Friday, January 14, 2011

Widening the Reach of Irish Gifted Advocacy

There is an ongoing discussion between Irish and global advocates for gifted education on Facebook at the moment which has reminded me that we still have a long way to go to reach our intended audience. Our blog’s goal is to raise awareness among teachers and parents in Ireland about the needs of gifted learners. We make no secret of the fact that our scope is limited and neither of us have teaching qualifications or experience, but our lofty ambition is to open some dialogue between teachers themselves. As we have learned, there is little if any formal support for teachers who have a gifted pupil in their classroom. For parents, on the other hand, there are quite a considerable amount of online resources and support available, both in an Irish context and internationally. The challenges of parenting gifted children can be shared globally via online discussion groups, Twitter, Facebook and support websites. Teaching gifted children however, is often more specific to the education system in place in a given country. It can depend on what legislation is in place to support gifted learners (if any!), how the progress of pupils is measured, whether teacher-training includes gifted education, or what time or resources an individual teacher has available.

Over the past few years we have been involved, through Twitter’s #gtchat and Facebook groups among others, in advocacy online in Ireland. There has been a strong and constant Irish presence for some time now and the circle is growing wider. There are many parents and teachers of gifted children in Ireland who do not “tweet”, who are not on Facebook, who don’t partake in online discussions. However, their children and pupils do or certainly will in the future! If we do not at least try to keep up with this next generation of digital native, we ourselves, our message, our experience and our wisdom will get left behind. It is up to those of us who are learning the value of using social media to coax, cajole or encourage as many advocates as we can to join us. There are others who are making a difference on the ground, in their schools and communities....but how much better would it be if they had a platform to share their experience and ideas with all of us?

If our knowledge can be pooled for the good of all our gifted learners we all benefit. If a teacher in Laois or Donegal has an insight which helped a pupil but has no way to share it with a wider audience of fellow teachers or parents, that valuable resource may be lost.  Those  who do make a difference in the classrooms of Ireland should be at the forefront of the Irish voice of gifted awareness. We need to find a way for this group to share their work so others can benefit. The bigger the group, the more resources are shared and the louder the voice will be in raising awareness of gifted education. Doing this through Twitter or Facebook or other online resources makes perfect sense for Ireland. Currently we are without a national organisation for gifted issues so using social media allows everyone to participate. There are no committee meetings to which people have to travel long distances and every voice can be heard equally from the comfort of their own home, school or local library. It is a democratic and powerful outlet, and inclusive of those who would not necessarily seek out gifted information but who nonetheless may be a positive force in the school life of a gifted learner.

Taking part in online Twitter chats is a commitment, to time, to research, to putting your opinion out there. It can be intimidating at the beginning, but it is not difficult. If you can send an e-mail, you can master Twitter! The most important thing to tell potential “tweeps” is that #gtchat and the new Irish #gtie are welcoming and warm places where every participant is valued for their contribution. (Oh, and that they may have to brew a pot of strong coffee to stay awake on Friday nights!) Perhaps some people will never feel comfortable with it and will decline to take part. That does not invalidate the work they do for gifted children, long may they continue it. But those who are trying to create an online presence to include as many advocates as possible should be lauded and encouraged to continue this valuable work. If  some brave teachers and parents are willing to speak up, maybe, just maybe, that will be the catalyst for others to do likewise. We may be a handful now, but for all our gifted learners we should strive to be a powerhouse. It’s all about the children.......


  1. Well said!! Now is the time. Thank you for stepping out and sharing this!

  2. Well said! I believe Ireland is on the verge of a new era in gifted advocacy. We must reach out to everyone in the global community if we are going to succeed. Great things are happening all over the world in gifted education - many new and unique paths are being followed. Keep up the fantastic posts!

  3. Catherine/Karen,there has been, for a long time, a fire underneath me...but it hasn't always shone where it was needed nor where it could banish the most darkness. Margaret Keane and you two have pointed to a most pernicious darkness that ought never to have existed in the first instance and (to be deep!) my psychology would not allow me sleep if I were to ignore you and carry on my merry way. That is not to make me out to be something big or special...indeed, it is my shame that I haven't listened more carefully in the past...I just have my skills and knowledge as you have yours. Collaboratively, we can make something bigger than we could individually and if all G&T advocates in Ireland stand together in the interests of children, who can be against us.