators of the gifted should use her findings on giftedness among minorities to design more intensive assessment programs for Hispanic and Black children, and to plan effective differentiated instruction. Her research on the abilities of minority group children (described in her article) also demonstrates how the persistence of a great psychologist and educator has produced important and practical information about this controversial field of research. We applaud her for her dedication and success in a very difficult area of research -- the psychology of individual differences. An expanded version of this article will appear in Beyond Terman: Longitudinal Studies in Contemporary Gifted Education (Rena Subotnik and Karen Arnold, editors) to be published by Ablex in 1992.
Dr. Mike Walters has written an article on the humanities for almost every issue of this Newsletter since it first appeared in the spring of 1987. His extensive knowledge of literature, philosophy, history, politics and current affairs has provided our readers with information about how the works of great writers, thinkers and innovators can be used to teach gifted students. We greatly appreciate his insights into the humanities and the educational needs of gifted students. His current essay about James Michener discusses how the books of this outstanding novelist and humanitarian can be used to study ecology and the ways in which different ethnic groups have worked together to improve societies and nations. Michener's books represent a true multicultural curriculum beyond comparison.
Jay Johnson's article is a continuation of his last essay (Spring 1991 issue) on computer literacy for the gifted. He discusses the essential features of an effective computer curriculum and provides details from his experiences as a computer scientist and teacher.
Please let us know how your gifted program is faring in these "budget cutting times." May you have much success in educating your gifted students during the 1991-92 school year!
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Ph.D. Publisher
IDENTIFYING AND PROGRAMMING FOR MINORITY GIFTED STUDENTS: STRUCTURE OF INTELLECT RESEARCH
BY MARY MEEKER, PRESIDENT
SOI SYSTEMS VIDA, OREGON
America has always been a country of invention and innovation. And many Americans need not look too far back in their ancestry to find family pioneers who participated in the early development of the United States. Some crossed the ocean in search of a life free from tyranny, some to find freedom to worship and new hope; some came to claim as their own a piece of land to farm. And a few came just for the adventure. All who came found opportunities as they hoped. And most of them encountered a new language -- English.
The next wave of emigrants arrived eager to work hard, forsaking their own heritage to make this country and its language their own in order to emancipate their hearts, their spirits, their bodies and their minds. And in so doing, they made some of the world's most important creative contributions with an ingenuity that revolutionized government, farming practices and communication. Many of these early emigrants were gifted, even though unschooled, and because of the "newness" of the world, their discoveries and inventions aided their work. They did not have to be formally educated to resolve the problems or conditions that thwarted productivity. Being unschooled did not negate giftedness, and certainly not creative giftedness.
By the beginning of the 1900's, with the advent of industrial growth, the progeny of these emigrants revolutionized business and industry practices. And on the whole it is their descendants who, since World War II, have revolutionized medicine and science.
However, with the ending of each major war in which America has been engaged, there has been another onrush of emigrants. Today's emigrant children have vastly different attitudes and aspirations from those of earlier emigrants. They must enter school systems that are entrenched in an elite educational tradition derived 200 years ago from the dame schools -- educational institutions that do not "bend curriculum expectations" to facilitate the needs of these children. Few if any of these schools facilitated the education of non-standard English speaking children, American born or otherwise, and concomitantly, across the country these newly spawned programs for the gifted were notoriously limited to anglo children who came from linguistically advantaged backgrounds.
It remained for the gifted child movement, coming on the forefront of the consciousness raising 60's, to spearhead a search for culturally diverse gifted children. The monies for doing so, however, did not come from local school budgets but from the federal government. Local schools would not support additional funds to identify the gifted, culturally diverse or not. In one sense, federal and state funding was a kind of bribery to force appropriate educational plans for the diverse. On the other hand, educators concerned with the gifted foresaw potential talent going to waste for lack of identification because the traditional instruments, the Stanford-Binet and WISC-R, were and are so heavily verbal and dependent upon knowledge -- exactly what the culturally disadvantaged lacked. The federal government's appropriation of special funding for identifying these gifted has initiated a profound awakening concerning the meaning of "the average student" and it may change the overall philosophy of American education.
