Webinars for caregivers to “gifted and talented”

I do believe we are all gifted and talented in unique ways, and I do believe the Flynn Effect finding that average human intelligence is going up. But I still think these free webinars from UC Irvine Extension school might be of interest if you are in any way responsible for nurturing a young person whose intellect is out of step with peers.

I found the one on Social and Emotional Needs somewhat interesting if (necessarily?) somewhat superficial. But the part about “mentally hanging out with children two to three years older” has been true in my experience and an argument for, rather than against, skipping grades if needed/warranted. She says “boredom is just as stressful” as being overloaded.

Links to the following webinars are at this page. I’ve only skimmed through one so far. Let me know what you think.

“6th Annual Gifted & Talented Education Webinar Series
“View on-demand our most recent FREE webinar series designed for teachers, administrators and parents of the gifted!

“The Gamification of Education (2/6/2014)
“The New 3 R’s for GATE: Augmented Reality, QR Codes, Virtual Reality (2/13/2014)
“Discourse and Collaboration: Skills for the 21st Century (2/20/2014)
“Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted Child: What Parents Want to Know (2/27/2014)”

Potter’s Playdough (from Eileen de Rosas)

This was always my favorite play dough recipe, because the texture felt “just right” to me. No surprise, since it came from my friend, ceramicist Eileen deRosas:

Measure into a small saucepan:

1 cup white flour

¼ cup salt

2 Tablespoons cream of tartar

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup of water

food coloring as desired.


Stir over medium heat until ball forms. Cool on a floured surface.

Knead and play!

Learning Service

The two questions near the end make the point crystal clear:

“Far from always being the morally superior option, traveling abroad to “help” can in fact display a lot of ego. Educators and volunteer travel providers can communicate this to people by asking them to compare two concepts:

  1. Inexperienced volunteers who paint a fence that no one needs or who inadvertently support a corrupt organization
  2. Travelers who go overseas with the express purpose of listening to and learning from the people they meet so that they are more able to take action on the issues about which they learn”



A couple of resources for learning to code

I may have already mentioned the games and contests at NoNameSite.com as an introduction to thinking in ways that help you learn to program. NoNameSite has also developed free modules for learning programming in their “SoCo” (School Of COde) area.

Similarly, Code.org has some simple and free resources for beginning to learn to program. Teachers and schools can use them, but many could be used independently at home. Have fun!

On Feedback, a la Bernstein & Copland

There have been times in my life when people have given me feedback that was really hard to hear in the moment. Even about things I was doing my best to do very well because they were so important to me. And in retrospect it has often been the hardest-to-hear feedback that turned out to be the most useful once I wrapped my head (and ego) around it. So I offer this quote from a Harvard Magazine article about Leonard Bernstein’s letters in hopes it can reassure any of us who have been in that position that it happens to everyone, even the “best” of us:

“…Bernstein conducted the European premiere of Copland’s Third Symphony in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. ‘First I must say it’s a wonderful work,’ he reported to Copland. ‘Coming to know it so much better I find in it new lights and shades—and new faults,’ launching an audacious critique. ‘Sweetie, the end is a sin. You’ve got to change….We must talk – about the whole last movement, in fact.’”

Ramblings from origin of math & writing to NBPTS to Common Core & opting out

Just some random thoughts I feel compelled to collect given all the talk about Common Core backlash etc.

One day I was riding the bus with a neighbor who was on his way to teach his History of Mathematics class. He said that day’s lecture was going to be about how ancient peoples developed fractions before they even used a zero. He was marveling at how counterintuitive that would seem. I just said, “huh,” as he debarked at his stop. I thought a little more about it and the next time I saw him I told him I thought it made perfect sense to develop fractions first since people in a society have to figure out how to share. If somebody had nothing, math would probably not seem like their most pressing problem. I am not sure he esteemed my considerations very highly but he is more into math than people-watching anyway I guess. But I feel like we STILL teach youngsters about fractions using concepts like sharing food (pieces of the pie). We also all probably know toddlers who can recognize when a cookie doesn’t break into even halves.

