Ciaran Cannon TD is an advocate of the needs of gifted children and of the importance of technology in education. On Saturday, a new book on gifted education both here and in the United States will be launched in DCU.
Ciaran launched the first comprehensive report on gifted education in Ireland back in December and his words struck a chord on several levels. Below, he speaks about not only the needs of gifted children, but the need to embrace technology for the sake of all children.
I would like to thank Colm O’Reilly and his colleagues at CTYI for their very kind invitation to join you this afternoon for the launch of this report “Gifted Education in Ireland, Educators’ Beliefs and Practices”.
I also want to extend a warm Irish welcome to all of our visitors from abroad in particular Tracy Cross, Jennifer Cross, Liz Albert and Kim Lansdowne. I do hope you enjoy your time in our capital city and get to savour some of the pre-Christmas atmosphere and I want to thank you for your very valuable work in helping to produce this report.
As a policy maker and a parent of a gifted child I have long been an admirer of the ethos and methodologies employed by Colm and his exceptional team here at CTYI, DCU. They deliberately seek out and support those of our children who are born with very unique talents and they nurture and support those children to empower them to achieve to the very pinnacle of those talents. Most of all they allow gifted children, many of whom feel somewhat alienated from their peers, to simply feel accepted.
Ireland, like every other nation on earth will face incredible challenges and indeed huge opportunities in the coming years. In fact I would argue that the power of technology is about to herald the dawn of a new age of learning, academic endeavour and innovation the like of which we have never seen before.
I’m convinced that by the end of this century the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century will seem like a very pedestrian affair when compared to the Technological Revolution of the 21st. Even by 2020, just six years away, there will be 25 billion devices connected to the internet, three for every single human being on earth, and what that connectedness will allow us to do is simply mind boggling. The instantaneous creation and acquisition of knowledge by the world’s finest minds collaborating from the four corners of the earth will lead to discoveries we cannot even imagine.
In education, our children are finally gaining access to the billions of pieces of knowledge floating around in the ether and with the advent of voice recognition and interactivedevices, we will soon just have to reach out and retrieve whatever we need. For example, I have never before had the pleasure of meeting with Tracy Cross but in the fifteen minute taxi ride from our national parliament to DCU I learned a lot about his very successful career, his upbringing in Knoxville Tenessee and the fact that his exceptionally bright mother at 15 years of age was summoned to the principal’s office and handed her high school diploma by her principal saying “we can’t do anything else for you”. I also learned that Tracy graduated from community college, got married and went on his honeymoon all in the one week! The point I’m trying to make is that a half an hour ago I knew none of this, simply because I didn’t need to. With my somewhat waning powers of retention, I may not recall all of that detail in a month’s time but I don’t need to, the knowledge is always there, waiting patiently for me to reach out and grab it when I need it.
Sugata Mitra, a Professor of Digital Learning at Newcastle University argued last year that we may be heading for a future where knowing things is obsolete and where it is no longer a necessity to spend time filling our children full of knowledge and then testing their ability to regurgitate it at will.
Imagine for a moment a generation of Irish children suddenly unburdened by the need to retain and regurgitate knowledge, a generation that could finally be free to create new knowledge, free to rediscover the awe and wonder they experienced when staring up at a bright new world from their cradle?
Already across this country we have trailblazing teachers who are using technology every day to create classrooms without boundaries, to empower children to learn better, to move from mechanical systemic thinking to critical thinking and genuine intellectual creativity.
Now imagine for a moment what might be possible if we create that kind of learning environment and then combine it with an education system which proactively works to identify gifted children and support them in developing their talent.
That is why your research for this report is so critical in that it sets out to engage directly with teachers in an effort to determine their attitude and behaviour towards gifted children. The findings in general seem to indicate that most schools believe that they have the appropriate mechanisms in place to identify gifted children but then feel somewhat challenged in providing for the needs of those children. In particular teachers in post-primary level feel that they have neither the time nor the resources to adequately serve these unique needs and that is very worrying. I have no doubt but that the very early emphasis on a state exam at secondary level is contributing to that highly pressurised learning environment with little scope for innovation on the part of teachers or students……and that is why there is a very real urgency around reform in our Junior Cycle.
I’m delighted that CTYI is engaging in this deep collaboration with some of the world’s finest minds on giftedness. I wish you every success in your work. Let’s all work towards a time when no child will be summoned to the principal’s office to be told there is nothing more that can be done for them.
Gifted Education in Ireland and the United States: Examples of best practice for parents and teachers. Will be launched is at 4:15pm on Saturday 21st March in 1838 club in DCU.
In spite of conflicting opinions to the contrary, gifted children are largely a heterogeneous group with students from various socioeconomic groups and differing educational needs. This book is a collaboration of research and best practice from CTY Ireland at Dublin City University and the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary. Both of these institutions are renowned for their work with gifted students in Ireland and America. Each chapter is written by experts in the field of gifted education and covers areas such as high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds, curriculum for gifted students, social and emotional needs of gifted children, particular programmes and courses available to them, and the most-current Internet resources that can be used both in and out of the classroom. The book is an important addition to the literature in gifted education and will prove a useful resource for parents, educators, and researchers working in the field.