EDET 637: Week 1 What is differentiation?

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.

pp. 1-7.

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.

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8 thoughts on “EDET 637: Week 1 What is differentiation?

  1. I really like the point where you point out that commonalities are acknowledge and built upon and differences become important elements in teaching and learning. I have seen first hand how differences can become important in teaching. I did a project with iMovie. Some students never heard of it and other students were great at it. Myself, I was just learning as well. Those students who were good at it flourished and became the teachers. They not only helped me to learn but, also the other students as well. It was a great learning experience for us all.

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  2. I agree that technology in our society is a reality for students and we should use it appropriately to support differentiated instruction. It can be hard to convince students that they should learning multiplication tables or how to read maps when their reality means they will never go very far without a mobile device that can solve those problems and so much more. Practicing differentiated instruction will actually help students to look for different ways to learn and process information and build on what they have previously learned. I also appreciate how technology can help the teacher to collect data, adapt, and respond to students in a more effective manner than before. I also value student ownership over their learning and thereby their work product. I’m excited that we will be using MinecraftEdu in this course!

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  3. Sunshine,
    I think it’s really cool that you highlighted such specific digital teaching tools that you’ve also identified as STEM specific for differentiation. Very cool! What tools might you identify for other content areas like art or English?

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  4. You wrote: “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.”
    I totally agree with this statement, but if only it were that easy. I was just thinking the other day as I prepare to do professional development with teachers who have an iPad in their classroom and don’t know what to do with it, how this has become the norm. Give the teachers technology and they will figure out how to best use it. Well unfortunately not all teachers have the time nor the courage to figure out how to use the technology they are given and so unfortunately they don’t. I have also had teachers tell me they are afraid to use technology because when they do it doesn’t work they way it’s supposed to, i.e. laptops that won’t connect to networks, printers not printing, log in issues. Without proper training on how to utilize technology some teachers are too afraid. However, I do feel it is up to teachers to take it upon themselves to try and figure out good uses for the tech they have. I also feel they need to learn how to problem solve their tech issues, so they know how to help themselves and their students.

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    • I like the idea of learning with the students. If we introduce some technology to the students and ask them for input on other apps or technology that they know of that could be used in a similar way. This way the students become the teacher and you can explore it together.

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