First a disclaimer: If you read that title and thought, “Oh cool, another list of [sites/games/activities] I can plug into my [instruction/centers/homework/busywork] to keep my gifted kids [challenged/engaged/occupied/from bugging me],” then this is not the post you were looking for.
Next a confession: I tend to find those sorts of posts disappointing at best and discouraging at worst, for several reasons:
- They are often a collection of what Alton Brown might call “digital unitaskers”: sites and software that do one narrowly-defined thing, sometimes very well. A good example is the often praised SpellingCity.com. While it does spelling drill extremely well, that’s all it does. At their worst, unitaskers do something that is done just as well (or better) by other tools. If there is anyone in the world who actually needs the banana slicer pictured above.…
- They tend to focus on sites filling a niche. If you’re teaching dental hygiene, for example, HealthyTeeth.org has some great resources. If you’re not, then my mentioning it won’t help you much.
- The sites linked in these posts frequently amount to little more than textbooks with animation or automated drill-and-practice. Check out the 4‑H Virtual Farm, a well-designed, engaging, colorful site which is very appealing to young children. Unfortunately there is little for students to do beyond clicking links to read paragraphs about aquaculture or view videos of people training horses. A few sections are slightly interactive, but the student’s role is almost completely passive.
Don’t misunderstand me. There is a place for all of these kinds of tools. I myself have used them, and even created one when I didn’t find the niche tool I needed. My problem is that they are overhyped (“This is the greatest site for 3rd graders ever!”) and improperly used as prefab filler or busy work.
What I want for my gifted kids, though, are more opportunities to participate in high-level activities with depth, and to have experiences they could not have on their own in the classroom. I want my students creating, evaluating, proving, arguing, defending, persuading, constructing, investigating, interpreting, predicting and imagining.
Those tools are out there, and I am aware of many of them. My New Year’s blog resolution is to find more and share them with you. Here are a few of the kinds of tools that I will talk about over the next few days and weeks. Most of these are not new—my goal is to discuss the particular aspects that make them ideal for teaching gifted students. Tell me in the comments what else you’d like to see, or if you have used sites that allow the kind of open-ended problem solving I’m looking for.
- Interactive Fiction
- Internet “Hoaxes”
- Web Design and Programming
- Virtual Environments
I love all of these suggestions. My son’s school (9th grade in a cyber blended charter school) uses many, if not all, of these. I especially like “interactive fiction” (in his school, parents have access to all of this along with their children). I think many offer a unique opportunity for students to engage with each other in ways other than the public eye of the classroom. Students who may be too shy to stretch themselves in the live classroom can really shine when it is online, in writing! There is also the added benefit of everyone having an opportunity to interact and participate as they are ready to contribute — that is hard to replicate in the classroom (I imagine). Imagine the conversations any of us would not have without a tool like Twitter!
What would I like to see? I look forward to seeing many children blossom in as they find new ways to communicate, share, learn and grow in our schools!
@Rhalmi, thanks for the comment. I apologize for removing your second link, but I found some content there that would be inappropriate for kids. I think there are other similar tools that are more kid-friendly, and I’ll do some investigating.
As for the first, I’ll check it out and do a post soon on research tools for gifted kids. Thanks for the suggestion!
Great post! Still I think that the internet offers great tools for high profile students who seek excellence and personal development. For example, what do you think of these?
‑http://en.eyeplorer.com/ (A tool for students to carry research.)
‑Or [link removed by moderator], which is a tool for creation animation.
I think you are right, there is a time and place for the drill type games and sites but at the end of the day, these are not the sites to send gifted kids to. They generally don’t need the extra drill of facts. They need to be stretched in new directions and made to think in new ways. Your goal of hunting down these resources is a worthy one. Don’t forget to share the ways that the resources are being used with your kids and what they think about them. I look forward to reading more!