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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wicked Problem Project

The Problem: Schools don't have the funding to continue or create gifted programs.

The Solution: Create a WIKI where gifted kids and their parents can go for resources, lesson plans, activities and a forum.

Part A:

PART A - Description of Need or Opportunity

As a parent of gifted children I often struggle with the lack of gifted programs or even clubs for my children to be engaged in. In our school district, and many others around the state, funding for gifted programs was cut years ago. The challenge was to find ways to connect other parents of gifted children to resources that can help them engage their children outside of the classroom.

My strategy was to use a wiki to get local parents talking to each other and provide information for how they can challenge their gifted children. There are many websites out there that provides educational resources that are free and challenging. However, being able to connect local parents would mean giving support to them to be able to arrange group activities, talk about what the students are currently studying in specific classrooms,  and what resources and activities reinforce the current topics in class. 

This is an example of a wiki that seems to have been created in 2010 by a school district and offers resources but doesn't look like it has been used since its creation. Identifying why this wiki fell short may help in preventing barriers to the implementation of my project. Unfortunately I did not receive a response to my inquiry but I suspect that it may have had trouble in being marketed to the parents and kids. This is an example of a wiki that seems to be active and has recent content updates.  It provides information for parents of gifted children to connect with each other, local events, resources for educational materials for gifted children,etc.  This wiki shows me that my project is still plausible.

For this project, I attempted to connect with other parents and get content into the Wiki.  After the completion of this course, I hope to be to promote the wiki in the community via social networking, networking with parents at sporting events, and connecting with the school district to gain their support and promotion.  Ideally, in a year it will also enable me to plan online and local activities for gifted kids in our area.

I created a google document with resources and ideas for content on the wiki, however each link in the wiki has been visited and assessed for it's usefulness which has proven to be a more time consuming activity than predicted.

A successful implementation of this project would result in a membership roster for the wiki that containes 20 or more active contributing members (parents, students, school teachers or administrators) by winter break in the upcoming school year. Although I do not have any members as of the end of June, I believe if I go forward with a marketing plan for the upcoming school year, this end goal might still be attainable.

The REVISED PART A Solution amendment: Create a wiki and then market it in the district and community to get parents and kids to actually log on and use it.  A tool is only a tool if it is used-and it can't be used if no one knows about it.  Going forward, I will attempt to meet with administration in the school district, the local PTO, and network with other parents in the community who may have a need for the wiki.  So far I have reached out to parents via facebook and sporting events for my kids.

Research clearly shows that gifted kids can struggle with being bullied, social interaction, etc. It also shows that parents need support in parenting their gifted child(ren). This wiki is creating a support system using technology to facilitate the process.

  1. What is the TP knowledge for the solution?  (i.e., how does the technology you have chosen support the teaching strategies and methods you have chosen?)  A wiki will help to connect parents at various schools in the district-we have multiple public elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.  In addition, we have private schools as well.  Short of calling an in person town hall meeting, a wiki (virtual cafe of sorts) would be the next best thing for forming these connections. Promotion of the wiki is also a part of this project as I will have to engage parents through facebook, twitter, etc. Connections are a key part for the gifted child and a support system is key to parenting a gifted child.  The wiki will be a bulletin board type solution where parents and kids will be able to go and see what is going on within their local community that will support them.
  2. What is the TC knowledge for the solution? (i.e., how specifically does this technology make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible?  Be sure to think about representation.) Many of the classroom teachers at the schools have a newletter where the teacher communicates specifically with the parents of that class.  Additionally our district uses "PowerSchool" as a grade portal for parents to access their child's grades on individual assignments and as a whole in each class. However, since most schools have cut out specific gifted programs, there are not really any ways for gifted kids to be identified or grouped together.  Parents don't go to sporting events with buttons that say "My kid is gifted."  Having a wiki that a parent or gifted child can become a member of is a little bit like wearing that button-virtually.  It is an icebreaker for parents to then share experiences.  It is a way for gifted kids to discover new challenging websites full of fun educational activities that they will enjoy. Many of the resources I have posted so far are interactive. It also eliminates parents searching through pages of material online to find something to engage their child.
  3. What is the PC knowledge for the solution? (i.e., how specifically do your pedagogical choices make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible?) Be sure to think about how the student will experience the content given these instructional strategies.  Taking into consideration the level of technology use in our community by both children and parents, a Wiki is a user friendly platform that does not require a high level of technical skills.  However, if a person has those skills they can use the resources within the wiki to learn, use and explore higher levels of technical abilities. The resources provided for kids (curriculum, activities, etc.) vary in pedagogical approaches and can be utilized by students and parents at various intellectual levels. 

In the above article, Lovecky describes the difficulty for some highly gifted children to develop healthy social relationships with their peers. "The children themselves identified problems with social acceptance and feeling valued for their opinions, difficulties with social skills and dealing with being picked on by age peers (Lovecky 1995). In my Wicked Problem project, I hope to connect gifted children with each other to assist in the sometimes difficult process of gifted children connecting with "like minds".  In a virtual relationship, children experience less social pressure than they do in the school group environment to interact with kids that may be of the same age or in the same grade. Often gifted kids have different levels of maturity because of developmental differences.  These differences are not necessarily as distinguishable by age.

Square Pegs in Round Holes—These Kids Don't Fit: High Ability Students With Behavioral Problems
Research has also shown (in the 2nd article listed above) that gifted kids can often be accused of or confused with having behavioral issues.  Parents often struggle themselves handling the different emotions a gifted child sometimes focuses on.  Having a parent forum to hear other parents going through the same things is comforting and helpful.

Although I have moved along in the design of the wiki I am still struggling with how to promote and implement it. I will be anxious for the new school year to begin this fall because I think it will be a more appropriate time to be able to network with parents, the community and the district in order to promote my solution.

My presentation is geared toward being presented at a PTO meeting.

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