GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME NINE, NUMBER FOUR
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There is much concern and confusion today about the future of books and literature in our schools and society because of the increasing role of the computer. Electronic innovations such as word processors, CD-ROM, and the Internet have caused many educators to question whether electronic media will replace the important position of the printed word since the invention of moveable type in 1455. Clearly, this is a valid concern for anyone in gifted education because books have provided the most important personal sources of learning for their students. Through books, they can acquire new information about different cultures, study the history of ideas, stimulate their imaginations to produce new ideas, engage in silent dialogues with great characters from literature, and study the works of outstanding philosophers, thinkers, social critics, biographers, historians and scientists. Many educators and commentators on American society fear that the widespread use of computers in the schools and home will destroy these positive effects.
It is also clear that the computer revolution cannot be stopped. Rapid advances in multimedia programming and the World Wide Web (Internet) are having increasing effects on how children learn in different curriculum areas. The positive benefits of these different modes of learning can be enormous if educators of the gifted take advantage of them. First, many children who do not learn effectively through using books might benefit greatly from multimedia computer programs that teach mathematics, science, logic and reasoning, geography, and history. Such children may be more spatially-pictorially than verbally oriented, and would therefore learn at more rapid rates with a well-designed computer program. These children might also be the largest school population of "hidden" gifted students who need multimedia computer programs to demonstrate their exceptional abilities.
The second important opportunity for learning that computers offer the gifted is their powerful ability to search for and retrieve information from large data bases. Whether engaging in the search for different words on the CD-ROM version of the Oxford English Dictionary or using various gopher features of the Internet, highly motivated gifted students have the world of knowledge at their fingertips. Some examples of wonderful information sources we have encountered on the Internet and World Wide Web are: science, history and art displays from national and foreign museums, science education resources, information from NASA about space flights and exploration, discussions of world literature such as Shakespeare's plays, articles from magazines and newspapers that can be retrieved by selected topics and keywords, and reviews of new computer technology. With the help of knowledgeable teachers who serve as guides through this mass of computer-based information, the gifted student can be challenged to seek, organize and study about many topics not readily accessible in school libraries and homes.
We see another important and crucial advantage of the new multimedia and electronic communications technology as being the atmosphere of personalized learning created by these devices. The feelings of control and independence derived from working computer programs can have strong positive influences on gifted students' attitudes about learning and motivation. Because of the boredom they experience in many regular education classrooms, the multimedia computer programs that concentrate on subjects like dinosaurs, space travel, world/national geography, thinking games, and world/national history can provoke the gifted out of their intellectual malaise resulting from dumbed-down teaching. Indeed, numerous programs can serve as their personal tutor into the world of high-powered enrichment and acceleration.
Of course, there is a downside to the multimedia and Internet revolution such as the large amount of useless junk they can produce, and the enormous amount of time one can waste on worthless programs and bad information. Unfortunately, there are no standards currently available for sorting out this junk. This is why educators must play an important role in helping gifted students to separate the "wheat from the chaff." There is no such thing as Computer Heaven in this world of electronic sight, sound and instantaneous information -- at least we haven't found it yet.
This issue includes Judith Wynn Halsted’s article on the value of using books to teach gifted children. She is a dedicated supporter of using literature to promote their intellectual and social-emotional development. We have also reviewed her latest book in this issue, Some Of My Best Friends Are Books (1994). The article by Adrienne O’Neill and Mary Ann Coe is a compre-hensive discussion of the available resources on the Internet. They are educational computer experts who have recently published the book, Integrating Technology Into The Curriculum (1995). Michael Walters’ essay on the Apollo 13 Mission shows how the movie and related books teach us some very important lessons about giftedness.
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher
BOOKS: A BASIC GIFTED PROGRAM
BY JUDITH WYNN HALSTED
AUTHOR: SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BOOKS EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT, TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN
The literature in the field of gifted education insistently reminds us that twenty years of progress in education for our gifted students is now being reversed (Purcell, 1995). As gifted programs are eliminated, those that remain become more vulnerable, creating uncertainty for parents, teachers, and students. Regardless of the current trend in education, the students identified as gifted for the programs that no longer exist are still in the classroom, and their successors are coming along. Teachers and parents continue to note the characteristics that flag them as gifted and in need of special educational programming. Only the schools' response has changed, often to the detriment of the students (Renzulli and Reis, 1991).
There are other students in our classrooms as well, who may have just barely missed a cut-off point for a gifted program but nevertheless need more challenging work than average learners. These children--not formally identified as gifted but more intellectually curious, enthusiastic learners than average, or displaying unusual artistic or musical talent--they too need educational programming beyond that required by most learners.
Teachers and administrators who are aware of this group of special-needs children and casting about for a low-cost way to meet their needs would do well to return to an educational tool so basic that it is in danger of being overlooked: the book. Good literature, and good discussion of that literature, can go a long way to enrich the educational experience of students whose gifted programming has been eliminated. For teachers who must cut back to a basic gifted program with little or even no funding, and for parents who wish to compensate at home for a lost program at school, this article offers suggestions on how to get started.
Emotional and Intellectual Needs of Gifted Youngsters
With the publication of Guiding the Gifted Child (Webb, Meckstroth and Tolan) in 1982, educators of gifted students, until then focused on meeting intellectual needs, turned their attention also to the emotional needs of these children. Many books and articles published since then (Colangelo, 1991; Delisle and Galbraith, 1987; Kerr, 1991; Webb, 1993) examine the emotional development of gifted young people.