Almost simultaneouly, with the change from industrialization to technology in the work place, the notion was being discounted that general knowledge produced enough education to generalize to the world of work. We know, painfully so, that our schools are producing both literate and illiterate children -- few of either are educationally prepared to take their responsibilities as adults. A traditional education does not prepare the child for the age of electronics and technology. In one sense, we have come full circle in that only the leisurely elite can afford the traditional 3-R's education still fostered by most schools.
But many of these emigrant children are gifted, just as are many of our blacks, hispanics and American Indians. Most of them enter school handicapped in the use of the English language and of culturally exchanged values and knowledge. They are not only predisposed to failure in unrelentingly non-changing school systems, but few have been placed into gifted programs. Even with the movement to identify culturally diverse gifted children, the mainstream education (where most of them are captive) into which they are placed does not facilitate their gifts, does not change the standard curriculum, and certainly does not prepare them for jobs when they leave school. And with only a few exceptions, unless there is special federal funding, the schools do not adapt to identifying or teaching to their gifts.
There have been gifted people since the beginning of the human race, and humans still benefit today from their efforts -- from their finding and controlling fire, their developing and using the wheel, their developing storage containers for water and various objects, their originating many different alphabets to express and record languages, from Archimedes' discovery of the principle of buoyancy and the ensuing design of navigational charts, from their discovery and application of mathematical principles, and finally from inventing the printing press. These major accomplishments made progress possible, progress that has benefitted all of the world's people. Evidence of a different kind of giftedness has also come down from prehistoric times in the form of all of the arts, music, writings and architecture of civilizations worldwide. In more recent history, we have benefitted from discoveries and inventions of the steam engine, electricity and the turbine, and more recently, the microchip and the computer. Just as our society today has been improved by earlier discoveries, the microchip and computer are making changes in every aspect of science and government which will affect tomorrow's worlds. We can only guess at how computers will change the actual structure of the human brain in children, but we can be sure that brain structures will be changed.
So although there have always been gifted people and children with gifted potential, long before there were tests, it was only when educators, in response to Sputnik (1957), wanted to enhance natural potential that formal gifted programs occurred.
This "giftedness on demand" approach that comes from formal identification procedures is very different from the historical occurrence of giftedness. Formal identification places the responsibility on school systems to do something about it, unlike historical giftedness which surfaced and was considered to be giftedness only after the accomplishment. Giftedness was inferred after some kind of accomplishment -- a demonstrated performance or product. In other words, it was an "after the fact" occurrence. Until the 1960's, a student who became a valedictorian might at that time be considered gifted, or using 1930's lexicon, a genius. The salutatorian, however, who may have been only a fraction of a grade point below, received little or no accolades. Yet, the salutatorian was certainly as gifted academically. There are still a few schools left that look upon human giftedness as only being academic in nature.
In the historical "after the fact" approach to giftedness, there were of course, no "failures" because there was no "plan"; or put another way, there was only one success -- the valedictorian. You might, however, have been considered gifted if, when all was said and done, you had distinguished yourself successfully in business, politics or the world of the arts. Early books on giftedness were biographical documentations. The authors, interested in how the eminent got that way, searched for insights to help us understand the concept of giftedness. That the great majority of the eminent were men -- from very well-to-do families, most of whom had special tutors -- was a fact that was not questioned. Nor did these early investigators try to explain why few women achieved eminence or why hardly anyone who was eminent (not infamous) came from poverty. Even today we are left with a gnawing question -- what happened to the many gifted women who would not adopt men's names in order to have their work accepted?
Just as our minds today are bounded and limited by our knowledge, information too is bounded by knowledge. Thus, the knowledge gained from information about the eminent led early investigators to believe that intelligence was inherited. And intelligence was, ipso facto, a hereditary trait. This erroneous conclusion made it easier for educators then to be accepting of the general IQ score.
