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Personalized Gifted Education in Every Parent's Pocket: mLearning Is Here by Cathy Risberg, M.A. [Spark 1(1) p. 6-8]

March 01, 2013 5:20 PM | Deleted user

This article first appeared in the January, 2012, issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter and is [published in Spark] with the author’s permission.


We all know how assistive technology can help twice-exceptional children reach their potential. One technology many parents fail to consider as they personalize their child’s gifted education is that of mobile learning devices. Leveraging technology to promote self-direction and self-reliance can help advance potential and transform our homes and classrooms into 21st Century learning environments. Mobile technology — mLearning — is one way to do that.



As it’s generally defined, mLearning involves learning across contexts that include the school, home, and museums. It’s a means of learning with mobile devices while on the go 24/7 in our very mobile society.

In 2001, I took part in an early adoption of emerging mobile technology. A parent, a university professor, and I collaborated to write and implement a Palm Education Pioneer grant for mobile technology in my third-grade classroom at Quest Academy, a school for gifted children in Palatine, Illinois. That experience, along with current studies and my first-hand experience with mobile technology, has shown me the importance of examining both the barriers to and benefits of using mobile learning devices at home and at school.

An online blogger for The Training Journal, Martin Addison, has identified these barriers for mobile technology use:
• Lack of relevant, non-linear, and engaging content
• Screen size
• Organizational culture
• Lack of user sophistication
• Assessment


Among the commonly mentioned benefits of mobile technology are its:
• Cost effectiveness
• Conduciveness to enabling or building and sustaining a one-to­one computer program
• Ability to meet students where they are in their lives outside the classroom, through texting, gaming, and social networking
• Role as a connector of learners



Research demonstrates that putting the child in the middle of the learning equation results in a dramatic increase in motivation. It is this sense of motivation that moves the child closer to reaching his or her potential as a learner. In my consulting I use the definition of potential provided by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. According to Dweck, who focuses on the research behind a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, potential is “the capacity to develop skills over time with effort.” This definition is a particularly helpful one for parents to consider and teach to their children.

One example of personalized learning comes from New York City’s School of One. There, according to Joel Rose, the founder of the School of One’s math program, “a learner’s needs, abilities, aptitudes, motivations, interests, skill levels, and most successful learning situations combine to provide a 360-degree view that reveals his or her best pathway for success.”

Most parents would face challenges in finding a school that could provide such a tailor-made gifted program for each child, a program similar to what the School of One offers as part of its established policy. To address that challenge, parents can learn as much as possible about developing their own home-based program of personalized learning.

Here is what I see as the essential mindset and core strategies needed to create a personalized learning environment at home and at school:
• Remember to be supportive, calm, and focused on your relationship with the child.
• Ask the learner: What is it that interests you?
• Take a child-centric view, focused on hopes and dreams.
• Demonstrate a flexible approach that targets the child’s strengths.
• Accept differences and remove obstacles.
• Consider the child’s interests, learning styles, and performance preferences.
• Understand that kids learn with all their senses.
• Link formal and informal learning.
• Use distributed resources, blended learning, and learning across life settings.
• Include on-going or periodic assessments that include reflection as well as portfolios in various formats.
• Make use of technology-based tools.
• Incorporate a sense of play and fun.



Parents need a specific and manageable curriculum framework to structure the personalized gifted home-based program. The framework I suggest is based on the recommendations of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. This national organization promotes merging the 3 Rs with the skills needed to “participate, achieve, and compete” in a global society. Primary among these skills are communication, collaboration, creativity/innovation, and critical thinking/problem solving.

Visitors to the P21’s website ( will find a two-page summary that illustrates the framework and includes:
• Core subjects and 21st-century themes
• Learning and innovation skills
• Information, media, and technology skills
• Life and career skills
The site provides additional detail as well, stressing the importance of five support systems critical to underlying this framework.



When it comes to using mLearning at home to implement a gifted curriculum, I offer the advice of popular ed tech blogger David Warlick. He states that “learning is about the experience, not about the tools…The only thing we should be concerned with is equitable access to rigorous, relevant, and irresistible learning experiences that reflect and harness the times, the environment, and the ultimate goals of learning.”

It is the ability of mobile learning devices to provide not only access to learning but also acceleration of the curriculum. An explosion of mobile apps for smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and game systems has taken place, and the following list represents just the highlights of an extensive mobile app and resource list that I have compiled [and which is posted on the 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter website].

1. Broadcastr — helps create immersive experiences tied to a particular location
2. Diigo — social bookmarking site that helps you organize and share your bookmarked sites
3. Google Docs — allows you to create, share, and access documents and presentations from anywhere
4. Mixbook — versatile program for creating photo scrapbooks and calendars
5. PicLits — creative writing site with key words that can be added to pictures

Creativity/Critical Thinking
1. Animoto — video slideshow service that turns photos and videos into professional looking videos
2. Drawing Pad — allows you to draw, write, or use stamps and gets rave reviews from users
3. Mindomo — mindmaps to solve problems and think creatively
4. Popplet — for creating timelines and flowcharts that can be shared and completed through collaboration
5. SimpleMind — helps with brainstorming, collecting ideas, and structuring thinking



I encourage parents to become advocates for the use of mobile learning devices at home and at school as tools for exploration, discovery, access, and acceleration for their children and for all learners. My framework for advocacy includes these steps:
1. Begin at home by examining the barriers and benefits of mobile learning for your child.
2. Document and reflect on your experience of personalizing learning with mobile learning devices.
3. Research mLearning in education and how it is facilitating the acquisition of 21st century skills.
4. Share your discoveries and network in person and online with other parents and educators.
5. Ask a question and start a conversation in your school to find out just how mLearning might be incorporated as a tool to help personalize the curriculum for all students, including every uniquely gifted learner.



