NAGC Conference: Sternberg, Renzulli, and Gardner Panel Discussion

I have much to get caught up on from all my travels, studies, and busy life of coaching, parenting, and teaching. Here is the next batch of notes from the NAGC Conference I attended in Denver, Colorado.

These notes are from the general session in which these three huge research gurus shared their insights on several topics. I will simply share my notes that I scribbled down from the panel discussion. It was quite insightful! These notes contain both things they stated as well as my own thoughts intermixed. Feel free to comment.

They talked about a book they wanted to write together that would be called, “50 Shades of Grey Matter”. I love this title and it received a good response from the crowd. This could be quite interesting.

Everyone has life obstacles and experiences that we must deal with. The key to making something of yourself is how you choose to deal with the circumstances and make the best of the situation. This lead to the research of George Gilbert and the Nuremberg Trials. Very interesting information about how highly capable people can make very poor choices given certain situations.

Sternberg answered a question and made the statement that he was labeled “anti-gifted” because his IQ did not qualify him for the gifted program in his school. I found this idea very interesting and gave me pause to think about how we label and organize our programs at school. We always work hard to identify the gifted, but do we also leave a tone of anti-gifted in our schools at the same time? Something to ponder and look into more closely at my school.

Renzulli mentioned how over time different theories have emerged and some proven wrong. He stated that all theories of gifted are wrong, but we still need to support gifted education as these students will be the ones to come up with new ideas that debunk the current ones.

A question was raised about what are common questions about gifted around the world?

  • Renzulli said they are the same all over the world
  • Class warfare – being able to provide the money needed to get what you want. As long as you have the money you can obtain what you want.
  • Teachers can be the victims of major issues
    • Common Core – this whole notion of a national curriculum. This was not favored or liked by anyone on the panel
    • Testing companies control what we can do. They have more power than they should have.
  • Needs and roadblocks are the same
I don’t remember why I wrote this in the side panel of my notebook, but David Brooks from NY Times name was written down. I am drawing a blank except that I believe Gardner mentioned a conversation he had with him about something.
Howard said that ideas of gifted are viewed differently all over the world. It depends on the outlook of a culture and how they phrase the questions at hand and what they are looking for as a society.
Sternberg was given a question about speed. He stated that the need to be fast is important. However, the need for speed is exaggerated in the intellectual process. Sometimes we need to think slowly and deeply. The key is to know when to be fast and when to be slow.
It was also mentioned that with all the developments in brain research that education could become a sub medical field. This really intrigued me because if this were to come true how much education would change.
There was a great discussion about how standardized tests don’t test for thinking. It is all low level, non rigor and if everyone wants to find out more, then why do we continue to use these tests that give us useless data? However, it is a systemic issue as it is everyone that is to blame and not just the people above us. As teachers if the tests are bad, then why do we still give it? Why don’t we do something about it? I thought this was important to remember that we cannot always point the finger at the admin above. Sometimes we have to fight for what we believe in also.
I need to find a copy of the book, “Why Education is Useless?”  as it was referenced in the discussion. I have it on hold at my library. 
Probably one of the most important ideas brought up was when they talked about gifted students being the ones who will rise to high positions. We cannot always figure out how to get them there, but our job as teachers and schools is to teach character. What type of leaders will these students become? Our job as educators is to help them mold into a good quality leader equipped with skills and the mindset to lead accordingly and with a good code of ethics. Students need to understand ethics and how to treat others and the planet.
Last, the idea of a Academic Trophy Case. I am not sure where this was mentioned, but the idea that all schools proudly display their sport trophies. This is great, but schools should also display their academic trophies as well and start to build that culture and academics is just as cool as sports.
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Chain Link Teamwork Challenge

I used this idea from the amazing website – http://greatsolutions.blogspot.com/2008/12/chain-link.html

Today during TA my 7th graders were asked to perform the following task

Chain Link

Materials:

strips of paper, roughly 1/2″ wide and 12″ long
(how many depends upon how large your group is…plan for about a dozen strips per person)

a roll of tape
(more if you are trying this with a large group)

Instructions:

You have strips of paper and a roll of tape to work with. Your task is to work together to create a festive paper chain. The catch? You’ll do this back to back, keeping your hands behind your back and your face forward. Communication and cooperation is key! You have five minutes to create a paper chain as long as possible. When time expires, your chain will be measured; for every 12 consecutive links, you will receive ten bonus points. Unattached links receive no credit.

Have Fun!

I gave them about 14 minutes to see what they could do. Needless to say I was rather impressed by the end result as we ran out of paper. It was interesting to watch them work.

The first thing they did was divide up into two groups(boys and girls). Funny how middle school operates.
Chain Link Activity



They then created an assembly line approach where each team selected one as a taper and the rest just partnered up and assembled.
Chain Link Activity


The key piece was to leave enough extra pieces to connect them all since we were running short on supplies.

In the end we were able to connect 84 pieces. This required some serious teamwork with a TA that needs to work on these skills. They had to problem solve and make sure they shared in the work. This is hard for some to do as they just want to do it all their way. Others have a hard time learning how to operate as a team. It was a good experiment.



Total Chain

We look forward to seeing if any TA can top 84. If so, then we are up for a challenge to improve since we did run out of paper.

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