Giftedness Gone Awry When Intelligence is Expressed as a Single Number
Today's psychologists and educators see the need for longitudinal studies as part of an attempt to demonstrate that there is a science of giftedness.
California was the first state to make a legal mandate on behalf of gifted children, but it was New Mexico that was first to respond publicly and positively to the criticism that minority children were not being admitted to gifted programs; although Florida and California were also searching for solutions to the testing problem. This section reviews a few of the studies in which, through the use of special identification techniques and efforts, various ethnic groups have been identified and taught according to their unique needs. California, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Arizona and New York have attempted to equalize the proportion of non-standard English speaking with advantaged gifted students for inclusion in their gifted programs. Some of these students have been followed throughout the years. But like most school-based studies, one, two or three years seem to be the limit.
Qualifications and Operational Definitions. The studies reviewed here, limited because of space, come out of school practice. Some studies were doctoral dissertations, some were master's theses, and others were simply data collection summaries for accountability or for reports to funding agencies. All were based on good statistical designs. For the most part, these data have been collected by schools whose professionals in charge of gifted education were far more concerned with identifying and developing good programs for minority and culturally different students than with publication. You will find the general findings under each ethnic group.
In general, studies to identify Navajo, Shoshone, Comanche, Nez Perce, and Canadian Indians (west and east coasts) show similar patterns of intellectual abilities: Gifted Abilities -- Figural spatial abilities, Visual memory for details, Auditory memory, Symbolics; Undeveloped Abilities -- CoNvergent production abilities, Vocabulary, Verbal Relations, Verbal Systems (sequencing), Classifications (concepts).
1977. The first native American search for the gifted was instigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in New Mexico. Four-hundred (400) Navajo children in reservation schools at Chuska, New Mexico and Greasewood, Arizona were tested on the Structure of Intellect-Learning Abilities Test, Form A. From these 400 children in grades 3-6 a total of 60 (30 from each state) were selected as gifted by this criterion: for each ability on which three grade levels above expectancy was achieved, an index of 1 was given. The average score was an index of 8 (range from 3 to 12). Of the 400 students, only 3 made a gifted score on any one of the three semantic (verbal) tests.
Posttests after one year of Structure of Intellect (SOI) training found significant improvement in reading as measured by the Metropolitan Reading Tests and significant increases in SOI abilities.
1980. In an effort to identify Canadian Indians in Nova Scotia, Tom Hengen used the SOI-Learning Abilities Test and reported (at the National Association of Gifted Children meeting of 1982) that many of these children had superior to gifted symbolic abilities. He designed a mathematics program to include computer work. He compared these students on pre- and posttests with typical gifted students in advanced mathematics who had access to computers. Without any specific performance requirements of these gifted students, they played games instead of working problems. The Indian students outscored the other students on mathematics posttests. In addition, as their mathematics skills improved, their attitude towards school also improved, and after the second year, they were working at superior levels in traditional reading tasks.
Various age groups from California, New Mexico, Texas and Florida, as well as children and engineering students in Mexico City, have been studied over time. As a group, they initially show: Gifted Scores -- Creativity (Divergent Production of Figural Units, Divergent Production of Semantic Units), Grade 4 & up -- Copying (Convergent Production of Figural Units; Undeveloped Abilities-- Significantly low in classification, in grades K-3 very low copying skills, Semantics.
One of the curious findings from many studies has to do with the vastly different meanings of words in the Spanish language. These differences reflect the high flexibility and dynamic changing of the Spanish language among different pockets of hispanics in both Americas.
1975. One of the oldest and best continuing minority programs in the United States is in San Diego. Under the leadership of Dr. Dave Hermanson, Mexican American children were identified as gifted based on their achieving a score at or above the 95th percentile on at least six of the twenty-six SOI abilities. After identification and placement in SOI training, their intellectual abilities improved, i.e., their standardized achievement test scores increased. An unexpected finding was that the families of these students tended to remain in the school district rather than moving on. When the elementary students reached high school, they were given opportunities in the visual and performing arts. With their high symbolic abilities, they were "naturals" for computers when Apple Computer Corporation donated computers to all of the schools.