By 1985 Dr. James Webb, senior author of Guiding the Gifted Child, wanted to develop better ways to discuss emotional issues of growing up gifted directly with the students involved. Learning that I had background in both literature and gifted education, he suggested a book that would help parents and teachers address emotional needs of gifted youngsters through bibliotherapy--a guide to appropriate books combined with suggestions for productive discussion. The result was Guiding Gifted Readers (Halsted, 1988), the first book to deal extensively with bibliotherapy for gifted youngsters. In the second edition, titled Some of My Best Friends Are Books (Halsted, 1994), the section on intellectual needs is enlarged to balance the treatment of emotional needs.
The distinction between emotional and intellectual needs is an important factor to consider in forming a plan to use books as the basis for a gifted program. Decisions about the children served, the books selected, and the discussion questions and format used are all based on the first decision: is the goal to promote emotional or intellectual development?
Book discussion designed to promote emotional growth--in this case, to encourage healthy resolution of issues facing gifted children as they mature--is called developmental bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is often mentioned briefly in a discussion of emotional needs, with the recommendation that the teacher suggest certain titles to students in the hope that they will gain insight into their problems from them. But a book is not a pill; much more planning and involvement are required for true bibliotherapy.
Likewise, bright students are sometimes given a list of titles for summer or college bound reading, in the hope that they will grow intellectually through reading specific books. And probably they will; but much more can be gained if serious discussion follows the reading. In this article we are talking about emotional and intellectual growth for gifted students through programs that are based on books and well-planned discussion.
Whether the goal is emotional or intellectual growth, books can be an effective tool in a basic gifted program if they are seen as one leg of a three-legged table. The other two legs are the student reader, and an adult who reads the book too, and prepares to discuss it with the student. To push the metaphor a little farther, we might call the discussion the table-top, that which pulls it all together and makes the whole arrangement useful.
Beyond the Curriculum with Books
Motivation to begin a reading and discussion program might come from a recent article about parents' reaction to the dilution of gifted classes in Seattle ("Parents Voice," 1995). The article tells of a seventh-grade humanities teacher who met the challenge of a mixed-ability class by replacing Jane Eyre, which is popular with gifted readers, with a novel by Gary Paulsen, a good contemporary author whose style is not as demanding as Charlotte Bronte's. The parent or teacher who is glad to have gifted students reading Paulsen but also hopes to introduce them to more challenging literature may want to add a reading/ discussion program that reaches beyond the curriculum.
Determining the Purpose
The teacher can begin by examining her goals. Do her students need intellectual challenge? Or does she hope that by reading and talking about books she can help her students prepare emotionally for some of the developmental challenges they face because they are gifted?
Selecting the Students
Setting goals and selecting students are probably intertwined, as the teacher considers the personalities and interests represented in her class. But there is another consideration: the students in this program should be good readers, past the need to develop reading skills and ready to focus on content, on the ideas in the books.
A related issue is the student who is a good but resistant reader--the one who prefers sports or computers to books. Should the program be required, to include such students? Or voluntary, to include only those who love reading?
Finding the Books
Just as surely as the selection of the students involved will be determined by the purpose, the books read will be chosen with the teacher's goals in mind. If her goal is intellectual challenge, she can choose from a wide range of good literature, creating a booklist of her own choosing. Lists of appropriate books are also found in Some of My Best Friends Are Books (Halsted, 1994) and in Books for the Gifted Child (Baskin and Harris, 1980) and Books for the Gifted Child, Volume 2 (Hauser and Nelson, 1988).
What makes a book intellectually challenging? The teacher should look at language (demanding vocabulary, humor, strong visual imagery); style (use of metaphor, allusion); plot (complex structure, multi-leveled); and setting (varied times and places; not exclusively late-20th-century America).
If he wants to work with the emotional issues of growing up gifted, the teacher must work with a somewhat more focused booklist. He would begin by noticing what issues appear to be relevant for the children in his class. He might find students who are unwilling to acknowledge their giftedness out of fear of being different; who are making inappropriate decisions about developing their abilities; who are struggling to build friendships; or who are coping with characteristics related to giftedness such as perfectionism, sensitivity, and intensity. Some of My Best Friends Are Books (Halsted, 1994) offers suggested titles, as do some books and articles on emotional needs of the gifted. One source is "The Reading Room," a series of columns by Stephanie Tolan that appeared in the newsletter, Understanding Our Gifted, for several years.
What characteristics should he seek in a book to promote discussion of emotional issues of growing up gifted? Most important is that the author be able to develop characters with whom students will identify. These characters are often gifted, whether or not they are labeled as such. They are coping with one or more of the issues listed above, or with other questions familiar and compelling to students. And they are credible; that is, the author is skilled at creating believable people who change in response to external or internal events. Finally, the characterization and the plot must have enough depth to sustain a discussion.
Planning the Logistics: Time and Place
Here we encounter one of the advantages of using books for a gifted program: flexibility.
This is especially true of programs designed for intellectual development. Book discussions can occur anywhere: in a corner of a classroom or the library, in an empty room or office, in a car on the way home. For bibliotherapy, however, discussions should take place in a space that ensures privacy.
They can also occur anytime: during reading class, at lunch or recess, before or after school, during an enrichment program--all the usual fragments of time teachers must find in the day to meet individual needs.
The teacher can hold discussions with groups or with individual students. Intellectually-oriented discussions can be led by the classroom teacher, the school or public librarian, a counselor, a volunteer parent, a teacher's aid, or a mentor. Again, bibliotherapy differs: it requires more specialized preparation.
Planning the Discussion
Having settled all of the above questions, the teacher (or other discussion leader) must read the same books the students read and plan discussion questions, keeping in mind the goal.
If the intent is to provide intellectual challenge, the leader has several choices of discussion format. The Junior Great Books program is one place to begin. Although not designed exclusively for gifted students, it does provide a discussion method that helps students to focus their thinking about what they have read. Any of a number of other discussion methods can be used, modified if necessary to avoid emphasis on fact questions. The discussion leader can usually assume the students have read the book and understand it at least on a surface level, so the focus can be on questions requiring synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.
