Online learning can work for gifted students

Intentionally designed education, collaboration + individualized learning creates model for success

We all want our children to be successful in school – however, sometimes they’re highly successful, but not challenged.

They might say school is boring or not interesting, but the report card comes home glowing. For parents, finding a school that meets their needs can be tough. Public and private programs for academically talented students are all over the map, so finding a good fit can be a challenge.

Online learning: Preparing for the future

As one of Washington’s premier schools dedicated to understanding and teaching gifted students, Open Window School is excited to announce a new program for gifted students – Open Window Online. OWS recently changed their program to include 3rd grade as well as 4th and 5th grade students.

The pandemic gave almost every parent and child experience with online school at some point, with varying degrees of satisfaction and success. It’s important to recognize, however, that the distance learning experienced by most families during the pandemic was nothing like programs intentionally designed to be taught online.

Far from a fad, effective remote learning has been happening in K-12 education for decades, and when designed well, has proven to be highly effective.

And, with experts suggesting that anywhere from 35 to 65 percent of adults will now work remotely for at least part of their workweek, it’s practical to help students learn how to work, communicate and collaborate in online spaces. Open Window Online has been developed to do just that.

Cary Kirby is the Director of Teaching and Learning at Open Window School and is the founding director of Open Window Online. Cary has a passion for gifted education and has more than 15 years of experience working with students who are identified as gifted.

Cary Kirby is the Director of Teaching and Learning at Open Window School and is the founding director of Open Window Online. Cary has a passion for gifted education and has more than 15 years of experience working with students who are identified as gifted.

Collaborative learning

Open Window School has decades of experience working with gifted families and they know that gifted students make connections among a wide array of ideas and content.

To meet that need, teachers designed Open Window Online focused on integrated, cross-discipline projects that inspire students with real-life, engaging and complex questions, problems and challenges.

Projects require students to learn content across several disciplines (math, science, social studies, writing, etc.), actively practice collaboration and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills to successfully demonstrate their learning to an authentic audience of teachers, business leaders, scientists and others.

Exploring extracurricular activities and passions

Along with solving real-life challenges, gifted students benefit from spending lots of time and energy exploring their passions and interests.

Open Window Online students have opportunities to dive deeply into ideas and topics that matter to them. Whether it’s sharks or space, ballet or computer programming, students needn’t wait for school to be over before exploring their personal passions.

In this, students do real work that matters. The program is structured around student collaboration, because how students learn is as important as what they learn.

The program teaches students how to collaborate in diverse situations – from a class meeting of 12, to small groups, to partnerships, they learn those tools along with the content.

Online learning individualizes coursework

Another benefit to online learning is that teachers can differentiate course work to a greater extent than in a traditional classroom. This doesn’t mean just giving students more challenging work; when students work on individual understanding of certain topics and concepts, they have opportunities to meet one-on-one and in small groups with teachers, and receive instruction and content to fit their current level.

Excursions and in-class time

To build a strong learning community of learners across Western Washington, students meet in-person every five to six weeks during the school year – gatherings used to further deepen the learning opportunities for students’ current projects.

By spending time together, students build community and become friends.

The team at Open Window School knows it can be difficult to find a great school for your gifted child, and they’re excited to offer the Open Window Online program as an option for gifted students from all over Washington. Learn more by visiting openwindowonline.

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