Moursund's IT in Education Home Page

Free Materials
Dave Moursund's Blog for the discussion of his current and past writing projects.
Last updated 5/17/06
Visits to this page since 6/22/07
Web Counter
stats counter

Computers in Education for Talented and Gifted Students: A Book for Elementary and Middle School Teachers
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Moursund, D.G. (2006). Computers in Education for Talented and Gifted Students: A Book for Elementary and Middle School Teacher. Access at
. (Two pages of new material were added to the 1/1/06 version of the book on 3/07/06, about 1/3 of a page was added on 3/14/06., and about 1/5 of a page was added on 3/30/06.)

This 118 page book explores various roles of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in talented and gifted (TAG) education. The three goals of this book are:

  • To help improve the educational opportunities and education of TAG students.
  • To increase the general knowledge of teachers about the field of computers in education.
  • To explore some possible changes designed to improve our educational system. Many of the ideas in this book are applicable to all students, not just TAG students.

PDF file of the book.

Microsoft Word file of this book. Note that this may download the document to your desktop so that you need to open it from there. The file name is TAG.doc.

Table of Contents.


Workshops: I have done workshops covering some of the material in the book at NCCE (Feb. 2006) and Hood River, Oregon (Feb. 2006). A workshop is scheduled for NECC (July 2006).

Additional references and other material to be used in a future revision of the book.

Table of Contents

Contents 1
About Dave Moursund, the Author 4
Preface 5

Cognitively Challenged and Cognitively Gifted Students 5
Auxiliary Brain (Distributed Intelligence) 6
Other Big Ideas and Themes 7
Reference Materials 7

Chapter 1: Introduction 9

Talented and Gifted 9
Expertise in a Discipline or Domain 13
Brain Science and Expertise 14
Metacognition 15
Education for TAG Students 17
Summary 18
Activities and Discussion Topics 19

Chapter 2: Human and Machine Intelligence 20

Human Intelligence 20
Artificial Intelligence 32
Combining Human and Artificial Intelligence 38
Summary 39
Activities and Discussion Topics 39

Chapter 3: Joseph Renzulli 41

Learning Styles 43
Schoolwide Enrichment Model 46
Total Talent Portfolio 47
Applications of TTP to ICT in Education 51
Why Not a Detailed List of ICT Competencies? 54
Summary 55
Activities and Discussion Topics 55

Chapter 4. Expertise in Problem Solving 56

Definition of the Terms “Discipline” and “Problem” 59
Critical Thinking 60
Lower-Order and Higher-Order Thinking 60
What is a Formal Problem? 61
Automaticity: A Key Problem-Solving Idea 63
Some Problem-Solving Strategies 66
Getting Better at Learning 70
Computer and Information Science 72
Summary 73
Activities and Discussion Topics 73

Chapter 5. Project-Based Learning 75

What is PBL? 75
Process writing as an Example of PBL 76
Goals in an ICT-Assisted PBL Lesson 77
Differentiated Instruction 78
Rubrics and Other Aids to Assessment 79
Summary 82
Activities and Discussion Topics 82

Chapter 6: Computer Games 83

Introduction 83
Declarative and Procedural Knowledge 86
Situated Learning & Transfer of Learning 87
Learning in a Game-learning Environment 89
Research 91
(Some added materials here.)
Student Creation of Games 92
Summary 93
Activities and Discussion Topics 94

Appendix 1. Projects for TAG Students 95

Learning and Forgetting 96
Developing Scenarios of Possible Futures 97
Me: A Course of Study 98
Studying and Writing About TAG-ness 99
Problems You Feel Need Solutions 104
Your Reading Skills 105
Miscellaneous Other Topics 105

References 108

Index 114


“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” (Jean Paiget, 1896-1980)

“Our schools, teachers, and students might be a lot better off if schools embraced the idea that education means learning what to do when you don't know what to do.” (Eliot Eisner. Back to the whole child. Educational Leadership, September 2005.)

This book explores various roles of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in talented and gifted (TAG) education. The three goals of this book are:

  • To help improve the educational opportunities and education of TAG students.
  • To increase the general knowledge of teachers about the field of computers in education.
  • To explore some possible changes designed to improve our educational system. Many of the ideas in this book are applicable to all students, not just TAG students.

Most of the content of this book has been written specifically for preservice or inservice “regular education” elementary and middle school teachers. When I say “you” in this book, I mean “the reader,” but I am assuming that most readers will be preservice and inservice regular education teachers. Other possible readers include parents, TAG teachers, TAG students, school administrators, and so on. The book assumes some familiarity with education in general, but does not assume specific previous knowledge about TAG education.

There is sufficient material in this book to support a 1-credit course or a workshop that is a couple of days in length. Alternatively, parts of the book can be used to support a unit within a 3 or 4-credit computers in education course. Each chapter ends with a short list of questions that can be used for discussion in classes or in workshops, or as written assignments.