For emotional issues, the leader attempts to guide the reader through the steps in bibliotherapy: identification, catharsis and insight; that is, identifying with a character, experiencing feelings with the character, and adapting new knowledge to the reader's life. Leading a bibliotherapeutic discussion requires a thorough grounding in the issues gifted youngsters face, awareness of counseling techniques, and readiness to refer to a mental health professional when necessary. It also requires more information on the steps in bibliotherapy than can be given in an overview such as this one. For this additional background, see Hynes and Hynes-Berry (1986) and Halsted (1994).
Most potential book discussion leaders have experience that enables them to envision an intellectually-oriented reading and discussion program with relative ease. Bibliotherapy often needs more explanation. To give a clearer picture of how it can be used with gifted youngsters, some examples follow.
Bibliotherapy: Discussion Samples
Laura Anderson's fourth-grade class includes several gifted children who are having trouble learning how to develop friendships. Knowing that they need both close friendships with others of their ability level, and skills to get along with classmates who do not learn as quickly as they, she develops a reading list: A Bridge to Terebithia, Harriet the Spy, and Summer of the Swans.
In Paterson's A Bridge to Terebithia, Jess and Leslie form the rare sort of friendship that parents of gifted children covet for their own sons and daughters. Coming from very different backgrounds, Jess and Leslie recognize something of themselves in each other. They share and foster the courage to be themselves, and although each is so much an individual that they do not fit in their classroom or their neighborhood, they find strength and validation in their friendship.
In discussing this book with her group, Laura asks questions designed to help her students analyze the elements in Jess and Leslie's friendship--the elements they need to identify and develop in their own close relationships. As they participate in the discussion, they are likely to be silently asking themselves more personal versions of the same questions, exploring how the answers apply to them.
Laura can leave these internal questions unspoken or can bring them into the discussion. Her decision will be based on her knowledge of her students and their ability to benefit from open discussion. Although she may never know how effective her questions are, she is establishing an environment in which introspection can flourish. The students' answers to their internal questions will be informed by the discussion and the responses of other students. For example:
LS: How do Jess and Leslie recognize each other as potential friends?
Student: (How can I recognize potential friends? Am I overlooking a possible good friend?)
LA: What do Jess and Leslie offer to each other to build a friendship?
Student: (What do I offer that might make people want to be my friend?)
Harriet the Spy tells of the prickly Harriet, who does not know how to get along with others and uses her intelligence and independent spirit as a weapon. Eventually her parents and teachers help her to use her powers of observation and her writing ability in positive ways. She comes to realize that she is intelligent--a key step toward dropping the defensive arrogance that some gifted youngsters display.
In this discussion, Laura wants to help her students see that giftedness need not hinder friendship if it is acknowledged and used positively, and that friendship requires skills they can learn.
LA: How does Harriet's intelligence get her into trouble? How can it help her get out of trouble?
Student: (How can I use my intelligence to get me out of trouble instead of into it? To make friends instead of enemies?)
LA: If you were writing a sequel to this book, what would you have Harriet do to make and keep friends, but still be herself?
Student: (What are the steps I can take to make friends without giving up my values?)
LA: When is it all right not to be popular?
Student: (Is it all right not to be popular? How can I choose when to follow the crowd and when not to?)
Unlike the two books discussed above, Betsy Byars' Summer of the Swans has no characters who appear to be gifted. Sara is fiercely protective of her younger brother, Charlie, who has been mentally handicapped since he was three. Sara and her friend Joe are models of empathic and caring behavior when impatience might be expected.
With sensitive guidance, Laura uses the passages that describe Charlie's thinking to lead those who have been ignorant or afraid to a sympathetic understanding of the mentally handicapped. She then attempts to generalize that understanding to a similar tolerance and valuing of all who are not so quick as a sometimes-impatient gifted child. Knowing that some of her gifted students are teased as "brains," she also directs some questions to the feelings behind teasing, and ways of coping with it.
LA: How do the different characters treat Charlie?
Student: (How would I treat someone like Charlie? Would I be kind or impatient? Would I tease?)
LA: How can we understand those who tease?
Student: (If I teased Charlie, why would I do so? How can I understand people who tease me?)
LA: Why and how does Sara help Charlie?
Student: (How could I help him--or someone in a similar situation? Can I be as patient as Sara is?)
Other examples can be given more briefly. For middle school students who are tempted to hide intellectual ability to enhance social standing, a discussion of Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved can focus on identity as a gifted person and the use of high ability: How do Caroline's and Louise's pictures of themselves affect their decisions? What difference does it make in personal happiness and in career choice to know you have a special ability?
Preschoolers who already sense that they are different can draw comfort from Leo Lionni's Frederick, the mouse whose friends value him as a poet in the cold of winter, when he recalls the warmth of sunshine with his words. Gifted students in the early elementary grades who have the typical deep concern about moral issues may identify with Harald, a medieval English boy who is awed by the majesty of the great stag and tries to thwart the attempts of the Baron's guests to kill it. Senior high students coping with the unusual levels of intensity that characterize giftedness will find in Madame Curie or Demian examples of others who share their strong feelings.
Whether the focus is on emotional or intellectual growth, books--accompanied by discussion--can provide a flexible, inexpensive, and extremely rewarding gifted program. For creative teachers and parents who love reading, here is a natural way to provide appropriate opportunities for these special students, even in difficult times.
Byars, Betsy. Summer of the Swans. New York: Viking, 1970.
Carrick, Donald. Harald and the Great Stag. New York: Clarion, 1988.
Curie, Eve. Madame Curie. Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1937.
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
Hesse, Hermann. Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth. New York: Harper & Row, 1965 (c 1925).
Lionni, Leo. Frederick. New York: Random, 1967.
