The September 2008 issue of the Maryland Classroom, a publication of the Maryland State Department of Education states “In Maryland, a gifted and talented (GT) student is identified as “having outstanding talent and performing—or showing the potential for performing—at remarkably high levels … when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment” (Maryland Annotated Code §8-201). The law recognizes different types of gifts and talents. Some gifted students have a highly developed general intellectual capacity to think and analyze. Some show acute subject specific ability. Others excel in creative or artistic areas. And still others exhibit a keen ability to lead, influence, and organize others. These are the students that Maryland law stipulates need different services—beyond those normally provided in a regular school program—to develop their potential.” The article correctly emphasizes what the law stipulates identification of these exceptional students and the provision of services there for.
The piece continues, “Many think that GT programs are populated by students who have had more opportunities provided them than other children. Their gifts are material, and their talents are taught. However, decades of research document real, innate differences in how gifted students learn. Students identified as gifted and talented differ from their same-age peers in two distinct ways: First, they’re advanced, or precocious. They learn rapidly, remember more, and can master subject matter or skills at a much higher level. Second, they exhibit a more complex type of reasoning. GT students make unique connections among facts and ideas. They are curious and ask the big, hard-to-answer questions. They typically have a personal passion and can and will concentrate for long periods of time to explore their interests. They are attracted to complex problems and may be sensitive beyond their years to moral and ethical issues.”
Their reasoning skills, curiosity and task commitment make them ideal candidates for e-learning. Furthermore, e-learning is the ultimate in differentiated instruction—often the panacea for gifted learning. The concept of a hybrid-class, a marriage of an online course with a live instructor, also makes sense for a GT class, which typically, has a small number of students. The courses can be handpicked to serve as acceleration and/or enrichment for the capable learner. They can be flexi-paced to accommodate the simultaneous demands of attending the traditional brick-and-mortar school, or be fixed pace.
Many programs for precocious youth have been offering such courses to those capable of surmounting the placement requirements. The Johns Hopkins University, Center for Talented Youth and the Stanford University, Education Program for Gifted Youth are but two among the smorgasbord of online programs that have become widespread. High-speed internet has made these courses capable of delivering a rich online experience.
Shouldn’t public schools be embracing e-learning as an educational intervention for motivated students? Granting academic credit for pre-approved courses and bearing the financial burden is a means of getting the motivated child “college ready.”