Nebraska educators charged with teaching the brightest students in the state have been talking shop in downtown Omaha.
"We're at a crossroads, I think, in education and the work we're trying to do at Westside is really move us along that continuum from standardization to customization and personalization of learning and where do we want to be on that continuum?" asks Westside Schools Superintendent Dr. Blane McCann.
That question is one teachers, administrators and counselors will tackle again Friday during day two of the Gifted Learning Conference.
Dr. McCann also addressed the issue of "brain drain," losing too many bright students to opportunities far from Nebraska or Iowa. It's a struggle facing schools across America, but some educators attending the conference say the metro should be well-equipped to stop this drain.
A quick Google search shows brain drain is of concern no matter where you look, rural America and developing countries included. One of the latest articles even lists Washington, D.C. as a city concerned about losing its most driven students.
As for Omaha, the second-year superintendent for District 66 wants to make better use of the companies in town to inspire even our youngest students.
“I think what we want to do is connect our young people to these corporations. DLR is an international architecture firm, but they're headquartered, we have them right here in Omaha,” says Dr. McCann. “Apple's a little farther away, but we have a good connection with them, the local hospitals, the health sciences."
Connections like that are helping to expand this whole idea of what it means to be gifted and who falls under that umbrella.
It's no secret that no child learns the same. Teachers now focus on engagement and personalization. “Back in the early ‘80s we were trying to do that, but today with the technology we have we're able to personalize that learning for the kids and I think that's great for them. I think they're able to follow passions, take advantage of their interests and really engage them and create independent learners ultimately."
How do parents make sure their children are getting the most out of their time at school? "I find it difficult to think of, that we have standardized tests, we want every student to give the same answer on the test, yet we're told to be creative and innovative and be good thinkers. I'm still flummoxed by that approach to standardization."