Paterson, Katherine. A Bridge to Terebithia. New York: Crowell, 1977.
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved. New York: Crowell, 1980.
Baskin, Barbara H. and Harris, Karen H. (1980). Books for the gifted child. New York: Bowker.
Colangelo, Nicholas. (1991) Counseling gifted students. In N. Colangelo and Gary A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (pp. 273-284). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Delisle, James R. and Galbraith, Judy. (1987) The Gifted Kids Survival Guide II. Minneapolis: Free Spirit.
Halsted, Judith Wynn. (1988). Guiding gifted readers. Columbus: Ohio Psychology Publishing Co.
Halsted, Judith Wynn. (1994). Some of my best friends are books: Guiding gifted readers from pre-school to high school. Dayton: Ohio Psychology Press.
Hauser, Paula and Nelson, Gail A. (1988). Books for the gifted child, volume 2. New York: Bowker.
Hynes, Arleen McCarty and Hynes-Berry, Mary. (1986). Bibliotherapy: The interactive process: A handbook. Boulder: Westview Press.
Kerr, Barbara. (1991). A handbook for counseling the gifted and talented. Alexandria: American Association for Counseling and Development.
Parents voice protests as schools dilute gifted-student classes. (1995, May 23). The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, A10.
Purcell, Jeanne. (1995). Gifted education at a crossroads: the program status study. Gifted Child Quarterly, 39, 57-65.
Renzulli, Joseph S. and Reis, Sally M. (1991). The reform movement and the quiet crisis in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 35, 26-35.
Tolan, Stephanie. (1989-1994). The reading room. Understanding Our Gifted, 1-6.
Webb, James T., Meckstroth, Elizabeth A., and Tolan, Stephanie S. (1982). Guiding the gifted child: A practical source for parents and teachers. Dayton: Ohio Psychology Press.
Webb, James T. (1993). Nurturing social-emotional development of gifted children. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, and A. H. Passow (Eds.), International handbook of research and development of giftedness and talent. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
USING THE INTERNET: AN ELECTRONIC RESOURCE FOR GIFTED STUDENTS, THEIR PARENTS AND TEACHERS
BY ADRIENNE O’NEILL, Ed.D., CALDWELL COLLEGE, CALDWELL, N.J.
MARY ANN COE, THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM PATERSON, WAYNE, N.J.
In many ways we are all becoming aware that we will be required to enter the twenty-first century with the ability to use new communications and information acquisition skills through the Internet. Today when you take a new job, are oriented as a freshman in college, or exchange telephone numbers with someone, more than likely, you also obtain or exchange your E-Mail number. If you watch television, you have seen the new telephone company advertisements for home and business communications through the Internet. Local newspapers, national newspapers and magazines contain weekly articles about the Internet. Elementary and Secondary school teachers and students are accessing the Internet through their school libraries. Most new jobs result from on-line searches of the Internet and in 1994 Kevin Tanzillo (Communications News) predicted that in the not too distant future, two-thirds of the workers in the United States will telecommute through the Internet from home rather than going to an office each day. Given all of the evidence bombarding us on a daily basis, it is not hard to conclude that we are in the midst of a quiet, non-violent, technological revolution which is rapidly changing the way we live and work. If we don’t learn the new skills, it will be very difficult to get a new job or keep the one we have.
While the full potential of the Internet has not yet been realized and a catalogue of the global library would be very helpful, the Internet is a rich source of information and exciting communications opportunities for adults and children (On Internet ‘94 [see Endnotes for full details] is the closest thing to a catalogue). Information and communications flow through an interconnected system of 3.2 million host computers (called nodes) linked to 44,000 computer networks in 60 countries.
The present Internet evolved from 1969 to the present. Originally it was funded and run by the federal government, but in April 1995 the federal government exited and the Internet infrastructure is now commercially run by MCI and American Online. Currently it is estimated that 30 million computers are linking to the Internet. Conservatively it is expected that new users will number 2 million each year, or a 10% increase yearly. Others estimate 100 million users by 1998 and 200 million by the year 2000. (For a time line of Internet developments, see Baran, Nicholas, “The Greatest Show on Earth," Byte, July 1995, pp. 69-86.)
As the number of users grows and the commercial vendors increase, it is expected that the services on the Internet will expand. For example, video-conferencing is already possible and as new software for the individual user is developed, use of this feature will become more widespread.
Children are learning to use the Internet as early as pre-school in teacher-directed computer classes, but parental supervision is recommended for at home use. Regrettably there are unscrupulous users who wish to draw children into obscene discussions and recent network news stories have told of children being lured into leaving home to meet another user. Consequently, you will want to talk with your child about “safe” on-line practices, caution them never to reveal personal information, and to be certain that all is well, sit with the child as the Internet is used or print out a listing of the on-line activities that were conducted.
If you decide to use the Internet with your children you will find endless sources of information that can be accessed through electronic mail (E-Mail). For example, if your elementary child has a question about science they can get answers from Syracuse University students at apscichs @radford.vak.12ed.edu. Similarly, math questions will be answered at maths @sbu.edu. Using the World Wide Web page entitled, Math and Science Gateway (http://www.tc.cornell.edu/Edu/MathSciGateway.),grade 9-12 students can do scientific research or obtain help with math problems. The Writing Lab at Purdue University will provide information about correct grammar or usage and will answer questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can search for information about two-year, four-year colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools or find job opportunities by using the Web page called Peterson’s Education Center at http:// www.petersons.com.
Using Listservs, students will find information about many subjects. Usually these are programs that distribute messages. Try CHILDLIT@rutvml. Rutgers.edu for infor-mation about children’s literature or KIDSPHERE-request @vms.cis.pitt. edu for 10-15 year old global dialogues.