So then I could further imagine that accounting is what led to the development of arithmetic and writing. Leaving aside any question about religion, let’s just say what if there were times, like that recounted in Hebrew scriptures of Joseph & Pharaoh’s 7 years of fat cows and piles of corn, when people had to communally store their grains or what have you. And during the 7 years of emaciated cows and empty fields, they needed a way to show that their family had contributed to the storage and argue for the right to get a fair share back. Or any other scenario of exchange (AKA business) could have necessitated reading, writing and arithmetic.

Interestingly enough, the Joseph and Pharaoh story also involved government policy-making, which could be why the story takes some time to establish in its ancient way that the information for the policy decision was of sufficient quality and credibility (several correct dream interpretations/predictions precede Pharaoh’s). I won’t go too far into that line of reasoning, but just say I can see how both business and government would have had reasons to push human cognition further than might seem necessary for just day to day living. Day to day living probably required a lot more scientific knowledge 😉

I have worked at Educational Testing Service and at Education Development Center. Part of what I did at each place was help develop assessments offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, based on Linda Darling Hammond’s idea to create a Board Certification process for teachers to parallel medical Board Certification. It seemed like kind of good idea, especially in that we involved groups of expert practitioners in defining the standards, developing all the portfolio instructions and performance tasks and even in developing the scoring systems and doing the actual scoring. But I remember asking the principal investigator for one of the assessments why then education wouldn’t parallel medicine in letting people check in periodically or as needed, with the assumption that learning is natural to humans just as we are healthy most of the time. I still wonder that.

So now the Common Core is another set of standards. I saw some common issues with it right away. First of all, this new set of standards had very little involvement from actual professional teachers. But then again, I have come around to see how certain aspects of education matter very much to business and government. Worst of all, when I first saw Race to the Top/Common Core materials, it looked like the publisher for the single common assessment had already been chosen. “What a coup for that company!” was literally my first thought about all of this.

So the backlash, and opting out. I have more thoughts about this than I want to develop in one blog post, but the upshot is I have been thinking that the old energy of trying to standardize what people know and think is going to die out hard. It seems pointless to protest just one piece of the accountability craze. Why do we segregate kids by age (I can only think this is most horrible for emerging adolescents and why a satisfying middle grades experience is so hard to find)? Why do we insist on scaleable machine score-able assessments every year when the word “assess” comes from the French word for sitting down with?– like a teacher would sit with a student to find out what she or he knows.

In the meantime if you don’t want to work on an overall overhaul of American education, I would think the most effective opt out would be from the whole system. But that would have its drawbacks, too. Whichever way parents choose as the best way to educate their children will have tradeoffs. The most important thing is to take a stand based on what you value most as the PURPOSE of education in the first place and in the second place what your family can best achieve without over stressing or over burdening any family member(s).



Tufts Community Music–summer camp, free concert, fundraiser….

From Edith Auner @ Tufts Community Music:
Registration is underway for summer music camp 2014.  The dates are:  
week one – July 21-25
week two – July 28-August 1

Both weeks are currently about half full, so if you’d like to come to camp, think about getting your application in soon.  

Free concert for children this Saturday!
Kiniwe, Tufts African drumming and dance ensemble, performs, featuring director Nani Agbeli. Enjoy Adzobo, Kpanlogo, and Bobobo dancing, traditional singing and drumming, and a family drumming workshop at the end of the performance. The concert will be held Saturday, March 8th at 1pm in Distler Performance Hall in the Granoff Music Center, 20 Talbot Avenue, Medford MA. Free and open to the public; no tickets required. For more information contact the box office at 617.627.3679 or visit as.tufts.edu/music/musiccenter.

On Saturday morning, March 29, from 10-12:30, we will be having a fundraiser for our scholarship fund.  Please come and shop if  you’re available.  If you would like to donate, we could use:
music for all instruments
books for children
$1 dollar bills for change (or 5’s, 10’s, or 20’s!!)
baked goods to sell.

all my best,

Edith Auner
Coordinator of Applied Music and Outreach
Tufts University
Granoff Music Center Room 178