Cognitively Challenged and Cognitively Gifted Students

The article Giftedness and the gifted (ERIC Digest, 1990) says, “using a broad definition of giftedness, a school system could expect to identify 10% to 15% or more of its student population as gifted and talented.”

This book explores a variety of measures of giftedness. One measure is rate of learning. A cognitively gifted may have a learning rate that is perhaps one-and-a half to two or more times the rate of average students. In an elementary or middle school classroom of 25 to 30 students, perhaps two or three students will have this superior rate of learning. Such students tend to get good grades and their accumulated knowledge and skills moves well ahead of average students over a period of years.

There are many different definitions of what constitutes being cognitively gifted. Historically, TAG education is most often focused on students who are exceptionally cognitively talented relative to average students. Chapter 1 explores definitions of TAG. It also provides some general background and overview information to support later chapters of the book.

A student may be TAG in some areas and not in others. Indeed, a TAG student may also be a special education student. As an example, a professional acquaintance of mine has a child who is severely autistic. This child is also profoundly gifted, with an IQ of over 180! Stephen Hawking (n.d.) is often named as an example of such a person. Our educational system is challenged by the difficulty in identifying and appropriately working with students with multiple exceptionalities (OTECa, n.d.; Willard-Holt, 1999).

Auxiliary Brain (Distributed Intelligence)

A human brain can do lots of things better than the very best of current multimillion-dollar supercomputers. On the other hand, even inexpensive microcomputers can do lots of things much better than a human brain. These facts have been evident since the first electronic digital computers were built more than 60 years ago. These facts are true for cognitively challenged students and for cognitively gifted students. One way to think about a computer is that it is a type of auxiliary brain-a tool designed as an accommodation to certain types of weaknesses found in all human brains.

The cost effectiveness of electronic computers has improved by a factor of more than a billion since the mass production of computers began in 1951. (This figure comes from the fact that a microcomputer is more than a million times as fast and costs less than 1/1,000 as much as the UNIVAC I.) Computers have become much faster, have larger primary and secondary storage memory devices, and have much improved software. Human-machine interfaces and telecommunications systems have been substantially improved. This rapid pace of improvement in ICT systems seems likely to continue well into the future.

From the very beginning, computers were often called “brains” or “electronic brains.” Even an inexpensive handheld calculator can be thought of as a brain tool, as a supplement to your brain, as an auxiliary brain. Another way to think and talk about this situation is to use the term distributed intelligence. Various aspects of intelligence can be distributed among a team of people and ICT systems working together to solve a problem or accomplish a task.

Our educational system has not done very well in preparing students to work in an environment in which increasingly powerful auxiliary brains are becoming more and more available. Most students are not learning to work in a distributed intelligence environment, where the ICT components of that environment are growing steadily more capable, year after year. This book contains a number of ways to the address auxiliary brain, distributed intelligence issue in TAG education. Many of these are applicable to the education of all students.

Other Big Ideas and Themes

Joseph S. Renzulli is one of the world's leading TAG educators. Renzulli feels that TAG education opportunities should be a regular part of the curriculum for all students in a regular classroom. Some of Renzulli's schoolwide ideas are discussed in Chapter 3.

Here is a list of some other Big Ideas woven into this book:

1. Empowering students. Helping students learn to learn and to be self-reliant learners, able to self-assess and to self-direct their learning efforts. This includes topics such as:

  • Expertise. Helping students to increase their levels of expertise in required curriculum areas and in areas of their choice.
  • Self-knowledge and metacognition. Helping students to learn about themselves-their capabilities, limitations, interests, and drives.
  • Self-assessment. Helping students learn to assess their own learning, abilities, and cognitive progress.
  • Transfer of learning. Helping students learn to learn in a manner that promotes transfer of learning and increases their ability to make use of their learning in novel settings.

2. Human intelligence and artificial intelligence. Chapter 2 provides general background and summarizes some of the current research in this area.

3. Problem solving. ICT provides aids to problem solving and to increasing expertise in every discipline. Chapter 4 provides an introduction to roles to ICT in solving challenging problems and accomplishing challenging tasks. It takes an approach of considering the ICT tools as augmentative deices, aids to the mind and brain.

4. Project-based learning. Chapter 5 contains an introduction to ICT-Assisted PBL. ICT-assisted PBL can be used to create teaching and learning environments that are especially suited to TAG students. However, the general ideas presented in Chapter 5 are applicable to all students. Appendix 1 contains a number of PBL activities designed especially for TAG students.

5. Computer games. Chapter 6 introduces computer games in education. Computer games are now being recognized as a powerful aid to learning and cognitive involvement. The creation and study of games can be an intrinsically motivating project for TAG students. The topics of developing games and learning to play games fits in well with ICT-Assisted PBL and is applicable to all students.