Usenet Newsgroups are discussion forums on a number of subjects. Try k12.chat.elementary for general discussions for elementary students, k12.chat.junior for junior high school students and k12.chat.senior for senior high school students. More sites for K-12 students and teachers can be found in Jill Ellsworth’s book (see Endnotes for complete citation).
New student projects are beginning all over the world. I*EARN (914-962-5864) connects students in Argentina, South Africa, Russia and many more countries. Recently students worked cooperatively in the Rope Pump project and designed water pumps which they designed and built and sent to villages in Nicaragua. Students in various parts of the United States are using the National Geographic Society’s Kids Network to take readings of acid rain levels and compare them using computers and modems. “MayaQuest” was sponsored by Classroom Prodigy and allowed students to vote and chose where and what to explore and study on a bicycle trip in Central America. Many students use the foreign language forum on CompuServe to talk with students in other countries using the language they are studying. The news services on the various commercial on-line access services are being used in classrooms as an alternative for outdated social studies textbooks.
If a student needs information for a research project, the Internet provides endless opportunities by allowing access to many of the libraries in the United States, the Library of Congress as well the data bases of the interconnected computer networks. Tapping the vast information resources of the Smithsonian Institution can be done on-line (sunsite.unc.edu) Information services continue to expand. For example, the University of Michigan has just created The Internet Public Library (http://ipl.sils.-umich.edu/) on the World-Wide Web. Everyone can use the reference section, children can enjoy a story hour, or parents can leave questions at the reference desk.
Many established colleges and universities are now providing courses through the Internet and new institutions are being created to meet the demand. One example is the American University of Hawaii, founded in 1994, and already serving 1000 qualified students world wide. While debates are raging on some college campuses because faculty members object to course credit being given for on-line courses, electronic communication is winning. Many faculty argue that the on-line courses are superior because students communicate more frequently using E-Mail than they did when they sat in lecture halls. The debate is causing the lines between on-line off campus and on-campus courses to blur. Consequently, in some on campus courses all assignments and handouts are now distributed on-line and chat groups allow students to communicate regularly with the faculty member teaching the course. Juniors and Seniors in high school can take on-line courses and receive transfer credit when they attend a college. Some adults are using the system to earn degrees without actually attending the college or university.
If you decide to become one of the millions of Internet users, know that accessing the Internet and becoming a proficient user is complicated and takes time. In order to use the Internet you need a computer, a modem, a telephone line, and telecommunications software. If you have the computer hardware and the telephone line, the hardest part of accessing the Internet is deciding what type of telecommunications software to purchase. None of the available software works perfectly for every application, so you will need to choose carefully.
One way to access the Internet is through a local area network (LAN). Before you buy software or join an on-line consumer service, check with your school district and your local library. They may have LAN connections to the Internet and you may be able to obtain information and access from them. If you can’t connect your own computer to the Internet using access from their system, you may be able to use their connection on their computers. You may be fortunate enough to live in a community with a FREE-NET (a name for a LAN) which will provide you with access and again, the local library can help you get started.
If you must make your own connection, it is probably wise to begin by reading one of the books mentioned in the Endnotes (Albano, Tin, “Read Only,” PC Magazine, October 11, 1994 recommended Ed Krol, The Whole Internet User’s Guide & Catalog [see Endnotes for complete citation]) as the best choice or to visit your local book store or library for other options. Most of the books about the Internet contain explanations of the simple computer (UNIX) commands you will need to know and listings of sites of information together with the file search capabilities provided by file servers such as ARCHIE, VERONOCA, GOPHER, WAIS (WIDE AREA INFORMATION SERVER), or the newest one WWW (World-Wide Web) which allows the user to instantly access other documents from a single document, using a hyper-text system. You may choose to access these servers on your own using software applications such as MOSAIC, LYNX OR CELLO. These programs can be downloaded using the Internet file transfer protocol (FTP) from the Internet for free or purchased commercially. New programs are also available for purchase and include: ACADIA, AIR NFS, CHAMELEON, DISTINCT TOOLS FOR WINDOWS, PATHWAY ACCESS FOR WINCOWS, SUPER TCP/NFS FOR WINDOWS, and WIN GOPHER COMPLETE. Purchasing the programs is expensive and often the novice finds it difficult to learn these programs. New users generally prefer to subscribe to dial-in on-line services.
Using the information in the books will help you decide whether you wish to purchase access to the Internet through on-line dial-in services such as THE PIPELINE (New York City only, 212-267-3636), BIX (800-696-4775), PRODIGY (800-PRODIGY), COMPUSERVE (800-848-8199), AMERICAN ON-LINE (800-827-6364), DELPHI (800-695-4005), NETCRUISER 1.52 (800-501-8649), INTERNET IN A BOX (800-998-4269), NETRAMP (703-904-4100), or private services which are springing up in all sections of the United States. Charges for these services can vary tremendously. For example, NETCRUISER has a $25.00 startup fee and a $19.95 monthly fee, while PRODIGY costs $9.95 per month and $2.95 for every hour above the initial five per month included in the fee. WINDOWS 95 is expected to ship in August, 1995 and is promised to contain a feature that will connect you directly to the Internet. While this feature is currently in litigation, it will be interesting to check the service if it becomes available. Therefore, as you read, you need to compare the services by checking what special software is required, the start-up and monthly charges and most importantly, the specifics of the access to the Internet provided by the service. Don’t forget to ask about the additional long distance telephone charges that will be incurred as you use the service. For this reason, you may need to select an Internet service that is close to your home or you may re-evaluate your long distance telephone carrier. For example, if you will use the Internet mainly for E-Mail, MCI may be for you. They are currently offering a $5.00 charge for sending 10 E-Mail messages with no charge if you are a regular customer and no charge for incoming E-Mail messages. In the near future, all of the major long distance carriers are likely to match such offers albeit with different names. For example, AT&T has recently mailed literature to all residential telephone users advertising Home Business Resources for those who wish to work from home and a free subscription to a new magazine called AT&T Powersource.
