Technology for the Gifted and Talented
ERIC Identifier: ED262514
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: McClellan, Elizabeth
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
In general, computers are used in the education of gifted children in three ways: in
computer assisted instruction (including tutorials, games, and simulations), in
developing thinking skills, and as tools for facilitating independent learning (including
word processing and authoring systems).
COMPUTER ASSISTED INSTRUCTION (CAI)
The role of computer assisted instruction in the education of gifted children is to develop
decision-making skills and to foster independent learning. In CAI, the computer presents
information, asks questions, and verifies responses in much the same way a teacher
Unlike traditional means of instruction, however, CAI allows students to work at their
own level and pace. This mode of instruction can be very beneficial to gifted students
who often have interests and abilities that go beyond the scope of the regular
HOW ARE COMPUTERS USED TO DEVELOP THINKING SKILLS?
- Drill and Practice
Drill and practice programs provide students with practice using material already
encountered. Because these programs cover various levels of many subject areas, they
can be used for both remediation and acceleration. Gifted children do not necessarily
excel in all areas; they may need help mastering some subjects. Drill and practice
programs help to reinforce recently acquired knowledge and skills. For gifted students,
the primary role of drill and practice programs is to help students who want to go
beyond the lockstep curriculum acquire new skills.
Tutorials are used to teach new information. Typically, a program presents a body of
information and then questions the student on that information. Like drill and practice
programs, tutorials can be a form of enrichment for gifted students who want to explore
areas of content that may not be in the regular curriculum.
Tutorials are also a means of accelerating content. If, for example, a gifted student can
and wants to learn Algebra 1 in a shorter period of time than his or her classmates,
tutorials provide a means for doing so.
There are two categories of games that may be appropriate for gifted children:
adventure games and mind-teasers.
- Adventure games put the player in situations in
which he or she has to use problem-solving skills and creative strategies to overcome
obstacles. The player must provide explicit directions to the computer.
Adventure games also can help students develop prediction skills. Students learn very
quickly to evaluate all possible outcomes before making a move.
- Mind-teasers are often the computerized version of conventional games such as chess, backgammon, or
Computer games are an excellent source of motivation, but they seldom have high
content value. Since most students willingly spend hours on an educational game, their
use must be monitored by a teacher.
Among the most powerful learning tools for gifted children, simulations are based on the
discovery approach to learning, that is, learning by doing. Simulations provide situations
that are analogous to real situations but control such real limiting factors as danger,
expense, time, and space. Since simulations can be repeated, students see the effects
of using different strategies in solving the problems presented by the program.
One of the major goals of programs for the gifted is to help students develop higher
level cognitive skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity. By using programs designed
for these purposes and by learning to write programs, students can develop modes and
strategies of thinking that affect the way they think in situations that are not
Gifted children are believed to be particularly adept at learning to use the cognitive skills
of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Analysis refers to the ability to break a skill or
conceptual structure into its components. Synthesis is the building of complex skills or
conceptual structures from simple parts. Evaluation calls for the comparison of skills
and structures and the making of judgments about them (Bell 1981). Some games and
simulations are aimed at helping students develop these skills.
Creativity involves divergent thinking. As is the case with the development of cognitive
skills and problem-solving skills, students can explore their creative potential by using
software that is designed specifically for that purpose or by creating their own unique
and interesting programs.
Some programs encourage students to write poetry, compose music, or draw pictures.
Other programs show students how to develop strategies for creative writing.
Teaching children to write computer programs also helps to develop thinking skills.
Students are taught that a computer is very similar to the human mind. The steps that a
computer goes through in running a program are similar to the step a person goes
through in solving a problem of logic. When students learn to see the analogies
between the computer and the brain, they begin to see how they can apply computer
logic to other kinds of problem solving.
In programming, there are two kinds of problems to be solved.
Both kinds of problem solving require the use of thinking skills associated with analysis, synthesis,
- The first centers on the steps involved in writing a program. Students learn to break a problem into its
components and to tell the machine how to deal with each of the components.
