Monthly Archives: December 2014

Focusing in the Age of Distraction

Focusing in Age of Distraction

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues within the gifted community today, and least understood, is how to deal with distraction. The advent of new technologies strains our ability to focus. It has become a major concern in the classroom as well as the boardroom.

This week at #gtchat we tackled some important questions such as how do we focus in a society that has created and accepted the expectation of constant connection? Is it possible to balance the creative nature found in mind-wandering with the need to increase engagement for ourselves and for students? What effect does our lack of focus have on cognition? Finally, we looked at the benefits that come from sharper focus and the strategies that would get us there.

In this new world of connectedness, what are the downsides of being constantly in touch with others? Ironically, at the same time, we are experiencing the deterioration of human interaction. Not unlike an addiction, being connected brings quick, positive reinforcement; but long-term negative consequences. It erodes our free time, weakens personal relationships and leads to higher levels of stress as we seek to complete our work by constantly multi-tasking.

Balancing task engagement with the brain’s desire to wander seems almost impossible. However, researchers at Boston’s Attention and Learning Lab tell us, “Staying on task isn’t about pouring all your energy into the job – it’s about allowing the brain to wander occasionally and gently nudging it back on course.” (Concentrate! How to Tame a Wandering Mind) Mindfulness Training (How to Focus Under Pressure) and long-term meditation have both been shown to reduce mind wandering.

What effect does our lack of focus have on cognition? The ubiquitous nature of technology brings with it heightened expectations of our attentive abilities. Distraction has become commonplace and forces us to take actions and make decisions that strain our cognitive abilities. Harvard professor, Sendhil Mullainathan, has written that, “the more we focus on red-flag [urgent] tasks, the more our fluid intelligence, or “bandwidth,” is taxed. Help lies in learning to manage not just our time but our bandwidth relative to the tasks at hand.” (Taming the Ticking Mind)

The benefits of sharper focus are accomplishing goals, changing unhealthy habits and enhancing our quality of life. People who have a sharper focus are more successful and happier. Strategies that help re-learn focus include visualizing thoughts on paper, establishing routines and decluttering, taking time to connect and simply occasionally disconnecting. A full transcript may be found on our Storify page.

 

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

 

Links:

How to Focus in the Age of Distraction

Focus and Mindfulness

Managing Online Distractions

Declutter Your Life for a Razor Sharp Focus

Dealing with Information Overload

How to Motivate Yourself at Anytime

27 Things to Do with Students Who Are Not Paying Attention

‘From Evaluation to Inspiration’ (video) with Scott Kaufman at Aspen Ideas Festival

7 Tips To Help You Focus In Age of Distraction: Are You Content Fried!

Review of Developing Razor Sharp Focus

Focus A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction (pdf)

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century (Amazon)

Future Ready is Overrated

TED Talk “Connected, but Alone?”

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The Gifted Middle School Years

teenager 1 copy

The concept of the “middle school” took root in the U.S. in the 1980s and has not served the gifted population well since its inception. By definition, it is the opposite of gifted education focusing on early adolescence as a time for cultivating age-peer relationships where team work prevails over individual achievement. Children who may have experienced even minimal gifted programming at the elementary level now see these services vanish. Cooperative learning too often places these students in an untenable position of ‘carrying the load’ in classroom academic endeavors.

“Middle schools can also be difficult for students who were never challenged at the elementary level if no gifted options were available.”

Middle schools can also be difficult for students who were never challenged at the elementary level if no gifted options were available. Persistence, the ability to overcome failure, the lack of developed study skills are all obstacles to academic growth at the middle school level and for some the beginning of underachievement.