Computer magazines are also helpful to the novice Internet user. (The best magazine description of all that you need to know to connect to and use the Internet is contained in a series of articles in PC Magazine, October 11, 1994.) Online Access, Internet World and the general computer magazines such as PC Computing, PC World, MAC World, Home P, Home Office Computing, Computer Life, PC Magazine, and Byte, all contain useful information. For about $4.00 you can buy the magazine and often you will receive a free disk to try one of the on-line services. Trying out the consumer services on a free basis may help you decide which one you like, if any. If you cannot find a free disk with a magazine, you may wish to call the services using the 800 numbers listed above and ask them to send you a disk. Or, you could order the July, 1995 issue of PC Computing CD-Rom which includes software for every major consumer on-line service and a multi-media tour of the Internet (800-537-4680).
The major on-line dial-in services are constantly expanding their options and those with specific provisions for use by K-12 students are described below. (The dial-in service descriptions were taken from: Coe, M.A. and O’Neill, A., “Using the Internet, Advising Parents,” in Integrating Technology Into the Curriculum, Simon and Schuster, Boston, Mass. 1995.) --
America On-line: Scholastic Inc. is linked to this system, and Compton's Encyclopedia and the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, National Geographic Society, CNN, and a Career center provide on-line information. The service includes periodicals such as Time, Atlantic Monthly, Disney Adventures, Chicago On-line, San Jose Mercury Center, Compute, Consumer Reports, The New Republic, Wired, Worth, PC World and news from Reuters and NPR. In a space called Kool, students can talk about concerns of 6-12 year olds without adult interference (although the system is monitored by adults). There is also a mini-lesson library, a Homework Help area with subject specific sessions, a Teacher Pager for private tutoring, CNN Newsroom for Kids and the Amazing Dr. Science who will answer complex questions about scientific phenomena. A game section is also available and your child can play the games with others connected to the service. More than 50,000 free software programs can be transferred to your computer and on-line access to the Internet is provided.
CompuServe: This service includes extensive shareware (free software) for students, a Student Forum, and resources such as American Heritage Dictionary, Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia, Time Magazine and news from the AP wire. Your child can play games with others connected to this service.
Prodigy: This service is even useful for pre-schoolers and has the most reasonable subscriber rates because advertisements are included. There is a National Geographic area, a Sesame Street Play area, an educational bulletin board (Ask Beth), a chat area (Just Kids), and a homework help specific to Elementary and Junior High School Students. Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia and Dr. Know-It-All's Inner Body Voyage are available. Additionally, Reuters, AP and UPI provide news stories.
Eworld: Available only to Macintosh Users, provides games and chat areas as well as Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia, free access to the Internet, a news and sports service and for parents a forum and access to Exceptional Parent Magazine.
Genie: A computer Assisted Learning Center (CALC) allows the child to post homework questions by subject. There is also a service for having a discussion with a teacher in a specific subject area.
As you use the Internet you will find sites with interesting information. You will want to record these places and how you got there because it is often difficult to find them again. Eventually you will have your own Internet directory tailored to your particular needs and tastes.
Joining the world of Internet users will provide you with many opportunities, but you will also need to be very careful. In 1988 a “worm” invaded computers connected to the network and while the problem was corrected within 72 hours and response teams were immediately created to solve future problems, security of the total Internet is still a major concern. Security is also a problem for the individual user. Some of the programs that are free on the Internet have been contaminated with viruses which spread to other programs on your computer when you download programs or information from the Internet to your computer. Also, you must be very careful about the security of the information on your computer when you go on-line. Hackers are often able to tap into computers and change or export data from computers that are connected to the Internet. Therefore, sometimes using the Internet can cause you tremendous headaches. However, the advantages of using the Internet still outweigh the disadvantages. Good luck to you as you begin to “surf the net.”
Further information about the Internet can be found by reading the following:
Badged, Tom and Sandler, Corey, Welcome to...Internet: From Mystery to Mastery, MIS Press, 1993. $19.95.
Dern, Daniel, The Internet Guide for New Users, McGraw-Hill, 1994,$27.95.
Ellsworth, Jill H. Education on the Internet, A Hands-on Book of Ideas, Resources, Projects and Advice, Sams Publishing, 1994. $25.00.
Engst, Adam C. Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Hayden, 1993. $29.95.
Engst, Adam C, Low, Corin S. and Simon, Micael, A. Internet Starter Kit for Windows, Hayden Books, 1994, $29.95.
Estrada, Susan, Connecting to the Internet, O’Reilly & Associates. 1993. $29.95.
Graffin, Adam, Everybody's Guide to the Internet, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 1994. $14.95.
Hahn, Harley, Stout, Rick The Internet Complete Reference. Osbourne McGraw Hill. 1994. $29.95.
Kent, Peter, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet, Alpha Books, 1994, $19.95.
Krol, Ed. The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog, Second Edition, O'Reilly & Associates, 1994, $24.95.
Marine, April; Kirkpatrick, Susan; Neou, Vivian; Ward, Carol. Internet: Getting Started. PTR Prentice Hall. 1994. $28.00.
On Internet’94, Meckler-media. 1994. $45.00.
Randall, Neil, Teach Yourself the Internet, Sams Publishing, 1994, $19.95.
Sullivan-Trainor, Michael, Detour, The Truth About the Information Superhighway, IDG Books Worldwide, 1994, $24.99.
The Internet Unleashed. Sams Publishing. $49.95
Vincent, Patrick, Free Stuff from the Internet, Coriolis Group Books, 1994, $19.95.
