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Using Technology With Gifted Students

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Neven Jurkovic, CEO of Softmath and creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software.

The one student population whose needs have been most ignored throughout the No Child Left Behind testing era of the past decade is undeniably gifted students. As school districts have been urged to “close the gap” between high- and low-performing students and between various subgroups of students, it seems they’ve taken that mission quite seriously: vast resources go toward helping struggling students attain certain standardized measures of success. At the same time, gifted students’ needs are often ignored, if not sabotaged). They are already “good enough,” and, after all, the easiest way to close the gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students is to slow down the progress of the high achievers. 

Thankfully, the dramatically increasing rate of technology use in the classroom has the potential to help teachers more effectively meet the needs of gifted students without sacrificing their efforts to help other students. Here are four key ways technology–particularly 1:1 technology–can be used to meet the needs of gifted learners of all ages.

Content differentiation

This one is straightforward: gifted students often need to be taught entirely different, more advanced material than their peers. Through the use of free online college courses or even just the free video library of KhanAcademy.org, a wealth of advanced content is available for gifted students to tap into at anytime, from anywhere. Through the use of video technology (whether using existing videos or creating your own), planning a differentiated lesson where different students receive different instruction is simple.

Differentiated assignments

Not only can the content students are learning about be differentiated easily through the use of technology, but so can the tasks that students are asked to complete. Adaptive math programs that get easier or harder based on students’ responses can replace static, unresponsive math textbooks, for example. Gifted writers who used to write papers for an audience of one person (their teacher) can now be helped to develop a significant, real audience as they create individual blogs showcasing their talents. In all subjects, technology can allow students who are performing far above grade level to progress as rapidly as they are able.

Interest-based choices

Many gifted students have specific areas of deep interest or expertise. Internet-connected 1:1 technology permits students to research those interests, find and communicate with others who have those interests, and then present their findings powerfully through the use of multimedia.  (No more fifth-grade biography reports where students can only research one of the 40 or so individuals about which there is a book in the school library.) This benefits all students, of course, but it is particularly important for those gifted students with interests that wander far off the beaten path.

Communication tools 

Finally, gifted students are often starved for relationships with academic peers. In smaller schools, gifted students may be genuinely unable to find even one true academic peer with similar interests. In contrast, 1:1 technology provides students like these with opportunities to connect and communicate with others (from anywhere around the globe) who share their interests and abilities. 

Technology has the potential to revolutionize education for all students. If used wisely, it can do particularly remarkable things for the gifted students who so often are not given the freedom and opportunity to maximize their potential. 

About the author

Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the CEO of Softmath and creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. 

 

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