1982. In two studies, one in California and one in Texas, training was instituted in an effort to improve the achievement, self-concept and motivation of Mexican American students with specific intellectual abilities. The major concern of educators related to these students is their high dropout rate. It is understandable that, after years of failure and poor achievement because their language does not prepare them for the English-based curriculum, they can hardly remain in the humiliating school situation they experience during adolescence.
Several school districts have placed their hispanic students who have high abilities into a gifted program on the basis of gifted creativity, figural, and symbolic abilities even though their semantic abilities were low and would not allow them to compete with advantaged anglo gifted students. When matched initially with these gifted students who did not receive course work in creativity (divergent production), the hispanics made significant gains on posttest measures of creativity.
These findings, along with similar findings from other studies, should alert educators that economically or linguistically disadvantaged students profit immeasurably from a curriculum that will facilitate their strengths. The result of such facilitation is that: success increases self-esteem. Self-esteem acts as a motivator to succeed in a curriculum that they otherwise would not have attempted to master. Brain research has demonstrated that the brain has mechanisms for addiction to drugs and foods. It will "demand" repetition. It will produce chemicals that make the body healthy if it is "happy." It also easily becomes addicted to success, and then craves more success. Positive rewards for efforts condition the human (and animal) to respond successfully. When educators fail students, they use negative conditioning because students' efforts cannot overcome their lack of preparation for learning.
In general, black children who are advantaged have similar patterns of giftedness compared to advantaged white children. However, economically and linguistically disadvantaged black children show similar patterns of gifted abilities. Unlike hispanics, where patterns of ability remain stable over time, adult blacks do not show similar strengths and weaknesses over time. (Female black adults and gifted athletes show different patterns.)
The abilities of black students found through SOI research are: Gifted Abilities -- Auditory, Figural, and Motor Abilities; Undeveloped Abilities -- Visual Memory, All Semantic Abilities.
Boys with patterns of high auditory memory but low visual memory will do much better in arithmetic and mathematics than in language arts where much visual memory is required. Low visual memory in combination with low semantic abilities in impoverished low-income blacks almost guarantees their failure in subjects requiring developed reading skills. The obvious solution, of course, is to include daily intellectual abilities lessons in the primary grades that develop visual memory, vocabulary, verbal relations and verbal sequencing. In those schools where this change in curriculum has occurred (Lincoln, Nebraska; Berryessa, California; Santa Monica, California; Los Angeles private schools; Portland, Oregon; south Florida, and Louisiana) the incidence of school failure is significantly reduced.
[An interesting finding among disadvantaged black children is that the incidence of poor nearpoint dysfunctions (Cognition of Figural Units, Evaluation of Figural Units, Cognition of Figural Transformations) is lower than in any other population. The exception is that approximately 90% of black juvenile delinquents are found to have a combination of low visual functions, low semantics, and therefore limited reading skills even with years of remedial reading. This contrasts with 65% of hispanic delinquents who have visual dysfunctions. Reports of the incidence of visual dysfunctions in delinquents with 20/20 sight range between 80 and 85% (Dr. David Dzick of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Dr. Steve Kaseno of San Bernardino, California).]
Black adult females show very similar SOI patterns to those of anglo females. Of 200 black females seeking CETA counseling and jobs, 94% were gifted in verbal relations (Cognition of Semantic Relations-CMS) while 75% were gifted in auditory memory. All had high school diplomas. A two year follow up after SOI training found these abili-ties increased and low abilities (visual closure for sustained reading, memory and spatial abilities) improved significantly.
Black football players who were gifted athletes also showed low semantic abilities along with gifted auditory memory and gifted spatial abilities. After receiving two years of training, their semantic abilities improved enough to make a qualifying score on the SAT.
