What is differentiation? What technologies do you see as most effective for differentiation in the classroom?
“Differentiated instruction is based upon the belief that students learn best when they make connections between the curriculum and their diverse interests and experiences, and that the greatest learning occurs when students are pushed slightly beyond the point where they can work without assistance” (Willoughby, 2005). All students are different. They come to us with their own varying points of views. Since their lives are all so complex and dissimilar it leaves us with the task of figuring out what ways to best accommodate their needs, interests and personalities. “In a differentiated classroom, commonalities are acknowledged and built upon, and student differences become important elements in teaching and learning as well” (Tomlinson, 2001). Tomlinson goes on to say that DI is proactive, quality based, intertwined with assessment, and student-centered. While reading through these chapters, the authors spoke of using technologies in order to allow for flexibility, high quality, and to keep the students enthusiastic about learning. When students are given the opportunity to take on more responsibility and be part of a student-centered classroom it empowers them and self motivates.
Technology can be used to help in collaboration, problem solving, and it is used extensively around the world. We are a technology-based society, so we need to teach our students how to survive in the world that is around them. “Differentiated instruction powered by technology assists us in our endeavor to meet the physical, intellectual, and emotional challenges and needs specific to middle school learners…” (Smith, 2009, p. 39). It keeps their interest, and is constantly changing around us. As teachers, we need to keep up to date on the newest technology so we can keep up with the younger generation and the world around us as well.
Some of the technology I think of that would best DI in the classroom for middle school students would be; Mindcraftedu, blog postings, tweetdeck, and clickers. These are only of few, but they are the ones that stick out most in my mind. I have explored all of them and find that they are captivating even to adults. My son and his friends love Minecraft, and I have seen the benefit of STEM education using Minecraft. Focused gaming can be very beneficial. Tweeting was new to me, but I see how instant feedback and communication can be fun and informative. Posting your work online gives you that opportunity to edit and respond to others as well as be creative. Lastly, clickers can give immediate feedback to the teacher with anonymity. There are others, but I can see how these uses of technology support individualized, differentiation in learning that can be extremely engaging and guide the students through their learning.
Tomlinson, C. A., (2001, April) How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classroom.
Smith G. E., and Throne S. (2009). Differentiating Instruction with Technology in
Middle School Classrooms. pp. 1-3
Willoughby, J., (2005). Differentiating Instruction: Meeting Students Where They Are.
Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. New York.