Cuil: A New Web Search Tool for Gifted Students
If you teach Internet research skills to gifted students or if you spend time yourself looking for great gifted education teaching ideas or parenting tips, the newly launched Cuil Web search engine may be of interest to you.
Cuil (pronounced "cool") seems like a good option for students conducting Web searches because the search results display is free of advertisements and sponsored search results. Also, the layout and images used for search results are more pleasing to the eye. I think kids would be more attracted this kind of design than they would those of other search sites.
For those of us used to other seach engines, Cuil's two- or three-column layout is a little hard to get used to. However, once I got familiar with the way Cuil organizes search results, I found it to be a reasonable alternative to other search engines.
One nice feature of the site is that it is more graphically attractive that other search sites. Each search result is displayed with an image than is (theoretically) associated with the site. Cuil is still working out a lot of kinks in this area. Conduct a search for "Gifted Education" and notice that almost all of the images displayed next to search results are covers of books published by Prufrock Press. I don't mind, but I suspect the Gifted Education Program Web site for the Victoria, Australia, schools isn't too keen on having our old "Clearance Sale" graphic representing their site.
I'm sure Cuil will resolve some of it's rough edges over time. Overall, it is a search engine that you may wish to recommend to your gifted students when they conduct Web research.
[Update: April 10, 2009]
After watching this seach engine evolve over the last several months, I'm going to have to withdraw my recommendation. Frankly, it's just not very accuarate with it's results (seach for "Gifted Education" on Cuil and the National Association for Gifted Children doesn't even appear on the first page). The pictures that Cuil associates with web sits seem arbitrary, and the "Explore by Category" section to the right of the results is so random that it is of limited value. I thought this site would develop into an exciting, advertising-free, and visually-oriented search engine, but it has beed a disappointment.
Girls vs. Boys in Math
For many years it was believed that boys were superior to girls in math, but research in the current issue of the journal Science reports that the gender gap has become a myth. Janet Hyde, a psychologist at University of Wisconsin, and her collaborators at University of Wisconsin and University of California, Berkeley culled data from federally mandated (No Child Left Behind) annual math tests administered in 2005, 2006, and 2007 to 7.2 million second- through 11th-grade students in 10 states. They found little difference between boys' and girls' average math scores. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Today, girls are increasingly sticking with math classes through school, with girls and boys taking advanced math in high school in equal numbers and women receiving nearly half of all bachelor degrees given in math in the U.S.
Even though girls increasingly take the most difficult math classes, and girls and boys now perform equally well in math in school, researchers still need to better understand why females seem less likely to pursue careers in math-intensive technology and science fields. Currently, women make up only 15% of doctoral candidates in engineering programs. Furthermore, despite evidence that girls are performing as well as boys in math classes, many parents and teachers still believe girls struggle in math.
We need to get the word out to the high school teachers and counselors that girls are as good as boys at math. Hyde thinks mothers who grew up with math stereotypes need to be especially careful. "Even if you believe you can't do math, you can just keep quiet about it," she said.
The study's most disturbing finding, the authors say, is that state tests mandated by the NCLB law are doing a poor job of challenging both boys and girls, as few tough math problems being asked. Using a four-level rating scale, with level one being easiest, the authors said that they found no challenging level-three or -four questions on most state tests. The authors worry that teachers may start dropping harder math from their curriculums because "more teachers are gearing their instruction to the test."
To learn more about this study, read the current issue of the journal Science.
Presidential Election Curricula for the Gifted
As the excitement builds this fall with the upcoming election, teachers and parents will want to have good resources at hand to help gifted students understand the election process. Here are just a few resourses. If you have other good resources to share, please list them in the comments area of this blog entry.
Rutherford Public Schools in New Jersey has developed curricula for their gifted program, grades 7–8
. The information is very general and includes objectives, course outline, curriculum content standards, assessments, resources, and activities.
One of the resources used in the Rutherford Public Schools curriculum is the Interact simulation The Presidential Election Process
. Interact recommends this curriculum for grades 5–8. If you scroll down on this page, you will see that Interact materials were recommended in my June 28, 2008 blog entry.
Fact Monster from Information Please
explains how a president gets elected. Follow links on the left side of the page to find extensive information on Campaign 2008, presidential conventions, and facts about U.S. elections.
monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
rates the accuracy of candidates' statements on their records, attacks on opponents, and organizes statements by issue/topic.
Save Time and Find the Latest Web Information With RSS
If you are like me, you gather a lot of news, teaching ideas, and parenting tips from the Web. Each day, I visit several news sites, technology sites, teaching blogs, and gifted education blogs and sites. If I had to check every one of those sites to see if new content had been posted on a given day, I would spend a great deal of time checking each site individually.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this: RSS (Really Simple Syndication). An RSS "feed" is an easy way for a Web site to notify users of new content, as if to say, "I've got a new article posted. Here is the title of the article and a sample of what it is about. Would you like to read the article?" RSS offers a fantastic way to keep up to date with your favorite Web sites' most recent posts.
In fact, both of Prufrock's blogs have several handy RSS feeds located on the left side of the page (see "Categories/RSS"). The links to the RSS feeds are the little orange broadcast icons.
Finding Newly Posted Web Articles is Easy With RSS
There are several great tools out there designed to help you with RSS feeds. For example, Bloglines.com is a free, Web-based RSS reader (or "aggregator"). You set up a Bloglines account, add the RSS feeds from your favorite Web sites and blogs, and then Bloglines keeps up with new content posted to those sites. For example, in the image to the right, you can see a small sample of some Web sites I like to read. The feeds that are not in bold are sites that do not currently have new information. The ones in bold have new articles, and the number in parenthesis tells me how many. If I want to read the new articles, I simply click on a feed's title and I get a summary of all the new content.
