News on High Ability

Tüzes Dániel

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The ECHA conference in 2002 wasn’t to be held in Rhodes in the first place: it was assigned to Jerusalem, Israel. Due to the unstable situation in Israel the location was put up for discussion in the General Committee meetings in 2001:

The members agree that the security situation in Israel is a matter of serious concern. Under the present conditions most of the interested persons would not consider travelling to Israel.”
(Minutes of the ECHA General Assembly, 3 August 2001)

And indeed, a few months later the decision was made to move to Rhodes, Greece:

Developments have led to the decision to cancel the ECHA conference in Jerusalem 2002. (…) The reply from the Israeli Ministry of Education indicates understanding for and agreement with the ECHA position that the current circumstances in Israel do not provide a reasonably reliable basis for planning a conference in this country. (…) ORTRA proposes to hold the conference on the island of Rhodes, Greece, from 9-13 October 2002. The Executive Committee decides unanimously to accept this proposal.”
(Minutes of the ECHA Executive Committee, 14/15 sept 2001)

And thus the 8th ECHA conference took place in Hilton Rhodes Resort, Rhodes, October 9-13 2002. The title of the conference was “Development of human potential: Investment into our future” and it was organized by Ortra.

Rhodes island is known as the ‘Isle of the Sun’. With its fresh Mediterranean air and sandy beaches it is the perfect location to hold a conference. The Hilton Rhodes Hotel is ideally located on the beach of Ixia, just four kilometres from the magnificent city of Rhodes, where you can find an exciting combination of medieval castles and palaces with modern shops, cafés and bars. This premier hotel is set in a beautiful, landscaped paradise overlooking the Aegean Sea. With first class conference facilities and deluxe accommodation your experience will be memorable.”
(ECHA News vol. 15 no. 2 October 2001)

Hilton Rhodes Resort
Hilton Rhodes Resort
Franz Monks
Prof. Dr. Franz J. Mönks

According to a Greek myth, Zeus had divided the world among the Gods, but Helios, the God of the Sun - being absent - received nothing. Then the island of Rhodes rose up from the sea and was given to Helios. According to another myth Rhodes was born from Apollo – also God of the Sun – and nymph Rhodos, daughter of Poseidon, God of the Sea.

In this sunny, mythic and historic setting the organization of the conference was led by Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz J. Mönks.

Wolfgang Schneider
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider
(Germany)

An amount of 222 participants found their way to this beautiful place. They came from 34 different countries, among which were many Eastern European countries: Latvia, Romania, Croatia, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakian Republic, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia. But there were also participants from as far as South Korea, Australia, Bermuda, South Africa, New Zealand and Indonesia. There were large groups of participants from Israel, Germany and the Netherlands.

Keynote speakers were Sidney M. Moon, Purdue University (USA) on “Developing Personal Talent”, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, University of Würzburg (Germany) on “Development of Giftedness and Expertise” and Prof. Dr. Ioannis Paraskevopoulos (Greece) on “Education for creativity and giftedness/talent in Greece”.

Apart from the keynote speakers there were eight invited lectures, four symposia, 114 individual papers and 27 poster-presentations.

program book content Rhodes
Program Book Rhodes
program book cover Rhodes
Program book cover Rhodes

For the second time the ECHA conference was brought to Hungary: this time to the city of Debrecen. Debrecen is the second largest city of Hungary and is located in the east on the Alföld – the Great Hungarian Plain. Hosting was the distinguished University of Kossuth.

“Hungary has always been part of Europe and moreover it has served as the gate and defender of the continent for centuries. During the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy Hungary was a prosperous country and a centre of culture and science. After World War I it was dismembered and after World War II it was isolated from Europe. During this time our cultural, scientific and artistic life not only remained but developed. Now comes the time when the country can return to its one-time position. (…) So we feel honoured to have been offered the chance of organising the next ECHA conference in Debrecen.”
(Emese Vitális, Hungarian Conference Committee, ECHA News vol. 13 no. 1 April 1999)

The title of the conference was “Talent for the next Millennium” and it took place from 19-22 August 2000. The head of the organizing committee was Prof. Dr. László Balogh.

