3 things to know from the Beyond Giftedness Conference

I recently attended the 21st annual Beyond Giftedness Conference in Arvada, Colorado (a Denver suburb). I’ve attended almost every year and have been a presenter at many. When I attend events like Beyond Giftedness Conference, I always pick up some new ideas, fresh perspectives and different approaches on gifted education and the social/emotional side of giftedness (my area of interest). Here are three points I wanted to share from this year’s Beyond Giftedness conference.

Federal funding for gifted

Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis in his keynote “Mindset and Talent Development” said the discrepancy between the gifted education budget and special education budget can be described as maligned neglect. This discrepancy can no longer just be an oversight; it’s been going on for too long. There is a concerted effort to not support gifted education nationally. The proof is that the federal budget for gifted education is $5 million (Javits Act 2014) and the federal budget for special ed is $12.7 billion. That’s correct, millions versus billions.

This made me realize how the current national funding is a purposeful oppression of our gifted population. When 5-7% of the national student population is considered gifted and talented (that’s about three million K-12 students), the funding directed to gifted is abysmal. It should be noted that the feds do not provide ANY funding directly to local school districts for programs and services for gifted and talented students.

Existential depression and gifted

The next session I attended was “Who I Am and Why Does it Matter: The Existential Dilemma” with Jenny Hecht and Eamonn Morris, a former student at the high school where I work. I learned that there are three types of depression: psychological (usually prompted by an event, such as the death of a loved one); clinical depression, which is a mood disorder (frequently as a result of brain chemistry or genetics); and existential depression.

Existential depression can be pervasive in a person’s life. It usually comes with guilt because the person feels they should be able to get over it but can’t. Generally, because they feel they don’t know their purpose in life, or they feel they’re not doing life correctly, or they can’t get over it themselves, the person feels guilt. Even children can have existential depression – how confusing that must be.

There is a large prevalence of existential depression in the gifted population. For more, I recommend the book Searching For Meaning – Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope by James Webb.

I’ve written previously about Eamonn Morris’s struggles with depression.

Flipped learning for gifted

The final session of note for me was “Using Flipped Classrooms to Bring Out the Best in Your Students” by Jerry Overmyer.

Flipped learning (or flipped teaching) is: What used to be class work and lectures is done outside of class by the student. What used to be homework is done in the classroom. Students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and individual interaction with students, instead of lecturing. Videos can be created by the teacher, or there are many videos already online that teachers can use. It’s not about how great the video is, it’s about the new use of face-to-face class time. Flipped learning allows students to become independent learners, allows teachers to be available when students need them most, and allows parents to more effectively help with homework.

Flipped learning is ideal for gifted kids. Those who grasp the lesson or concept quickly can move on to the next thing they’re interested in. No busy work. Those who don’t grasp the lesson or concept quickly can watch videos repeatedly, even watch and discuss with parents or friends, and figure it out. Students work more at their own pace.

What’s the best use of a teacher’s time? Is it a general lecture to all students of varied abilities, or is it working one-on-one or meeting each student where they are and moving them forward individually, not as a group.

“Teachers will not be replaced by technology but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those teachers who do.”  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

I believe there are always take-aways from every meeting, group discussion, conference, or convention that can help all of us understand how to better work with students. I hope to see you next year at the 22nd annual Beyond Giftedness conference in Arvada, Colorado in 2015.


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