APOLLO 13: A SPACE MISSION IN GIFTEDNESS
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“Hope is the thing with feathers,/That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune without the words,/And never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson, “Hope,” in Poems, 1891.
The success of the film Apollo 13 (1995) is encouraging to those in the field of gifted education. What the nation is being exposed to is a community of gifted individuals working together. For far too long, the American public has taken the space program for granted and to perceive this venture as just being for technocrats. However, in this cinema version of the events of April 1970, we witness the humanization of technology -- astronauts and the Mission Control staff do not just manipulate buttons, computers and assorted gadgets. Instead, they demonstrate the human being interacting with technology in a highly intelligent manner. This faulty space mission demanded the best of human responses since there were continuous life-threatening problems that needed to be solved. In this respect, we can characterize the human being as a problem solver who is very adaptable to changing situations.
The movie enables us to see the astronauts in a more holistic perspective. Besides their physical prowess, we also see that they are intellectually gifted as well. They must be able to use knowledge instantaneously because speed of response is a necessary criterion for survival in space missions. Moreover, the entire crew of the Houston Spacecraft Center includes gifted individuals. As you watch this film the concept of giftedness cannot be avoided. For example, the episode during which there was an immediate need to design an air filter that would enable the astronauts to breathe is an epiphany to giftedness. A dozen or so individuals at Mission Control, on the spot, in the most demanding situation, jointly designed this filter. What was also obvious was the ability of all of these gifted individuals to stay calm in tension filled conditions. The audience leaves the theatre with the inner feeling that humanity has hope through its demonstrations of giftedness -- the hope that whatever type of difficulty the human race may find itself in, it can identify the means to adapt and eventually overcome the problem through using gifted attributes.
The book that the movie was based on, Lost Moon (1994), which has been reissued as Apollo 13 (1995). It too has become very popular. This book is so well-written that despite the fact that the majority of recent readers have probably seen the movie first, they will still experience the adventure of this space mission from the written account. Jim Lovell and his coauthor, Jeffrey Kluger, have written a space age saga. As you read it, you feel like an astronaut, particularly on a psychological level, and you experience what it was like to be Jim Lovell and his crew on that fateful journey into space. Both the book and the film enable you to understand the gifted sensibilities of these high technology knights in space suits.
The interest in Apollo 13 has stimulated readers to seek other similar topics. One of these is James Michener’s Space (1982). He wrote this novel about the space program over ten years ago but the tone is contemporary. Michener had the genius to understand what the space program meant to the United States as a cultural force, and he was able to express this comprehension in fiction. He perceived this program not as an opportunity to beat our rivals at that time, the Soviet Union, but as the expression of our national psyche and consciousness. President John F. Kennedy described the race to the moon as a national objective to achieve excellence. This is what Michener captures so well in his novel -- the community of gifted individuals expressing their sense of excellence. The space program is about establishing giftedness and excellence in the American soul. Americans today see the Apollo 13 mission as making a distinction between excellence and perfection. Excellence goes beyond perfection and achieves humanity and hope by striving for a better world and improved human conditions. Apollo 13 serves as a role model for us all.
Chaikin, Andrew. (1994). A Man On The Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. New York: Penguin.
Lovell, Jim and Kluger, Jeffrey. (1994). Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. New York: Houghton-Mifflin.
Lovell, Jim and Kluger, Jeffrey. (1995). Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books.
Michener, James A. (1982). Space. New York: Fawcett Crest.
BOOK REVIEWS from GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
Some Of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-School to High School by Judith Wynn Halsted (1994). Ohio Psychology Press: Dayton, OH.
This is a comprehensive guide on the importance of books in the lives and education of gifted and intellectually curious students. Besides providing extensive information on how books can be used to foster their emotional and intellectual development, Halsted gives the reader useful background information on the history of current issues in gifted education. Chapter 1 on emotional development discusses some of the functions fulfilled by books in establishing an identity, needing time alone, developing relationships with others, and learning how to use one’s ability. Chapter 2 on intellectual development covers many characteristics of giftedness in the verbal and reasoning areas that show these children have strong needs for rigorous reading experiences in both the school and home. These themes are expanded in Part Two (Chapters 3-5) on the reading process where the author first discusses the role parents should take in guiding their gifted children’s reading from the early years through senior high school. In this regard, parents need to use different educational strategies when working with avid or resistant or mature readers (Chapter 3). Halsted then talks about how books can be used to assist in the emotional and intellectual development of gifted children (Chapters 4 and 5). The highlights of these chapters are: (1) in-depth analysis of the advantages of bibliotherapy and detailed demonstrations of its use with the gifted; (2) a discussion of techniques for using books to promote intellectual growth; and (3) what parents can do to stimulate this growth by means of books.
The third and last part (Chapters 6-8) concentrates on the core of an effective reading program. It presents detailed information on selecting challenging books from all areas (Chapters 6 and 7) -- fiction, nonfiction, biography, traditional literature, fantasy and science fiction, and poetry -- and lists some excellent books about children’s literature. Chapter 8 includes an annotated bibliography of hundreds of recommended books for the preschool through senior high school levels. Each book is briefly summarized and assigned discussion categories that emphasize its major features for gifted children. In addition, the author includes many relevant questions related to such categories as achievement, aloneness, arrogance, creativity, drive to understand, moral concerns and perfectionism.
It is important that teachers, parents and librarians carefully study and apply the ideas discussed in Some Of My Best Friends Are Books. For the future of books in American society and the education of our most advanced students, Halsted’s ideas should be ingrained into every teacher’s imagination.
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate Of Reading In An Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts (1995). Faber and Faber: New York.