- The second kind of problem involves "debugging" the program, that is, solving the problems
that are related to the logic and sequencing used in creating the program.
HOW DOES THE COMPUTER SERVE AS A TOOL FOR GIFTED STUDENTS?
- Processing Data
One of the goals of educational programs for gifted children is to foster independent
learning. To achieve this goal, students are encouraged to conduct their own research.
An example of such a program is found at the Talcott Mountain Center in Connecticut.
At this center, gifted students conduct experiments on wind speed and direction by
tracking helium-filled weather balloons. Students use the computer to analyze the data
from their experiments (Barstow 1979).
- Word Processing
Word Processing has changed the way composition is taught. Before the age of the
microchip, writing and rewriting were often troublesome, especially for students who
have poor handwriting or those who demand perfection in their work. Word processing
packages greatly facilitate students' efforts to make editorial changes, thereby reducing
their reluctance to rewrite compositions.
- Creating Art and Music
Students can create works of art on the computer in several ways. Some software
packages allow students to use either the keyboard or a joystick as a paintbrush. Not
only colors, but textures and brush strokes can be controlled. In addition to programs,
students can use graphics tablets to create designs. Students place light pens at
various points on a tablet, and the corresponding design appears on the screen.
Music can also be created on the computer. Some programs let users enter notes and
specify their parameters (octave, duration, dynamic level, articulation); compositions
can be written for up to four independent voices.
Electronic keyboards make writing music easy for students who play the piano. Like
graphics tables, keyboards are peripherals that can be interfaced with a microcomputer.
As a user plays the keyboard, the notes and parameters are temporarily stored in
memory. The piece can then be saved on a disk for later use or further alteration.
- Authoring Systems
Authoring systems and languages allow users to create computer programs even if they
know very little about conventional program languages. Typically, authoring programs
allow the user to create drill and practice or tutorial programs. Authoring systems also
can be used by gifted students who want to create interactive software without going
through the usual stages of programming.
As is the case with many tutorials, software created with authoring systems presents a
narrative, asks a question, waits for a response, and provides a reinforcing statement.
Many authoring packages include features such as graphics, branching, and score
In its most simple form, a network is like a grapevine; one person shares information
with a second person, who passes it on to a third. The age of technology has greatly
expanded human capabilities for sharing information.
Because gifted children often have interests that lie beyond the scope of traditional
school curricula and resources, they can benefit tremendously from networking. In some
instances gifted children form their own networks; in other cases, they can hook into
networks established by other individuals, organizations, or businesses.
The real power in networking lies in the capability of microcomputers to communicate
with other computers. To do this, a microcomputer is attached to a modem, which is an
electronic device that converts the computer's binary code to auditory signals that can
be sent through telecommunications systems to other computers.
By using telecommunications, students can contact large data banks, information
services, or electronic bulletin boards. Electronic bulletin boards function essentially in
the same way as traditional corkboards. A user can post a message asking for
information or send a message to other members of the network. Networking helps put
students and teachers in contact with resources outside their immediate environment.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and
Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under OERI contract. The opinions
expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or
the Department of Education.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Barstow, D. "The Talcott Mountain Science Center." ONCOMPUTING 3 (1979):34-36.
Bell, F. "Classroom Computing: Beyond the 3 R'S." CREATIVE COMPUTING 5
Cheshire, F. INTRODUCTION TO LOGO. Workshop presented at the CEC/CASE
Conference on Technology in Special Education, 1984, Reno, NV.
Guilford, J. P. THE NATURE OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE. New York: McGraw-Hill,
McClellan, E. "Using Computers to Educate Gifted Children." In HANDBOOK OF
MICROCOMPUTERS IN SPECIAL EDUCATION, edited by M. Behrmann. San Diego:
College Hill Press, 1984.
Papert, S. MINDSTORMS. New York: Basic Books, 1980.
Runion, T. STEWARDSHIP: TRAINING THE GIFTED AS COMMUNITY MENTORS.
Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children, 1982.
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