Students are all very different; some are slower at learning, while other, more gifted students are much better able to assimilate learning. What distinguishes gifted learners is:
* their ability to learn quickly
* their ability to make connections in their learning and between subjects
* their ability to challenge and bring original thought to their learning.
Gifted learners present a particular challenge to teaching professionals. They need to be constantly challenged and engaged in the learning process, otherwise there is the possibility that they may become bored and disruptive. An aid to promoting that challenge and engagement is through the use of computers.
Computers allow gifted learners to become involved with self directed learning and to go beyond the constraints of usual teaching methods. Computers allow them to explore their own lines of thought and argument and to easily research topics over a wide range of reputed sources. The interactive nature of computer use engages the student in a way that books and libraries do not. Computer use is seen as `cool` and exciting, while libraries have a reputation of quiet boredom.
It is not sufficient to simply provide a gifted learner with a computer and send them on their way. Much expertise is required by a teacher to ensure that any computer aided learning is properly structured and allows the student to properly study and learn. Teachers are still the best able to provide the required stimulus and direction for learning, that has not changed. However, once suitably guided, the use of computers allows students to work at their own pace, so gifted learners are not held back but less able learners can adapt their learning to their own learning style. For example, some students learn better through interactive audio and video presentations, while others prefer reading. Of course, most will prefer a combination, and it is the balance of that combination which computers allow learners to adapt to their own needs.
As the learner takes on higher level learning, computers can offer a lot more. They offer a tool to allow simulations and modeling that is not available easily using any other tool. Students can form arguments and test them relatively easily and quickly. This helps them to develop constructive criticism skills and to develop and put structure to their learning and the academic arguments they will make. This is ideal to develop academic discipline within students and to help them develop at a fast pace while not disadvantaging the other learners that the teacher also needs to develop.
Another advantage of using computers, especially for gifted learners but also more widely, is the way in which they prepare students for the world of work. Most businesses use computers and a variety of standard software packages. Students that are able to demonstrate their competence in these at application and interview stage will have a distinct advantage in the ever more competitive labor market.
There are some disadvantages that need to be guarded against when using computers to assist the learning of gifted students. It can be all too easy for the student to go off at a tangent and waste some of their time. This may be inadvertently or as a result of some of the other distractions offered through the internet, ranging from social networks to pornography. Some of this can be negated through the use of appropriate filters, but it will also be necessary for the teacher to monitor this. The teacher can do this in a number of ways ranging from physical monitoring of the student, electronic monitoring of the student and by providing expert guidance and setting stretching objectives.
Properly supervised, computers provide an excellent tool for gifted learners to stretch themselves, work at a pace which suits them, maintain their interest in the learning process and to use their own intellectual curiosity to aid their study. However, they are not a panacea and the expertise and stimulus of a good teacher is still absolutely required.