“I’m an educational psychologist, and I study how people learn. So I wanted to create a product that would use multiple modalities.”
—Kristie Speirs Neumeister, PhD, associate professor in educational psychology and coauthor of a new digital textbook, Gifted Learners: An Introduction for Educators
Speirs Neumeister is a professor in Ball State’s online gifted and talented graduate certificate program. According to her, studies show that the majority of the nation’s teachers, unless they are licensed to teach high ability students, say they do not feel prepared to meet the needs of this student population. Her new text, designed for a graduate course in gifted education, attempts to fill that void. Covering the eight traditional topics of an introductory class on gifted education, the book’s eight chapters provide interactive lesson plans such as having students identify the characteristics of gifted students. Speirs Neumeister says her decade of teaching online helped her to stay on task in creating a text that was engaging—literally. “I’m an educational psychologist, and I study how people learn. So I wanted to create a product that would use multiple modalities,” she says. “We know what motivates people in terms of learning, and we wanted to build that into our textbook.” Speirs Neumeister did much of the work during her fall 2010 sabbatical and interviewed leading experts in gifted and talented at a national conference along with teachers, administrators, parents of gifted students, and gifted students such as those quoted above. In Ball State online classes where the book has been tested, feedback has been positive, she says. Since the text uses video of Speirs Neumeister and her colleague Burney, students have also had the opportunity to “meet” their professors—and authors of their textbook. The result, she says, is a more personal connection that helps build relationships with the class. The authors are partnering with Ball State’s Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education (IDEE) to get the textbook to a publisher. Advantages of a digital textbook, they note, include lower cost and the ability to update the text. Director of Ball State’s gifted licensure program, Speirs Neumeister consults with the Indiana Department of Education and school districts on meeting the academic needs of high ability students. A brand new release by Speirs Neumeister and Burney, Gifted Program Evaluation: A Handbook for Administrators and Coordinators, is a resource school districts can use to do in-house evaluations of their gifted programs. Speirs Neumeister believes that developing the potential of promising youngsters should be a national priority. “They are going to be our leaders, our innovators, our decision makers, our policy makers,” she says.
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