For anyone concerned with the future of literature and of books in the 21st century, we highly recommend this series of essays. Birkerts has accomplished a difficult task by doing an insightful analysis of how the reading process affects and interacts with the reader, the writer and American culture. In addition, his discussion of the history of literature in our society clearly shows how television, the computer, CD-ROM, hypertext, and the Internet have caused the culture of reading to decline. He has demonstrated the importance of reading in American society, and has shown how this decline will cause revolutionary changes in our culture and thinking. His dire predictions about the future of reading and literature may not come true since there are many indications that reading is making a comeback as a result of the increase in large, well-stocked and pleasant bookstores, and the expansion of high quality literature in such areas as mysteries and biographies. Although these occurrences appear to contradict the concerns discussed in The Gutenberg Elegies, the author provides some of the best statements about how reading affects the human mind that we have ever encountered. They are certainly more insightful than most of the reading research reports from university schools of education.
The first half of Birkerts' book concentrates on his study of the reading process. These seven chapters are based upon his own experiences as a writer for The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Harper's and The New Republic. He addresses such topics as the reading sensibility (" 'What is the place of reading, and the reading sensibility in our culture as it has become?' "), the reactions of today's college freshmen to literature, the gains and losses produced by the electronic age, the author's development as a reader and writer, the movement from intensive to extensive reading, the nature of the reading process, the relationship between sensibility and reading, the impact of reading on the psyche, and the interaction between the reader and the writer. Regarding the book world, he says: “The transition from the world we live in to the world of the book is complex and gradual. We do not open to the first page and find ourselves instantly transported from our surroundings and concerns. What happens is a gradual immersion, an exchange in which we hand over our groundedness in the here and now in order to take up our new groundedness in the elsewhere of the book. The more fully we can accomplish this, the more truly we can be said to be reading. . . .” (p. 81).
This book is a symbolic wrestling match between the author and the concepts of literature, reading and the book. His essays provide deep insights into these elusive topics. We believe that Birkerts has won this match through his systematic analysis of every important aspect of reading and the reader. As a resource for gifted students, teachers and parents, it can help them understand the importance of reading in Western society. It is full of relevant observations and phrases such as, “Indeed, the state I occupy while reading often feels more focused, more meaningful, more real, than those that comprise most of my nonreading life. . . .” And it contains numerous questions that provoke thinking about the impact of reading on one’s life. Some of these are: “How does a reading memory differ from the memory of an actual event?” “Reading and writing -- reader and writer. Could it be that at some level the two activities are not all that different, that they are just modifications of the ebb and flow of our awareness, ways we have of breaking down and recombining the countless interlocking puzzle pieces inside?” (pp. 107, 113).
The second part of The Gutenberg Elegies stresses the idea that we are at a crossroads in American culture as a result of the information and electronics revolutions. The author discusses such books as Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination (1950) and Alvin Kernan’s The Death of Literature (1990) to reinforce this point. Although he downgrades the sense of immediacy produced by these revolutions at the cost of reflective reading and thinking, we see a challenge for gifted children and their educational experiences to produce a meaningful solution by combining the best features of the book and electronic media. After all, who will solve the problems discussed by Birkerts if not gifted individuals.
Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte (1995). Alfred A. Knopf: New York.
The author is a guru of the computer-information age -- a Professor of Media Technology at MIT and Founding Director of the MIT Media Lab, a world-class consultant to international corporations, universities and governments, and a nationally known essayist for Wired magazine. Interestingly, he says at the beginning of the first chapter that he is dyslexic and does not like to read. Regardless of his learning style and media orientation, he has written important and nontechnical essays (many were originally published in Wired) on the history and future of our electronic age. For example, the reader will learn that fiber optic networks will usher in an age of even greater choices for selecting communications media, television shows, and computer programs than currently available. Negroponte is definitely a futurist -- but he is different from most crystal ball gazers because his predictions are based on his, and his colleagues’ and graduate students’ solid work in multimedia television and computer electronics.
Negroponte emphasizes that the industrial ages of steel and auto manufacturing -- involving the exchange of atoms -- are quickly being replaced by the transmission and compression of bits. These high speed, electronic on-off signals determine communications received from most electronic media. In the present age of bits and bytes, it is not the picture quality of digital television that is important for television manufacturers; rather the bandwidth for communicating these pictures should be their major consideration. As the author shows, televisions designed to receive the higher bandwidths via cable, telephone or satellite will open a new world of interactive and viewer-selected programming. This world will consist of more personalized TV programming by means of thousands of channels worldwide. A computerized selector will choose programs based on viewers’ preferences and store them for future viewing. Computers will also become more personalized if Negroponte’s predictions come true. As an example, they will be sensitive to the behavior and work habits of their owners, have radically different video displays that will be able to follow a person around a room, and allow computer-human interactions via voice simulations. If these electronic predictions actually occur -- and there is no reason to expect otherwise -- our telephones, televisions and computers might become more humane by being able to adjust to human quirks and needs. This increased sensitivity of electronic devices could expand the horizons of all groups in American society including the gifted, disabled and minorities.
This book also contains discussions of why the FAX machine is a step backwards for high technology, the advantages of using the Internet to communicate around the world, the contradictions of virtual reality, and Seymour Papert’s work at MIT in teaching children how to use computers to think and solve problems. Negroponte is a master at showing how the digital age will influence human lives because he has been closely involved with computer developments for the last thirty years. He does not deny that there will be a dark side to this age through “digital vandalism, software piracy, and data thievery.” Even more serious, he believes we will witness many job losses caused by automated technology. But he remains optimistic when he states: “Bits are not edible; in that they cannot stop hunger. Computers are not moral; they cannot resolve complex issues like the rights to life and to death. But being digital, nevertheless, does give much cause for optimism. Like a force of nature, the digital age cannot be denied or stopped. It has four very powerful qualities that will result in its ultimate triumph: decentralizing, globalizing, harmonizing, and empowering.” (pp. 228-29). Hold on to your keyboards -- you ain’t seen nothin yet!