Enhancing Learning Through Differentiated Technology
Every day, teachers are faced with the challenge of assisting students in remaining engaged, demonstrating growth, and mastering the subject. How are they able to achieve this? Should they open the textbook and begin teaching from the very first page? Should they employ continuing formative assessments to establish the particular requirements of each student, a practice known as differentiated instruction (DI), or should they refrain from doing so? As a result of a study presented in January 2011 at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement in Chicago (PDF, 168KB), “no other factor contributed to the change in student’s success more than the intervention of DI.”
What DI Is and Isn’t
What Differentiated Instruction Is and Isn’t Many teachers become overwhelmed when the words “differentiated instruction” are used. In truth, I was one of the teachers that made this statement. However, I’ve since discovered that DI is not the case:
Developing a customized lesson plan for each of my students
Students are kept in static groups depending on data collected at the beginning of the school year.
The higher-level students should be taught by themselves, with just the lower-level students being instructed.
Instead, according to an ASCD infographic, differentiated teaching is used when the following conditions are met:
Students can be divided into groups depending on their abilities, interests, readiness, or by their choosing.
There is a “purposeful use of flexible grouping” that is done while keeping the lesson’s objectives in mind.
Teachers are “teaching up” and holding students to high standards to improve their performance.
With the help of technology, I have found DI to be less difficult over the last three years. Is it possible for a teacher to just set a pupil in front of a computer or tablet and walk away? No. Students might be able to get training that is truly tailored to their particular requirements, according to Michael Petrilli in EducationNext (Winter 2011). Teachers no longer have to feel overwhelmed when providing DI because of technological advancements in the field.
Differentiation Through Technology
When looking for technology that encourages differentiated instruction, you should consider how standards correspond, whether or not formative assessments are available, and whether or not different skill levels are available on the same subject matter. Listed below are three examples of instructional devices that help to improve DI in the classroom:
1. Curriculum Pathways for SAS
In addition to interactive lessons, videos, audio tutorials, and apps in the areas of English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and Spanish are available through SAS Curriculum Pathways, which is a free online resource. State standards, keywords, subject categories, and grade levels are all used to help teachers find the resources they need. Students can learn, practice skills, and receive formative assessments that they can email, print, or save using the many interactive resources. Teachers can use this information to continue to group kids depending on their individual needs.
Screenshot of the Prepositional Phrases page on the WritingReviser website.
When I was a high school English teacher, I always needed an extra pair of hands to help me give individual feedback to students’ essays. The WritingNavigator series from SAS Curriculum Pathways allows students to tailor their learning to their requirements. Every step of the writing process provides students with options, and teachers can differentiate by providing students with a list of basic or higher-level revision elements from which they can choose throughout the process. There is a diverse range of options available to pupils that encourage them to write with clarity, power, diversity, and economy. These options include wordiness, passive voice, fragments, prepositional phrases, verbs, pronouns, and modifiers. The resource indicates where each selected element may be accessed within the essay for further investigation. The examples and descriptions provided for each part can be used to assist students who require additional guidance.
2nd, there’s Newsela.
Newsela allows students to read the same current events content as their peers, but it is tailored to meet the needs of each student using a personalized approach. Articles are assigned by teachers, and students choose articles based on topics, reading standards, and Lexile levels. Students choose one of five possible Lexile levels for each article, ranging from grades three to twelve, for each article. Some articles additionally include a four-question exam that provides feedback on how well the article corresponds to the reading criteria.
It is possible to assign articles to students’ online binder if you have the Newsela Pro version (which is available for a free trial). Within the article, students can highlight relevant passages or respond to questions set by the teacher. To allow the teacher to evaluate and make corrections as needed, all quiz results, highlighted content, and written comments are preserved in an online binder. This enables for more flexible grouping, such as by topic, reading ability, or Lexile level, among other things.
3. EDpuzzle is an electronic puzzle game.
When using flipped classrooms, you may make better use of your class time by providing differentiated student-centered learning opportunities. However, even though EDpuzzle takes more steps from the teacher than the preceding tools, I still recommend that you give it a try. Teachers begin by uploading a video, either from another website or one that they have developed themselves. Teachers can crop videos in EDpuzzle, include audio messages, record their voices over the entire video, block students from fast-forwarding, and embed various types of quiz questions throughout the video. After that, teachers assign pupils to watch the videos and respond to the questions or take notes on what they have learned. While the students are watching them and responding to questions, the teacher can see how far they have seen, how many times they have watched a portion and their responses to the questions. This allows teachers to rapidly determine which students successfully finished the flipped classroom session, which students have demonstrated mastery and can proceed, and which students need to spend additional time on the concept.
Although many kids enjoy utilizing technology, many students become even more involved when they have the opportunity to produce something. Students can also post a video to EDpuzzle to demonstrate their learning, which they can then share with their teacher or classmates.
Learning From Their Current Situation
Even though DI can be daunting, there are technology solutions available to assist teachers in keeping students engaged while also customizing lessons to kids’ educational levels. We must provide them with the opportunity to learn from where they are currently situated rather than from where the textbook or curriculum dictates they should be situated. Students will feel more successful as a result of differentiated instruction, which will equip them to become lifelong learners.