The importance of these differences is that early English language deprivation has long range effects but is more likely to be ameliorated with training in blacks than in hispanics. This latter group retains facility in their language and their early entry into the majority culture is thwarted by adherence to their own close knit culture within the American community.
There is controversy about what creativity is and, no matter how it is defined, whether it can be taught. We take a positive approach. We know that intellectual abilities can be developed and we use the divergent production abilities as measures of specific kinds of creativity. It has been our experience that divergent production abilities, like memory abilities are easily improved.
Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Gifted
As early as 1979, educators of the deaf, dissatisfied with consistent below average scores that deaf and hearing-impaired students made on traditional tests of intelligence, designed studies to identify specific intellectual strengths. They were also searching for potentially gifted deaf students. As is often the case in testing methodology, there has been much disagreement about which method was better for testing deaf students. In the past, more funds and effort were expended to settle this issue when the methodology may not have been nearly so important as the kinds of intellectual abilities these students had. With this population, the controversy more often is concerned with overt communication -- signing versus vocal speech -- than with the kinds of intelligence that can be parlayed into a permanent advantage.
The initial findings related to differential developmental growth expectancies in SOI abilities. When compared with hearing student norms, there is a three year deficiency in most abilities except for figural classifications during the primary grades. The gifted ability in figural classifications across both genders and three grade levels suggests that the initial learning process for storing information is a classification strategy. In other words, each new item is comprehended and stored on the basis of being similar to something already known.
After grade three (ages 8-9), the abilities of deaf and hearing-impaired children make steady and increasing improvement. The age at which this improvement occurs corresponds to Piaget's conservation stage.
When we average all tests within the 14 dimensions of the Structure of Intellect, we find that even though there is a three year over-all delay in progress for these deaf and hearing-impaired children, they nevertheless score as a group in the gifted range in visual memory (4 memory abilities), systems thinking (4 systems abilities), figural classifications (Cognition of Figural Classes-CFC), and the creative use of space (Divergent Production of Figural Units-DFU).
The handicapped students in grades 10, 11 and 12 who participated in this study also received career and vocational computer analyses which were used by counselors to help them make career plans.
An Interim Evaluation of Gifted Programs
The author has followed up 69 Anglo students, ages 8-10, identified in 1963. The first findings were reported in "The Gifted: Case Studies" (Maurice Freehill, editor), and subsequent studies appeared in the Journal of Creative Behavior (Volume 12, No. 1, 1978), and at the World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children in Hamburg, Germany on August 1, 1985.
A summary of the last study entitled, "A Twenty-Three Year Follow-Up," confirmed that:
(a) The overriding SOI ability of these gifted individuals who were identified at an early age was and remained gifted Memory abilities.
(b) They were at ages 32-34 in 1985 when they evaluated their careers, schooling, social adjustment, teachers, parents, and the gifted programs. Although their parents were controlling and demanding of high standards, they were loved as children.
(c) The comparison group consisted of students who were also tested on the Stanford Binet and WISC-R tests after being recommended for gifted testing by teachers, but who scored below 132 and between 130 and 126 (less than 1 standard error). They also felt positively about their parents. However, since many of their friends were "gifted," they felt left out of the special program opportunities provided to gifted students.
(d) In contrast to the treatment group (the "gifted individuals), one-third of the comparison group owned their own businesses while only one former gifted student did. Two of the former gifted students were free lance writers.
(e) Many of the comparison group individuals became designers and entered the art fields. The "gifted" group had been originally divided into three categories when at the elementary level: The academically oriented, the talented in the arts and music (although there were no programs in the arts or creativity in 1963 or later), and school leaders. Later, teachers in high school rated them in these three categories again. Unknown to their high school teachers, the gifted students were placed in the same categories as in elementary school. Five of the "leaders" were also rated as being highly academic in high school.
These three categories were projected into careers that used the gifted students' unique characteristics. The "academics" became teachers and engineers. The "leaders" went into law and business (now two are state senators). The "creatives" became writers and TV directors. One individual, a combined "academic" and "creative," has already been successful in the field of music and is in law as well. Three boys were lost -- one in Vietnam, one to suicide and one to drugs.
