STEAM, Robotics and the Gifted Student
What is Giftedness? Students with gifts and talents perform — or have the capacity to perform — at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains are often identified as gifted or highly gifted. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential. It is important to keep in mind that not all gifted children look or act alike. Giftedness exists in every demographic group and personality type. It is important that adults look hard to discover potential and support gifted children as they strive to do their personal best.
Giftedness has been historically defined and linked to intellectual ability (IQ) and to a score of 130 or higher. Over the past few year, it has become self-evident that giftedness is often beyond simply an IQ number. Students can be gifted in areas that might not be quantitatively measured such as in the areas of creativity, artistic, musical, and leadership to name just a few.
Exhibitors of a gifted student
Giftedness may follow a child into adulthood and every individual with giftedness is unique, at the same time, people with a growth mindset are not limited as they age and gain experience, wisdom, and knowledge. While no two students will excel the same and to the same degree, there are some traits and behaviors parents and teachers commonly observe in a gifted child:
- They are curious and ask a lot of questions — Gifted kids are often curious about the world around them and may ask detailed questions to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.
- They take their own approach to assignments — Bright students strive to please the teacher and finish assignments on time, gifted students often have their own way of completing assignments. Teachers often notice that gifted students prefer to work alone and can easily get lost in their thoughts and go off on tangents.
- They have a large vocabulary and prefer adult conversation — One of the first things people notice about gifted children is their vocabulary. Based on this, they feel more comfortable in communicating with adults rather than their peers.
- They have original ideas — A child with giftedness is an original thinker and is able to access abstract reasoning and bring view concepts and ideas together in a new and different ways.
- They are cognitively advanced and able to self-teach new skills — Children who are gifted may teach themselves how to read and write before they start school. They often have advanced cognitive skills and a very sharp memory. The often become easily bored especially when a lesson is repetitive or slow paced which can lead to behavior problems.
- They are sensitive to their environment — From a young age the gifted child is very alert and tuned into his or her environment. Some have acute concentration skills and can easily become hyper-focused on a task. Based on this and others, it is important to ensure gifted children receive adequate stimulation in and out of the classroom.
- They have strong feelings — These children may be quite opinionated and have strong feelings about topics that are important to them. They can also be more aware of opinions and feelings of other people or maybe entirely focused on themselves.
Educators play an important role in the lives of gifted education and their families. Their primary job is to help gifted children develop their intellectual and academic potential in collaboration their parent or guardians. Teaching gifted children is both exciting and challenging.
Research shows that teachers encounter wide ranges of knowledge, skills, and abilities within their classrooms. Teachers must have the skills to differentiate their instruction to help children across the achievement spectrum to learn and grow every day.
Giftedness can be aligned and focused on one skill or it may be more general. It is also for parents and educators to understand that it can sometimes come with specific learning differences that impact on performance at school. In these situations, it’s important to help a child develop their talents while also overcoming other challenges.
Children with learning difficulties and giftedness may benefit from programs that help them focus and stay on task, while developing vocabulary and literacy skills at the same time. For example, an extremely bright dyslexic child may be articulate but struggles to write in a way that reflects the extent of his or her knowledge or vocabulary.
They may choose the simplest and shortest way to express him or herself because they are overwhelmed with the number of directions the composition can take. They may also struggle with handwriting, which involves a range of skills such as being confident with the directionality of letters, and having the muscle coordination and skills necessary to hold the pen and produce work which is legible to him or herself and others.
How to keep gifted students engaged?
Differentiated instruction (DI) is the ability to provide varied access to content as well as product. The skill set required to differentiate seems to mystical to some and almost incomprehensible to others. The reality is that all teachers already have the tools to differentiate in powerful ways for all learners. How is this possible?
One of the leaders in the field of DI is Carol Tomlinson. In her book, How to Differentiate Mixed-Ability Classrooms, she defines three elements that can provide access to all students. Let’s examine these “mystical” abilities to keep all students engaged, differentiation of Content (Access), Process (Sense — Making), and Product (Learning Artifact/Evidence).
- Differentiating Content — Content comprises the knowledge, concepts and skills that students need to learn based on the curriculum. Historically, teachers are the “sage on the stage” and preferred to lecture in the front of the classroom. Differentiating content, especially in a highly digital format, may include videos, audio, podcasts, or other online mediums. Students may have opportunities to choose their content focus based on their preferred learning style. Some examples of differentiated content on factions may include:
- a. Watching a video from Khan Academy
- b. Watching a YouTube grade and age appropriate video
- c. Participating in a Near pod d. Engaging in fraction problem-solving through ST Math
2. Differentiating Process — Process is how students make sense of the content. They need time to reflect and digest the learning activities before moving on to the next component of the lesson.
Think of a workshop where by the end you felt overwhelmed by the information, but couldn’t remember specific details twenty-four or forty-eight hours later. Processing time helps students and adults assess what they do and do not understand and reflect on the instruction up to that point in time. It also allows opportunities for instructors to conduct formative assessments and monitor students’ progress.
Allowing processing time, every 10–15 minutes, reduces feelings of content saturation. Some strategies include:
c. Save the Last Word
d. Literature Circles
e. Clock Partners
3. Differentiating Product — Product differentiation is probably the most common form of differentiation. Students are given choices to showcase their learning. Products may range in complexity as long as the criteria is clear and understandable by the participants. Some examples include:
b. Google Slides
e. Other — whatever the students can create as long as it fulfills the predefined criteria
STEAM, robotics instruction and Giftedness
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) and robotics instruction offer unique opportunities to engage gifted students. STEAM and robotics education provides challenging opportunities for gifted students by:
- Fostering innate curiosity — Parents of gifted children are familiar with their innate and intense curiosity. STEAM education and robotics give students the opportunity to discover explanations of how everyday objects and processes work. STEAM and robotics remove traditional boundaries between disciplines, giving gifted students much needed free reign to explore only limited by their imaginations.
- 2. Preparing students for successful careers — Gifted students learn adaptability through STEAM and robotic instruction. When dealing with real situations, students learn how to be flexible when problem-solving and adjust to changes. Through STEAM and robotics education, gifted students learn important team building, communication, and leadership skills that can applicable to future success.
- 3. Busting boredom — Boredom is a common problem for gifted students in the traditional classroom. STEAM education and robotics are naturally stimulating — there are endless possibilities for the students to be engaged in critical and creative thinking. They can solve problems in new and different ways rather than being stifled. Additionally, STEAM and robotics allow gifted students to be fully immersed especially in kinesthetic learning.
- 4. Focusing on real-life problems — STEAM and robotics challenges gifted students in meaningful and real-life problems and solutions. There is no one answer, it allows students transition from low Depth of Knowledge levels to high Depth of Knowledge levels. Through STEAM and robotics, gifted students can learn the skills necessary to create innovations in vital fields like engineering, art, architecture, medicine, technology and improve the quality of life for generations to come.
The gifted student can present challenges for the traditional classroom. These students can be extremely inquisitive, read and write many times above their grade level, and get bored very quickly which may result in behavior problems. STEAM and robotics offer strategies that a progressive, innovative educator can incorporate to engage the gifted student in a meaningful and engaging ways.
“To develop a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” -Leonardo da Vinci