7th ECHA Conference Main Building of Kossuth Lajos University
Picture by Prof. Dr. László Balogh
Joyce VanTassel Baska
Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska

406 experts took part in the conference, for a large part from Hungary: approximately 250 people. The participants came from 26 European countries and five other countries: Australia, China, Indonesia, Jordania and USA. The hosting of the conference and the large Hungarian delegation had a positive impact on the ECHA memberships:

“The Debrecen conference, however, has brought 50 new Hungarian members to ECHA.”
(Minutes of the ECHA General Assembly, 20 August 2000)

Keynote speakers were Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska (USA), Prof. Dr. Miraca Gross (Australia) and Prof. Dr. György Hunyady (Hungary).

The program studied the problems of giftedness from a lot of new aspects. Beside the plenary sessions there were more than 26 workshops and thematic paper sessions, symposia and poster sessions. The conference was bilingual: in English there were 103 presentations and in Hungarian 61 presentations.

During this conference Javier Tourón was voted the next President of ECHA and took over from Franz J. Mönks. In his Presidential acceptance speech he set his goals for ECHA:

“The first one will be the development of a set of regulations for the ECHA diploma that will help to foster even further development that will benefit the community of teachers and practitioners as well as the ECHA itself. (…) I will finish using a sailing metaphor. Let’s imagine that the ECHA is a tall ship. You make me the helmsman for this period, but as a passionate sailor of many years I know very well that this ship will be unable to sail upwind without an enthusiastic and well trained crew. You are that crew and I rely totally on you. But we do not set sail from the yard; this is not a new tall ship. This is a veteran vessel that has coped very well in the past with calm waters and stormy ones too, thanks to the seamanship of other helmsmen. I will try to learn from the past and read the charts very carefully to avoid shallow waters.”
(Javier Tourón, Presidential acceptance speech)

It was in the middle of the summer and quite a few participants will remember the heat in those days:

“In the end I too had to quit the sun and go back to my room for a dribbling shower. On average, I reckoned that people took about 5 a day. I was waiting for the water to run out, but it didn’t.”
(Joan Freeman)

Despite the heat the participants took the time to explore the beautiful scenery in this part of Hungary. There were several museums in and around Debrecen. Impressive was the Flower Carnival with a parade and traditional Hungarian dancers.

Debrecen cover program book
Program book cover Debrecen
Debrecen 2000 picture page 1 ECHA news Debrecen 2000 picture page 2 ECHA news
Picture report in ECHA News vol. 14 no. 2 November 2000
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Johanna Raffan
Chair of the Conference

The 6th European conference for ECHA was held in Oxford. It was chaired by Johanna Raffan, who was a member of the General Committee at that time. The conference was joint with the 16th Annual Conference of the British National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE). It was supported by The Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which was responsible for the content of the curriculum in English schools. The conference took place from 18-21 September 1998 by the title “Potential into Performance”
(PIP or Pip, the main character in ‘Great Expectations’!)

“The conference aims to:

  • Explore how the needs of able children are met in the ordinary classroom.
  • Share examples of good practice from a wide range of countires.
  • Examine research that has influenced the curriculum.
  • Find ways of improving the move from Potential to Performance.”
    (ECHA News Vol. 11 no. 2 November 1997)
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Announcement in ECHA News vol 11 no. 2 November 1997

The opening address was held by David Jamieson, Member of Parliament (UK) and Anthea Millett (Teacher Training Agency, UK). Keynote speakers were Prof. Robert Sternberg (USA) on “Succesful intelligence”, Prof. Rena Subotnik (USA) on “Beyond Bloom: Revisiting environmental factors that enhance or impede talent development“, Prof. Robert Plomin (UK) on “Genetic research into the development of abilities” and Jarkko Hautamäki (Finland) on “Epidemiology of excellence- an assessment of the commitment to thinking with Sternberg’s triarchic ability test”.