In conclusion, giftedness is no respecter of age or ethnicity. The search for excellent procedures for identifying gifted potential has begun, and as a consequence, programs for the gifted will continue to improve and to include disadvantaged children.≈
"In contemporary culture, no idea is so appealing, no word is put to more frequent and more varied use than 'creativity.' In a new reference book of contemporary quotations, there are fifteen entries for Creativity and only three for Conversation, two for Wisdom, one for Contemplation, and none for Serenity or Repose. The magic of the word 'creative' is so broad that no distinct meaning need be attached to it; it fits all situations, pointing to nothing in particular. Its sway extends over all of art and science. . .to education, to our view of the human mind and what we conceive to be the goal of life itself." Jacques Barzun, 1989, The American Scholar
JAMES MICHENER: EPIC NARRATOR OF ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"Cullinane had seen olives before, but never a grove like this, and as he was about to enter the building from which the dig would be directed, he felt himself pulled across the road to inspect one notable tree -- a veritable patriarch whose gnarled trunk was merely a shell through which one could see in many directions. The tree bore only a few branches, but these were thick with maturing olives, and as the archaeologist stood inquiringly beside this stubborn relic he was as close to the mystery of Makor as he would ever be, and in the presence of this august tree John Cullinane felt humbled." (The Source by James Michener. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1990, p. 24.)
James Michener is a writer whose fiction can be described as ecological in texture. His approach and sensibility is holistic and organic. The characters and plots of his books are about how humans interact with their physical and biological environment. His narrative unfolds amidst geography, history and culture. In all of his novels, he emphasizes the importance of geography in relation to the human condition, and to plants and animals. He describes this approach to writing fiction as social geography.
Before he started to write fiction, he was a social studies teacher. This experience was a fruitful apprenticeship for his development as a writer since the techniques he used to design social studies curricula were used in writing his novels. Michener worked towards a doctorate in social studies in Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. But instead of finishing his doctorate, he joined the staff of the laboratory school at the University of Northern Colorado.
"The more I work in the social-studies field the more convinced I become that geography is the foundation of all....When I begin work on a new area -- something I have been called upon to do frequently in my adult life -- I invariably start with the best geography I can find. This takes precedence over everything else, even history, because I need to ground myself in the fundamentals which have governed and in a sense limited human development....The virtue of the geographical approach is that it forces the reader to relate man to the environment. It forestalls loose generalization founded mainly on good intentions or hope. It gives a solid footing to speculation and reminds the reader that he is dealing with human beings who are just as circumscribed as he." (James Michener, "The Mature Social Studies Teacher," Social Education, November 1970.)
The novel Centennial which is about the state of Colorado is a typical Michener book. The beginning is an account of the evolution of the Rocky Mountains and their surrounding landscape. Next, there is a chapter on the animals that have Colorado as their habitat; this is more than an account of animal life, since it tells the "story" of Colorado from the viewpoint of the animals that live there. The other parts of the book describe human interaction with nature, the animals and with each other, resulting in the state of Colorado. The epic aspect of this novel includes the history of Native Americans, trappers, farmers, ranchers, and modern day land developers. It is not individuals as specific personalities that are the author's main concern, but how these individuals and groups interact with all aspects of their environment. The plot is concerned with the moral and ethical choices they make and how these decisions affect the ecology of Colorado.
Michener's work is an example of the best way to deal with the controversy involving multicultural curricula. His life-style and novels reflect an individual who has lived, studied and written about the land, animals, cultures and peoples of several continents and races, e.g., Centennial discusses the formation of the North American Continent, Native Americans, Latinos, and European Americans; Poland covers the cultures and people of Central Europe; The Covenant describes South Africa, the Afrikaners, black Africans and the history of Dutch and English settlers in this country; The Source describes the history of the Middle East, Israelis, Arabs and Christians; and Sayonara shows the interaction between Japanese and American cultures.