You should notice that all of these ideas are relevant to all students, not just to TAG students. However, the primary focus in this book is on exploring these ideas for TAG students.

Reference Materials

This book is designed to be read online, although some people will undoubtedly print it out and read it off-line. This book contains a large number of references. Most of the items in the References section of this book include links to Websites. When searching the literature, I try to pick references from Websites that are apt to be long lived. However, I still find that about 10 to 15 percent of such links are broken within the first year after publication. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Dave Moursund

Additional Resources for Future Revisions

Four of five gifted children receive no specialized instruction
Dalton Sargent's poor grades despite his high IQ are emblematic of the nation's failure to address the needs of the 3 million U.S. children identified as gifted and more who are never labeled, advocates say. "There are students, usually from upper-income homes -- who will always have advocates," said John C. Scribner, a California state representative's legislation director and member of the Sacramento County Board of Education. "We want to give that same opportunity to kids whose parents maybe are working two jobs, who aren't engaged with the system but with survival and other challenges and whose children end up without advocates." Los Angeles Times (free registration) (5/12/08)

Aratani, Lori (February 22, 2006). 'Gifted' label takes a vacation in diversity quest. Accessed 2/22/06:
article/2006/02/21/AR2006022101822.html. Quoting from the article:

Middle school magnet programs in Montgomery County have traditionally operated as schools within schools, offering specialized curriculum to a few select students -- who have been mostly Asian and white.
But this fall, educators decided to try a different approach. Instead of selecting a few hundred students for traditional school magnets, officials opened magnet programs at three middle schools to everyone.

Landauer, Thomas K. -- The story of the human race is one of ever-increasing intellectual capability. Since our early cave-dwelling ancestors, our brains have gotten no bigger, our hands no more nimble, but there has been a steady accretion of tools for intellectual work--how to grow crops, domesticate animals, build shelters, paint paintings.It includes governing and inspiring and, unfortunately, waging wars. It includes how to build and operate airlines, television sets, and football teams. This shared capacity was first manifest in language, later in writing, math and science, and in the huge collections of experience and discovery stored in books and libraries. By comparison with our forebears, each of us has become a genius. From The Trouble With Computers, 1995, MIT Press. Page 365.

McGrew, Kevin S. (01/15/04). Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) Definition Project. Accessed 4/4/06: Quoting:

Fluid Intelligence/Reasoning (Gf): The use of deliberate and controlled mental operations to solve novel ?on the spot? problems (i.e., tasks that cannot be performed automatically). Mental operations often include drawing inferences, concept formation, classification, generating and testing hypothesis, identifying relations, comprehending implications, problem solving, extrapolating, and transforming information. Inductive (inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances) and deductive reasoning (the deriving of a conclusion by reasoning; specifically: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises) are generally considered the hallmark indicators of Gf. Gf has been linked to cognitive complexity which can be defined as a greater use of a wide and diverse array of elementary cognitive processes during performance.

Crystallized Intelligence/Knowledge (Gc): ?Can be thought of as the intelligence of the culture that is incorporated by individuals through a process of acculturation? (Horn, 1994, p.443). Gc is typically described as a person?s wealth (breadth and depth) of acquired knowledge of the language, information and concepts of specific a culture, and/or the application of this knowledge. Gc is primarily a store of verbal or language-based declarative (knowing ?what?) and procedural (knowing ?how?) knowledge acquired through the ?investment? of other abilities during formal and informal educational and general life experiences.

General (domain-specific) Knowledge (Gkn): An individual?s breadth and depth of acquired knowledge in specialized (demarcated) domains that typically do no represent the general universal experiences of individuals in a culture (Gc). Gkn reflects deep specialized knowledge domains developed through intensive systematic practice and training (over an extended period of time) and the maintenance of the knowledge base through regular practice and motivated effort. The primary distinction between Gc and Gkn is the extent to which acquired knowledge is a function of the degree of cultural universality. Gc primarily reflects general knowledge accumulated via the experience of cultural universals.

Visual-Spatial Abilities (Gv): ?The ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images? (Lohman, 1994, p.1000). The Gv domain represents a collection of different abilities each that emphasize a different process involved in the generation, storage, retrieval and transformation (e.g., mentally reverse or rotate shapes in space) of visual images. Gv abilities are measured by tasks (figural or geometric stimuli) that require the perception and transformation of visual shapes, forms, or images and/or tasks that require maintaining spatial orientation with regard to objects that may change or move through space.

Auditory Processing (Ga): Abilities that ?depend on sound as input and on the functioning of our hearing apparatus? (Stankov, 1994, p. 157). A key characteristic of Ga abilities is the extent an individual can cognitively ?control? (i.e., handle the competition between ?signal? and ?noise?) the perception of auditory information (Gustafsson and Undheim, 1996), The Ga domain circumscribes a wide range of abilities involved in discriminating patterns in sounds and musical structure (often under background noise and/or distorting conditions) and the ability to analyze, manipulate, comprehend and synthesize sound elements, groups of sounds, or sound patterns. Although Ga abilities play an important role in the development language abilities (Gc), Ga abilities do not require the comprehension of language (Gc).

