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Advancing Potential and All That Jazz

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It is once again that time of year... Time to register for the national gifted education conference. This year's National Association for Gifted Children convention will take place November 2-6, 2011, in New Orleans (hence the "All That Jazz" theme!)

It all kicks off Thursday evening with an opening general session keynote by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy®! Oh, my students are going to be so jealous :o) Saturday's general session keynote will feature Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein for a hands-on experience exploring creativity and imagination in the arts and sciences. And Sunday's closing general session keynote will showcase Louisiana's own, artist George Rodrigue. If the name doesn't ring a bell, it's quite likely that a peek at his Blue Dogs will. You can read more about each of these general session keynotes here.

Those seeking an expanded experience can show up a day or two early for some "pre-conference" opportunities. Wednesday offers "Gifted Education Essentials: Your Toolkit for Delivering Successful Programs and Services." The Wednesday morning session will focus on "Essentials of Gifted Education: Designing and Delivering Excellent Programs for High-Ability Learners," and the afternoon features nine three-hour, in-depth sessions to pick from. I'm debating between "Developing a Philosophy of Gifted Education for the 21st Century," "Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Young Gifted Children," "Best Practices in Identification and Assessment," and "Middle Grades Essentials for the 21st Century." Wednesday concludes with what looks to be a fascinating panel discussion ("fireside chat" style) on "Leadership and Life Lessons from the Field," featuring some well-known names in Gifted Education who will offer their reflections from their full careers in the field. I look forward to gleaning what are sure to be some valuable insights from Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Karen Rogers, Julia Link Roberts, Tom Hébert, and George Betts. You can learn more about Wednesday's on-site offerings here.

Also available on Wednesday (off-site) will be a selection of "Action Labs," i.e. field trips for adults. A few of the options this year include "Heritage Education/Destrehan Plantation," "Arts-Based Education/Lusher Charter School, K-12," "Wetland Watchers/St. Charles Wetland Watchers Park," and "Special Schools for Special Students/Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts." An additional unique Action Lab opportunity on Wednesday will be the "Lending a Hand" Day of Service, a collaboration between Habitat for Humanity and NAGC's Global Awareness Network. Fifty participants will assist in the continued re-building of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck six years ago. Never thought I might be considering bringing my tool belt to an education conference!

Thursday will feature another sampling of longer, in-depth sessions, all under the umbrella of "Gifted Education Applications in the Classroom: Critical Models for Delivering Successful Services." The day will begin with an opening general session by new NAGC President Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and NAGC Executive Director Nancy Green titled "State of the Nation in Gifted Education." The day's Breakout Sessions (some in the morning, some in the afternoon) include the hard-to-choose-between "Harnessing the Power of Technology to Increase the Potential of Curriculum and Instruction," "Response to Intervention: A Leadership Framework for Identifying Potential," "Tech THAT: Gifted Children Online," "Beyond the Core: Infusing Critical and Creative Thinking into the Curriculum," "Maximizing Outcomes for Twice-Exceptional Children: What Educators Need to Understand and Be Able To Do," "I Always Knew I Was Smart. What Took Y'all So Long? Our Response to that Question Two Decades Later," and "Thinking in the Future Tense: Creating Positive Futures for Gifted Students." You can read more details about Thursday's offerings here.

And let's not forget my new favorite NAGC conference offering, the Mini-Keynotes. Friday's mini-keynote choices are "Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: What Really Constitutes Differentiation for Gifted Learners?," "Critical Questions in Talent Development: Answered through 40 Years of Longitudinal Research by Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY)," and "Stereotypes and the Nature and Nurture of Intelligence." Saturday's mini-keynote choices are "A Focus on the Arts: Arts Integration and Arts Programming for Gifted Students," "Bullying of and by Gifted Children and Teens," and "Connecting for High Potential: How Parents, Teachers, and School Counselors Can Work Collaboratively to Reverse Underachievement for Gifted Students." You can learn more details about each of these here. (Scroll about half-way down.)

You can get the best deal on registration if you do so by September 16. Registration after that date is still possible, it'll just cost you a little more. Registration can be done the old-fashioned way (paper & snail mail) or online.

College student? You get to register at a special rate!

Network Events are interesting and fun evening events hosted and sponsored by each of NAGC's 15 Network communities. I am particularly looking forward to the Conceptual Foundations Network's next edition in their "Legacy Series." This year's taped interview with a notable Gifted Education leader will showcase Don Treffinger. I am also excited to participate in the Technology Network's "Speed Geeking" session.

Parents! Want to soak up some of the opportunites but don't think you can take advantage of it all? Saturday is dedicated as Parent Day, with a multitude of sessions focused specifically for the needs and inquiries of parents of gifted youth. Please note there is a separate paper or online registration for Parent Day if you are only coming for that day as a parent.

Be sure to check out the Exhibit Hall, too. I have recently learned about Aleks and see that they will be an exhibitor this year, so I will definitely be stopping by their booth, along with all my old favorites.

For those who need to earn some CEU's or graduate credits, those options are available, too. Visit this page for more details.

Trying to plan but need to see a "map" of what's available? The "Schedule at a Glance" page helps me with that.

Traveling by air or rental car? Be sure to learn about discount opportunities! Important information about hotel reservations is also available at this link.

Finally, I continue to love the "Itinerary Builder" feature which aids you in reading and selecting sessions you're interested in ahead of time. This is so handy to do before arriving at the conference because there never seems to be enough time while there to peruse the full program and decide what to do. At least being able to narrow it down ahead of time has always assisted me in streamlining my decision-making process.

It's always an intensely informative week and I hope to see many of you there!

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