Michener's books demonstrate his concern with social problems, ecological crises, and the cultural interaction between diverse racial and religious groups. He also shows how racial and ethnic tensions can eventually lead to harmony, not only among each group but with nature and animals as well. "When you grow up at the bottom of the totem pole, you see things from a different perspective, and with me there's always the circumstances of my birth. If I really don't know who I am, I can hardly look down on anyone. I seem to have a Germanic turn of mind, but I may be Jewish or Lithuanian or part black. With the uncertain background, one's attitude becomes quite liberal." (James Michener, 1977. Quoted in James Michener: A Biography by John P. Hayes. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1984, p. 11.)
This holistic, ecological sensibility of Michener should make his novels required reading for gifted students who have a similar sensibility. Every scholar in the field of gifted education (e.g., Renzulli, Ward, Meeker, Fisher, LoGiudice) describes the holistic manner that gifted students approach a theme or subject. Michener was a gifted student himself, despite his poverty, and he received a scholarship for his college education during a time when this type of financial assistance was very scarce.
A reader of Hawaii once wrote to James Michener expressing how the opening chapter reminded her of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament (from U.S. News & World Report, June 17, 1991, p. 59). This attribute of his writing, his great narrative power especially as used to express his holistic, organic and ecological reverence, is what has created a global audience for his books. He captures universal problems in describing specific places, and he makes the reader aware that the present contains many elements of the past. This makes us all develop a sense of communitas and concern for humanity.
"I have always believed that an event has not happened until it has passed through the mind of the creative artist able to explain its significance. I suppose that is why from earliest times we have had the narrators who sat around the campfire at night to recount the heroic adventures of that day. Because these adventures really did not happen until they were crystallized into words and comprehensions." (James Michener, "Comments on Words and Exploration," Social Education, May 1977.)≈
Becker, George J. James A. Michener. N.Y.: Frederick Ungar Pub., 1983.
Hayes, John P. James Michener: A Biography. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1984.
Michener, James. "An Author's View of Social Studies," In Education Week. July 31, 1991, pp. 68-69.
National Council for Social Studies. James A. Michener and the Social Sciences: His Writings in Publications of National Council for the Social Studies from 1938 to 1987. Wash., D.C.: NCSS, 1991.
Rosellini, Lynn. "The Man Who Loves Facts." U.S. News & World Report. June 17, 1991, pp. 58-59.
Viadero, Deborah. "Novelist -- and Ex-Educator -- Muses on Curriculum Debates: A Conversation with James Michener." Education Week. July 31, 1991, pp. 8-9.
HOW GIFTED STUDENTS CAN GAIN COMPUTING MASTERY
BY JAY JOHNSON REDMOND, WASHINGTON
Computing mastery for gifted students should begin with a general understanding of how the major electronic parts of a computer system work, knowing the basic mathematical and scientific principles behind computer design, how computers are used now and may be used in the future, what software is, and how it works with computing hardware. Gifted children also should learn how to use fundamental software tools such as editors and different computer languages, and how to develop programs to accomplish specific tasks. These are essential components of a first computer science course geared to gifted children in the upper elementary grades.
Topics to be covered should include binary and hexadecimal arithmetic, elementary boolean mathematics, electric circuits and the physics associated with electricity, general information about silicon chip manufacturing and use, programming in LOGO, BASIC, and Pascal, as well as discussions of how computers are used in society.
Every gifted student should have a computer on his desk and have mastery over that computer. The computer should be used as much as pencils and notebooks. Gifted students should use their own computers to telecommunicate, create multimedia presentations, write programs, design simulations, create experiments, draw pictures, and do all the myriad tasks associated with learning any subject. Learning ability is thus multiplied in the same way a forklift multiplies the lifting power of muscles.
Once resources are available and students are beginning to use them, don't waste time and effort on frills. It seems that elementary level instructors are often rushing to display the flash and sizzle of computers, while neglecting the substance of computing science. It must be remembered that in computer education, enticing children with the technology is only the beginning. It's fine to use a concept that excites students, such as computer animation, and to demonstrate it. After doing this, however, teachers should explain how it works, and give children the tools they need to do their own animation.