Short-term Memory (Gsm): The ability to apprehend and maintain awareness of elements of information in the immediate situation (events that occurred in the last minute or so). A limited-capacity system that loses information quickly through the decay of memory traces, unless an individual activates other cognitive resources to maintain the information in immediate awareness.

Long-term Storage and Retrieval (Glr): The ability to store and consolidate new information in long-term memory and later fluently retrieve the stored information (e.g., concepts, ideas, items, names) through association. Memory consolidation and retrieval can be measured in terms of information stored for minutes, hours, weeks, or longer. Horn (Horn & Masunaga, 2000) differentiates two major types of Glr--fluency of retrieval of information over minutes or a few hours (intermediate memory) and fluency of association in retrieval from storage over days, months or years. Ekstrom et al. (1979) distinguished two additional characteristic processes of Glr: ?(1) reproductive processes, which are concerned with retrieving stored facts, and (2) reconstructive processes, which involve the generation of material based on stored rules? (p. 24). Glr abilities have been prominent in creativity research where they have been referred to as idea production, ideational fluency, or associative fluency.

Cognitive Processing Speed (Gs): The ability to automatically and fluently perform relatively easy or over-learned cognitive tasks, especially when high mental efficiency (i.e., attention and focused concentration) is required. The speed of executing relatively over-learned or automatized elementary cognitive processes.

Decision/Reaction Time or Speed (Gt): The ability to react and/or make decisions quickly in response to simple stimuli, typically measured by chronometric measures of reaction and inspection time. In psychometric methods, quickness in providing answers (correct or incorrect) to tasks of trivial difficult (CDS; correct decision speed)?may relate to cognitive tempo.

Etc. etc. etc. See the rest of the list given below.

Psychomotor Speed (Gps):

Quantitative Knowledge (Gq):

Reading/Writing (Grw):

Psychomotor Abilities (Gp):

Olfactory Abilities (Go):

Tactile Abilities (Gh):

Kinesthetic Abilities (Gk):

Mirror Neurons. This is a good topic for a project. The topic is only about 15 years old, and a student can quickly gain knowledge in this area that is beyond that of most teachers. See:

Nielsen, Jacob (May 15, 2006). Variability in user performance. Retrieved 5/15/06: Quoting:

When doing website tasks, the slowest 25% of users take 2.4 times as long as the fastest 25% of users. This difference is much higher than for other types of computer use; only programming shows a greater disparity.

The following table shows the average Q3/Q1 ratios from the traditional-use studies compared with that of Web use:

Type of Use Q3/Q1
Text editing 1.8
Personal computing 1.9
Information search 2.2
Web use 2.4
Programming 3.0

Robinson, H. (1983). A case for radical acceleration: Programs of the Johns Hopkins University and University of Washington. Academic Precocity: Aspects of Its Development, Chapter 8, 139-159, Johns Hopkins University Press. Quoting the Abstract:

Common arguments for and against accelerated pacing are presented. The conclusion is reached that educational programs must be adapted to fit the needs of the intellectually talented student. SMPY at The Johns Hopkins University and the Child Development Research Group at the University of Washington, both of which espouse curricular flexibility and emphasize radical acceleration, are described and exemplified by individual case studies. The description of the Washington program stresses the Radical Acceleration Group of the Early Entrance Program (EEP). This aspect of the program involves early entrance to the University of Washington for those students 14 years old and under, not yet in the tenth grade, who score better than college freshmen on the Washington Pre-College Test. Providing a structured support system, the program aids in the transition from junior-high to college-level work. Although some problems have been encountered, overall the students have made satisfactory academic and social progress in college.

Stanford Distance Learning for TAG

Quoting from Educause 4/12/06:


Stanford University has announced that its existing Education Program for Gifted Youth program will in the fall begin offering a full high school curriculum and a diploma to students who complete it. Started in 1992, the Education Program for Gifted Youth currently offers online courses to about 4,000 students between the ages of 4 and 18. The new offerings will round out a high school curriculum and will establish the program as the first online high school that targets gifted students. Other institutions, such as the University of Miami and the University of Texas, operate online high schools without a focus on high-performing students. Stanford's new program will be open to students in grades 10-12 who must apply for admission; demonstrate excellent achievement after they are enrolled; and pay tuition for the program, which is expected to be about $12,000 per year. Stanford said it will offer financial assistance and will particularly look for students from disadvantaged schools. San Jose Mercury News, 12 April 2006. Accessed 4/12/06:

First virtual high school for the gifted
By Becky Bartindale
Mercury News