Many teachers at this week’s chat conveyed their frustrations with a system that places emphasis on high-stakes testing over deep learning, an attitude from fellow teachers that exceptionality is a bad thing, and that middle school teachers lack even minimal training in gifted education. As teacher Tami Terry pointed out, “GT kids automatically filter in to Pre-AP classes, which can be good and bad, [but there is] no consideration for areas of strength or weakness. So we often end up with a gifted kid, who hates science, in Pre-AP Science struggling and failing.” On the flip side, high school principal Dr. Steve Ritter noted that in middle school, “tracking the kids sometimes starts here. A “stigma” for kids not in middle of the road (low & high achieve) may emerge.”

“Parents play a pivotal role in their gifted child’s transition from elementary to middle school. It’s important to recognize that even a gifted child will face uncertainty, new demands, and academic challenges at school. Middle school students need their parents’ guidance even when they don’t recognize the need.”

Our discussion then turned to the effects of asynchrony on the middle school gifted student. Precocious gifted adolescents still experience asynchrony in social-emotional development. (Kerr & McKay, 2014) Many parents pull their children from public schools during these years and return later in high school. Dating can be challenging when age-peers may have little in common socially, psychologically or intellectually.

A bright spot in the middle school years for gifted students arrived with the introduction of Talent Searches. Available from many institutions across the U.S. (see links below), Talent Searches specifically target intellectually gifted middle-school age students. They provide high quality, accelerated and enriched gifted programming online and during the summer.

Finally, we discussed how parents play a pivotal role in their gifted child’s transition from elementary to middle school. It’s important to recognize that even a gifted child will face uncertainty, new demands, and academic challenges at school. Middle school students need their parents’ guidance even when they don’t recognize the need. Parents should consider changing parenting style at this age – adapt to child’s biological, social-emotional changes.  It’s beneficial to approach pre-teens and teens with a positive attitude by voicing appreciation and approval for good behavior. (Taibbi 2012) A full transcript of this chat may be found on our Storify page.

 

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

 

Links:

Gifted Learners and the Middle School: Problem or Promise? (1995) Tomlinson

Meeting Needs of High Ability & High Potential Learners in Middle Grades (pdf)

Educating Gifted Students in Middle School: A Practical Guide (Amazon)

The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America’s Middle Schools (Amazon)

Gifted Education in Blue Valley’s Middle Schools

Middle School Gifted & Talented Programs Howard County Public Schools

Middle School Gifted & Talented Services Coppell ISD

Transitioning from Elementary to Middle School: Tips for Parents of Gifted Students

Hoodies, Headphones, and Axe Spray from Jeffrey Shoemaker

Middle School Programs for Gifted Students

Surviving the Middle School Years with your Gifted Child

Caught in the Middle: How to Help Gifted Children Survive the Middle School Years

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Talent Search

“What is Talent Search?” from Duke TIP

Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search

CTY Ireland Talent Search (pdf)

The Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search

Educational Talent Search Program

OR: Summer Math Camp for Highly Gifted Middle School Students

The Tres Columnae Project

Design Process in Education

Cybraryman’s Social Emotional Learning Page http://goo.gl/O5vdYM

Smart Girls in the 21st Century (Amazon) by Barbara Kerr and Robyn McKay

 

Photo courtesy Morguefile.

Giftedness ‘In Focus’ at TAGT

TAGT 2014 New Logo

New TAGT Logo 2014

The week we look forward to each year … our LIVE chat from the Annual Conference of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented … is history now, but oh what a week it was!

TAGT 2014 The Plaza Ft Worth

The Plaza in Fort Worth

TAGT 2014 Fort Worth Water Gardens

Fort Worth Water Gardens

Fort Worth provided a beautiful setting and gorgeous weather! Attendees were treated to two exceptional keynotes and extraordinary professional development sessions. Tweets were flowing at more than at any other gifted conference.

TAGT 2014 Patty G-W1

Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden at the Parent Conference

TAGT 2014 Ian Byrd

Ian Byrd of Byrdseed Gifted speaking at the Conference

TAGT 2014 Ginger Lewman

Ginger Lewman speaking to educators at the Conference

TAGT took the opportunity to roll out their new logo (above) and new brand message (see video below). As impressive as it is technologically savvy … the underlying message is TAGT’s  commitment to support gifted children and adults in Texas and around the world via their extensive resources for educators and parents (see links below); support of Global #gtchat on Twitter; and conferences throughout the year, both statewide and regionally.

