Saturday, February 3, 2018

Differentiating with Technology


Differentiation, one of those words that is easy to say, but hard to do. However, as Peter DeWitt reminds us in his blog post "Yes, Differentiation Is Hard. So, Let's Get It Right", watching students struggle because their needs are not being met, is for all of us harder than differentiating. So, if our ultimate goal is to provide quality education to all of our students, but there is only one of us and 150+ of them, each with individual needs, what do we need to add to our teaching arsenal to accomplish this herculean task?

I know that edTech is not the answer to everything, and as Carol Ann Tomlinson discusses in her book The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, differentiation is achieved by designing instruction to address the learning and affective needs of all students.

What can, and should be differentiated?

ContentThe material students are expected to master. Different students in your class will access different materials that are most appropriate for their readiness at the depth that is right for them. All are working towards mastery of the same standard.

ProcessThese are the learning activities that take place in your class and connect the content to the learner. Differentiating the process takes into account:
  • Learning style differences.
  • Multiple Intelligences.
  • Multiple formats for students to access the material to be learned - Options are important!
  • Understanding what is the learning that is taking place.
  • The following image contains links to the different tools I use for differentiation.

ProductsThe evidence students produce to demonstrate mastery. 
  • OPTIONS are key
  • When students are making choices, give enough time to develop some background knowledge before the choice to allow students to make an informed decision.
ReflectionTasks that encourage reflection and help increase rigor in the classroom:
  • Ill-structured, ‘messy’ or real-life situations
  • Asking the ‘right’ kinds of questions – there are no clear-cut answers
  • Tasks that challenge learners to integrate new learning into previous learning
  • Tasks that demand the ordering of thoughts
  • Tasks that require evaluation
The following image contains the links to the tools I use for differentiation. Take a look and let me know what you think.