Computer Availability. The more simple, fully supported microcomputers a teacher can obtain (e.g., Apple II's and IBM PC's), the better. Some computing mastery can be learned without using a computer, but computer access is absolutely essential for learning about software tools and programming. The more gifted students can play with a computer, look inside it, try to make it perform tasks, and in general do their best to learn by experimentation, the better they will learn and the more enjoyable the learning will be.
Most software and hardware will eventually become obsolete in the sense that something better will someday be available at a lower price. Schools should not reject software or computers simply on the basis of current or future obsolescence. The basics of computing mastery can be taught on almost any microcomputer, and will never become outdated, no matter what happens to specific hardware and software.
There are many good science, mathematics, and computer-oriented programs available. Choose programs that are flexible and feature interactive computer graphics. Programs which can be used as tools of inquiry and analysis, like Logo Writer and Rocky's Boots, are ideal.
Beginning Computer Science Curriculum. This curriculum must include intuitive electronics, fundamentals of Boolean arithmetic, beginning computer science theory, and some programming. You can teach many of the basics in intriguing ways even without a computer. For example, I taught my daughters the basics of computer circuitry before they entered first grade. I cut doors in cardboard boxes, each door representing an "and" gate, "or" gate, "and/ or" gate, "nor" gate, etc. We used toy ponies to see what had to happen for them to travel through each door.
Even if no computer is available, students can role-play computer and user interactions with one child responding as a computer would if given specific commands. Children can also role play computer circuitry by linking hands and acting as binary switches to create an adding machine.
Mathematics By Computer. Mathematics curricula need to be modified to teach binary and hexadecimal arithmetic, and Boolean algebra. By using charts and tokens, gifted children can easily learn Boolean algebra and the arithmetic of computers. Mastering these concepts can not only lead to computer knowledge but will also help reinforce the learning of other mathematical topics.
Mathematics teachers who have access to computing resources can provide gifted students with the "power tools" of learning. Experienced teachers of computing and mathematics for the gifted say these students should have access to LOGO for all mathematics learning. Mastering LOGO, Logo Writer, Lego LOGO will give gifted students a set of computing tools which can be effectively used with most subjects.
Laboratory Equipment. Experiments should involve working with computer chips. Even without lab equipment, a clever teacher can let gifted children role play as computer gates and circuits, passing "on" and "off" messages and forming binary numbers. Each student can then assemble gates to create their own amazing machines using the program, Rocky's Boots.
Ideally, only some of the computing resources in a school should be "tucked away" in a centrally located lab. The best place for a computer is on the desk of each student where it can be used to learn all subjects. Other electronic equipment, such as video disk players, VCRs, digitizers and optical readers, robotic components, etc. can greatly enhance the appeal and applicability of computing power.
Teaching Computer Mastery. Most teachers receive little or no technology education through their school districts. In, fact fewer than half the teachers in the United States have even a single computer in their classroom and most districts fail to provide adequate in-service training even after they obtain computers and related equipment. (Teacher Magazine, Jan. 1991, P. 36.)
Certainly there are fine computer training programs in some school districts. In fact, the Lake Washington School District in Redmond, Washington requires each teacher to take a two-week full-day course to acquaint them with computers. At the end of this course, the MacIntosh computers that were used by the teachers are given to them to keep. In this district, all classrooms have computers, and every school has a computer center the children look forward to visiting each week.
Summary. Computers are best suited for teaching the analytical and problem-solving skills our gifted students most urgently need. They must be provided with the means and motivation to learn the inner workings of computers and how to program them for their own sake and for the survival of our civilization.
Bierman, A. Great Ideas in Computer Science: A Gentle Introduction. Cambridge: MIT, 1990.
Johnson, J. What's Inside The Magic Box: Using Personal Computers in the 21st Century. Manassas: Gifted Ed. Press, 1991.