Wednesday was slated for Pre-Conference Institutes that included full morning and afternoon sessions for teachers to delve deeper into topics in gifted education. A Welcome Reception afforded attendees the opportunity to renew old friendships and network with leaders in the gifted community from across the country.

Thursday morning was highlighted by a keynote from Nikhil Goyal, a recent guest on #gtchat. This was followed by a full day of presentations and capped off with an Award Ceremony to celebrate the contributions of the 2014 State Administrator, Teacher, Rising Star Teacher, Parent and Advocate of the Year and winners of the Annual Legacy Book Awards.

TAGT 2014 Nikhil

Nikhil Goyal

Eagerly anticipated, Scott Barry Kaufman’s keynote on Friday morning was a highlight of the conference. Frequently interrupted by applause and nodding approval, the audience of teachers, parents and professionals from the gifted community showed their appreciation of his message with a standing ovation at the end of his remarks. Intelligent, witty and inspiring, Dr. Kaufman spoke of his early life misplaced in special education and his journey into the gifted program in his final year of high school through self-advocacy and the encouragement of a single teacher who recognized his abilities and saw his potential.

TAGT 2014 SBK

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Immediately after the keynote, Global #gtchat got underway. It was an exhilarating experience to be able to do a LIVE chat with participants tweeting together and many others ‘stopping by’ to offer support. This year’s chat shared the possibilities of what state gifted organizations can do by showcasing TAGT’s efforts in Texas. Please check out the links at the end of this post. A full transcript of the chat can be found on our Storify page.

We would like to thank Mrs. Tami Terry for her assistance in planning our TweetUp in Fort Worth at the Plaza. Thanks also goes to Mrs. Angie French, a member of the #gtchat Advisory Board, for her technical assistance at #gtchat on Friday morning. This was her third consecutive year for helping us out!

Our LIVE chat and presence at the conference was made possible by the great Team at TAGT: JJ Colburn, CAE, Executive Director; Tracy Weinberg, Associate Director; Lisa Varner, CMP, Executive Assistant and Meetings Manager; Rose Sero, Marketing and Communications Manager; Justin Abels-Hensel, Member Services Coordinator; and Adam McKeivier, Development Manager.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

Photos: Courtesy of TAGT and Lisa Conrad.

Links:

TAGT Website

TAGT 2014 Annual Conference

TAGT 2014 Annual Parent Conference

TAGT Scholarship Fund

TAGT Summer Scholarships

TAGT Legacy Book Awards

TAGT On Demand

TAGT Online Training for Gifted and Talented Teachers (Video 2:31)

Gifted and Talented Online Staff Development by TAGTonDemand.com (Video 2:38)

TAGT Annual Awards 2014

TAGT Membership Levels and Benefits

TAGT Publications: Pulse and TEMPO

TAGT 2015 Leadership Conference

2015 TAGT Parent Conference/Summer Program Expo at Klein ISD 1/24/15

2015 TAGT Parent Conference/Summer Program Expo at Round Rock ISD 2/21/15

TAGT Parent Conference 2014 Parent Promo (Video 1:04)

TAGT Annual Conference 2014 Administrator Promo (Video 1:11)

TAGT Parent Support Group Information

TAGT List of Helpful Education Apps

TAGT Suggested Readings for Educators

TAGT Suggested Readings for Parents

TAGT List of K-12 Summer Programs

Meet the TAGT Staff

Meet the TAGT Board of Directors http://goo.gl/YtP5mQ

TAGT on Effective Advocacy http://goo.gl/l5Kb4R

#gtchat Page on TAGT Website http://goo.gl/6pFrK

#gtchat Page at Storify http://goo.gl/2qwhha

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