References and Resources
• ASCD (2011, February) Can Mobile Devices Transform Education? Education Update. Vol. 53, 2.
• Borthwick, Arlene, and Cathy Risberg. ”Establishing an Organizational Climate for Successful Professional Development: What Should We Do?” Transforming Classroom Practice. Eds. Arlene Borthwick and Melissa Pierson. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education, 2008, 35-48. Print.
• Boser, Katherine (2010, November/December). UDL, 21st Century Learning, and the Impact of School Reform for Twice-Exceptional Students. Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, 43.
• Carnegie Mellon University (2010, October 19). Culturally inspired mobile phone games help Chinese children learn language characters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 29, 2011, from 2010/10/101019121804.htm
• Dweck, Carol (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.
• Fingal, Diane (2010, November). What Do We Mean When We Say 21st Century Learning? Learning and Leading, Vol. 38, No. 3.
• Goldman, David (2011). U.S. cell phones, tablets, outnumber Americans. CNN Money. Retrieved on October 12, 2011 from: index.htm
• ICT Results (2008, October 27). Personalized Learning Puts Students In A Class Of Their Own. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 21, 2011, from: http://
• Johnson, Steve (2011). Texting our way to isolation. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on November 12, 2011 from: emailstory/ct-ent-1114-humanities-sherry-turkle-20111114_1_sherry-turkle-texting-cell­phones
• Laboy-Rush, Diane (2011, February 4) Lean forward, Pay Attention, and Engage! Pathways to Science. Retrieved on May 21, 2011, from: http://
• The John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Re-Imagining Learning in the 21st Century. You Media: Creating a 21st Century Library. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved on April 27, 2011, from: 5852863/k.2D95/ReImagining_Learning__YouMedia.htm
• McLester, Susan (2011, March) Learning Gets Personal. District Administration. Retrieved on May 21, 2011, from viewarticle.aspx?articleid=2710
• Mobl21 (2011). Innovate to Educate: (Re)Design for Personalize Learning. Mobl21: Mobile Learning Made Easy. Retrieved on January 27, 2011 from: http://
• Nagel, David (2011, May). Principals Call for Mobile and Social Technologies in Schools. THE Journal. Retrieved on May 24, 2011 from: articles/2011/05/23/principals-call-for-mobile-and-social-technologies-in-schools.aspx
• National Center on Time and Learning (2011). Technology to Personalize Learning: School of One, New York, NY. Time and Learning. Retrieved on May 21, 2001, from practice_profiles_final/personalized_learning_ at_school_of_one.pdf
• Oregon Small Schools Initiative (2011). Personalized Learning. E3: Oregon Small School Initiative Retrieved September 15, 2011, from: http://
• Risberg, Cathy (2007). From Access to Acceleration: Using Technology to Unlock and Unleash Learning in All Gifted Learners. Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal 2007.
• Risberg, Cathy (2009). Empowering the Young Gifted Child: Strategies and Tools for Creating an Emotionally Safe School. Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal 2009.
• Rotherham, Andrew and Daniel Willingham (2009, September). 21st Century Skills: The Challenges Ahead. Teaching for the 21st Century. Retrieved on May, 17, 2011 from:­Century-Skills@-The-Challenges-Ahead.aspx
• Rubenstein, Grace (2011). Ten Tips for Personalized Learning via Technology. Edutopia. Retrieved on November 16, 2011 from:­differentiated-instruction-ten-key-lessons
• Wallace, Patricia, PhD (2011). M-Learning: Promises, Perils, and Challenges for K-12 Education. New Horizons for Learning. Retrieved on November 11, 2011 from:    
• Warlick, David (2010) Technology for 21st Century Learning. 2 Cents Worth. Retrieved on November 15, 2011 from:
• Web 2.0 Teaching Tools. Developing Critical Thinking Skills is Vital to Students’ Future Success. Web 2.0 Teaching Tools. Retrieved May 16, 2011 from s­skills.html
• Woodhill, Gary (2011, August). Barriers to the Adoption of Mobile Learning. The Mobile Learning Edge. Retrieved on August 26, 2011 from:­learning/
• Woodhill, Gary (2011, October). Mobile Learning Devices in the Classroom: is this really mobile learning? Float Mobile Learning Blog. Retrieved on November 13, 2011 from:­classroom-is-this-really-mobile-learning/

Websites Here is a tremendous help for anyone interested in mobile learning – a list of 134 resources. This not-for profit links kids and promotes content driven online problem-solving and global collaboration. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates for 21st century readiness by merging the 3Rs with communication, collaboration, creativity/innovation and critical thinking/problem solving. This not-for-profit is dedicated to improving student achievement, with a focus on students living in poverty. A site designed to help teachers provide learning opportunities for students that will develop 21st Century learning through the use of Web 2.0 tools, such as Wordle and Glogster.

This article is based on content presented by Cathy Risberg, M.A., at the 2011 NAGC convention. Risberg consults with parents, students, teachers, and administrators to identify and provide strength-based strategies to help all students, especially those who are gifted and twice-exceptional, reach their full potential. Find more information at her website Minds that Soar.

Posted retroactively on March 13, 2015. 

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