I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

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P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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We Are All Unfinished Products … (New Video)

We haven’t had a breakthrough in my novel being available — hopefully we’ll get past the e-commerce roadblock today — so here’s a new video that considers the idea that we are never finished, but always in the process of “becoming,” as we move along the assembly line of life. And, unlike inanimate objects in a factory, we have a say in what we become.

What do you think? Where are you, and what are you becoming, on the assembly line of your life?

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Related Videos:
Looking at Education as a System
Just Doing Our Best
Every Student A Scholar?

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Every Student A Scholar? (New Video)

Talking about potential in this video, and specifically the idea that every student has the potential to be a scholar of something. The problem then is finding what it is the student is interested enough in to study in depth. Helping students find those topics of interest requires exposing them to a wide range of things, which is the nature of the “Musashi-Heinlein School” discussed in previous episodes.

What do you think? Can every student be a scholar, in something?

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Related Videos:
The Musashi-Heinlein School
Looking at Education as a System
Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education
The Dimensions of Sphericity

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New Video: The Dickensian Duo

The beginning of June seems an odd time to hearken back to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but that’s where Dickens sets out a pair of conditions that I call “The Dickensian Duo.” In this video, I introduce them, consider the relationships between them, and discuss the importance of education in addressing them.

Let me know what you think!

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Education-Related Stuff:
– Video: The Musashi-Heinlein School
– Text: Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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New Video: The Dimensions of Sphericity

A follow-up to last week’s video about “sphericity” as a metaphor for helping students grow and develop in multiple dimensions. What dimensions might we choose?

Let me know what you think!

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Related Stuff:
– Last week’s Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education video
The Musashi-Heinlein School video
– And, for good measure, Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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New Video: Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education

In writing, we try to make sure our characters are realistic; rather than “flat” and two-dimensional, we want them to be lifelike. So too in education, we want students to grow and mature in multiple dimensions. But is “well-rounded” the best metaphor?

I’d already posted the video to YouTube when I caught an error in it, so this version includes a correction I inserted.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

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Related Stuff:
– As mentioned, The Musashi-Heinlein School video
– A lot of this derives from what I wrote in Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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Looking at Education as a System

Here’s a brief (5 minutes and change) video rundown of systems thinking and education, with a little take on why effectiveness is better than efficiency:

Do you think the education system near you is optimized to accomplish its overall goal, or do the internal components sometimes fight against each other to the detriment of the whole? Understanding how the pieces fit together is a good first step to getting the whole thing to work more effectively.

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Related:
– I cover the idea of education as a series of transformative processes in chapter 1 of Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It
– The debut episode of “Between the Black & the White” presented The Musashi-Heinlein School
– “Between the Black & the White” Series Introduction (extra episode)
– “Between the Black & the White” Host Introduction(extra episode)

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So, I Started This Video Thing …

It’s been a long time since I made a video, and even longer since I attempted a series, but now seemed like as good a time as any!

I put together my last video series back when I was with the Industrial Extension Service at NC State University, and it was called the “Manufacturing Minute.” I made 44 videos in that series, and probably would’ve made more except that I left that job 3 years ago this month. Each of the “Manufacturing Minute” episodes was “about a minute, about manufacturing,” and even though they were targeted at a niche audience folks seemed to appreciate them. (They’re still available if you know where to look.)

My new series is something different — it will cover a variety of things, not just manufacturing, because I have a variety of interests. For instance, this first episode combines guidance from a samurai warrior and a science fiction Grand Master to arrive at what I call “The Musashi-Heinlein School”:

I hope you liked it! I intend to keep all the entries about as short as this one; right now I don’t envision any of them running much longer than about 5 minutes.

If you have any thoughts about this new venture, I’d love to hear them. Let me know if you have comments, questions, suggestions for improvement or suggestions for future episodes — for instance, if you’d like me to expand on “The Musashi-Heinlein School” by delving into the different things Heinlein listed.

Thanks for watching, and have a great day!

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Related Items:
Series Introduction (extra episode)
Host Introduction (extra episode)
– I delve into some of the ideas from the video in my book, Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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