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Joan Freeman and Robert Sternberg in Oxford

“The invited speakers concentrated on teacher training and research, whilst the symposia looked at different aspects of education – the various age groups, special provision, lifelong learning and the psychology of high ability. Numerous thematic papers were presented, some in Early Bird sessions at 7-45am! The workshops looked at all aspects of the curriculum from Language to Science, Thinking Skills to Physical education, Art to Religious education. Many of these sessions were practical and great fun. Some of highlights in the workshops were: The delegates in Design Technology, with Ron Lewin, made moving cars and had a competition to see which was the most robust: the watch words were “He saw the same as everyone else but thought something different”.

To Roland Perrson, who lead a session on ‘How to teach (and not to teach) musical performance’. He also entertained us to a very wide repertoire on the grand piano.

Other highlights were the Australians playing cricket on the lawn, a guided walk of Oxford by a 15 year old boy, a four course conference dinner in St Catherine’s Hall complete with long tables, a top table on a dais plus silver and crystal - years before Harry Potter!”
(Johanna Raffan, chair)

The conference took place in St. Catherine’s College: a college formed from the St. Catherine’s Society (established in 1868).

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The grounds of St. Catherine’s College – picture: St. Catherine’s College

In the historic and academic sphere of Oxford approximately 300 participants from 32 countries tried to find their way, lively described by Deborah Eyre, who was NACE President in those days:

“When I arrived, the conference venue, St. Catherine’s College, turned out to be as busy and noisy as one might expect from a situation where three hundred delegates from thirty-two countries descend upon one place, all aiming to orientate themselves and locate colleagues. For those who were staying at St. Catherine’s there was the challenge of locating rooms and facilities, and for those staying in Oxford the additional challenge of finding one’s way around a city whose centre was largely built in the 16th Century and where road design makes it impossible to travel north to south across the city unless on foot.”
(ECHA News vol. 13 no.1 April 1999)

“The conference itself passed very quickly . It was immensely pleasing to have such high quality keynote speakers and a real privilege to hear them. Speakers from the UK included a range of top governmental decision makers, demonstrating the seriousness with which the current British government views this issue.”
(Deborah Eyre in ECHA News vol. 13 no.1 April 1999)

An important merit of ECHA is thus pointed out: the influence of the biennial conferences on decision makers, policy and government in the countries the conferences are held!

From a parent’s point of view the conference was very inspiring too:

“On the whole I enjoyed those days in Oxford enormously. Although I had come by myself, and had been somewhat apprehensive about joining a conference on a subject about which I felt I knew so little, it turned out to be very stimulating in every respect. In the future I hope, to coin the well-known phrase in yet another way, to be in a position to put my potential in this field into performance, so that I can contribute something to the study of giftedness.”
(Heleen de Groot in ECHA News vol. 13 no.1 April 1999)

“All in all it was a good conference. It was fun working with ECHA. It is good for associations to work together and ECHA President Franz Mönks and I both felt a joint conference had been a good way to introduce British people to Europe and Europeans to Britain. (…). When the conference was over I was very tired, and I suspect the same for many others, especially those who had worked so hard on organisation.”
(Deborah Eyre in ECHA News vol. 13 no.1 April 1999

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Program Book cover Oxford

Due to the more pronounced role of ECHA in the organization of European talent support (promoting the cooperation with many other continents too) there is a spectacularly increased interest and activity related to the Facebook page of ECHA. We had 500 members in February, 750 in October, and in mid-December we passed the 1000-membership level of ECHAGroup. There is more than one new post per day on exciting news, interesting questions, and cooperation proposals. Many thanks for all contributors to this whealth of information on gifted education and talent support! If you are on Facebook, and you have not done so yet, please join our community!

Monday, 12 December 2016 11:01

EGIFT, a starting Erasmus+ Project

The EGIFT project is and Erasmus+ funded project with the goal of helping educators in mainstream classrooms to provide appropriate educational opportunities for gifted students in their classes. To serve this goal we propose to increase the competency and skills of these educators through the use of an Open Educational Resource, or OER; and a number of training events taking place across Europe.