ERIC Identifier: ED262514
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: McClellan, Elizabeth
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Technology for the Gifted and Talented. 1985 Digest.
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 does.
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 curriculum.
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
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
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 Master Mind.
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.
HOW ARE COMPUTERS USED TO DEVELOP THINKING SKILLS?
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 computer-related.
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
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. 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. Both kinds of problem solving require the use of thinking
skills associated with analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
HOW DOES THE COMPUTER SERVE AS A TOOL FOR GIFTED STUDENTS?
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 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 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
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 keeping.
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
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Barstow, D. "The Talcott Mountain Science Center." ONCOMPUTING 3
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.