Some browsers like Safari (Mac or PC) and Internet Explorer 7 (PC) have RSS capability built right in. Want to test if your browser can manage RSS feeds without special plug-ins? Just click this link to the RSS feed for my blog. If you get a listing of articles, you have an RSS-capable browser. If you get a bunch of code, you'll need to use a Web service like Bloglines, a browser plug-in, or a stand-alone application.
If you use Safari on your Mac or PC, Apple has posted simple instructions for using RSS feeds. If you use Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft has posted instructions as well.
There is a pretty general video overview of RSS titled, "How to Use RSS Feeds" at videojug.com. It's not detailed enough to explain everything, but it offers a nice advance organizer.
For a more thorough, step-by-step explanation, click here to read an article by Paul Stamatiou titled, "Getting Started with RSS."
National Guidelines and State Requirements for Teaching the Gifted
Requirements for teachers to have had training in working with gifted students vary from state to state, district to district, and sometimes school to school, heading off in many different—sometimes contradictory—directions.
Frequently, regular classroom teachers have had no instruction in understanding or working with gifted students. Only six states (Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, and Washington) mandate that classroom teachers receive any training in gifted education.
Shockingly, even teachers of gifted programs may not be required to have specialized training.
Requirements for teacher training and ongoing professional development are very uneven. There are no national certification requirements, and only 34 states require that gifted students be identified. Only 29 states require that gifted services be provided.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and its division, The Association for the Gifted (TAG), recently completed a three-year collaborative project to develop a set of research-based standards for educators: The Teacher Knowledge and Skill Standards for Gifted and Talented. Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Susan Johnson, who served on the standards task force, recommend that the regulations overseeing the administration of gifted education programs in every state involve teacher training in conjunction with the new standards, and that the standards be linked to state-based university programs in gifted teacher education.
Briefly, the ten standards include teacher knowledge and understanding of the following:
- Development and Characteristics of Learners
- Individual Learning Differences
- Instructional Strategies
- Learning Environments and Social Interactions
- Language and Communication
- Instructional Planning
- Professional and Ethical Practice
College Entrance for Gifted Homeschoolers
In the not-too-distant past, homeschoolers had valid concerns about applying for college admission. How would they be able convince higher education officials of their accomplishments and capabilities? But in recent years, the homeschooling movement has grown by leaps and bounds and even the most select institutions of higher learning now have procedures in place for admission of this group of independent learners. A recent example was cited in the Chicago Tribune article "From Home School to Top Schools." Chelsea Link, homeschooled beginning at age 5, was recently accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Northwestern. Of course, she has a stellar résumé with perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, and also aced all of her AP exams. In addition, she is the reigning world Irish harp champion. Chelsea also augmented her home learning with enrichment classes, lots of travel, and immersion in Chicago’s rich arts scene.
Almost two million American students are educated at home, and more than 80% of colleges have formal policies for assessing these applicants—up from 52% in 2000.
Homeschoolers are learning to package themselves. One way they do this is to rely more on outside sources to document scholastic rigor. This may include credits for college classes, online instruction from such credible groups as Stanford University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth, and recommendations from tutors and mentors. It also is important for homeschoolers to prepare detailed course descriptions of their independent course of study.
Colleges and universities are most impressed by a student’s genuine intellectual curiosity, which can’t be faked. Chelsea certainly has demonstrated this intellectual curiosity. She most likely would excel no matter what her environment because of her intense interest in learning. She loves literature and theater. For the last three years, she has taught Shakespeare classes to 40 youngsters. She studied the harp in Ireland most summers since she was ten. She also is intensely fond of French and reaps praises from her French tutor of ten years.
There are not many students like Chelsea, who have a strong intellectual interest, tenacity, and support of parents, but for those who fit into this category, the possibilities are unlimited.
College Entrance for
In the not-too-distant past, homeschoolers had valid concerns about applying for college admission. How would they be able convince higher education officials of their accomplishments and capabilities? But in recent years, the homeschooling movement has grown by leaps and bounds and even the most select institutions of higher learning now have procedures in place for admission of this group of independent learners. A recent example was cited in the Chicago Tribune article From Home School to Top Schools http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-homeschool_18apr18,0,4804863.story
. Chelsea Link, homeschooled beginning at age five, was recently accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Northwestern. Of course, she has a stellar résumé with perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, and also aced all her AP exams. In addition, she is the reigning world Irish harp champion. Chelsea also augmented her home learning with enrichment classes, lots of travel, and immersion in Chicago’s rich arts scene.
Almost two million American students are educated at home, and more than 80 percent of colleges have formal policies for assessing these applicants—up from 52 percent in 2000.
Homeschoolers are learning to package themselves. One way they do this is to rely more on outside sources to document scholastic rigor. This may include credits for college classes, online instruction from credible groups such as Stanford University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth, and recommendations from tutors and mentors. It is also important for homeschoolers to prepare detailed course descriptions of their independent course of study.
Colleges and universities are most impressed by a student’s genuine intellectual curiosity that can’t be faked. Chelsea has certainly demonstrated this intellectual curiosity. She most likely would excel no matter what her environment because of her intense interest in learning. She loves literature and theater. For the last three years, she has taught Shakespeare classes to 40 youngsters. She studied the harp in Ireland most summers since she was ten. She is also intensely fond of French and reaps praises from her French tutor of ten years.
There are not many students like Chelsea who have a strong intellectual interest, tenacity, and support of parents, but for those who fit into this category, the possibilities are unlimited.