Differentiating instruction is not a new concept for the classroom. Employing strategies to ensure every student is engaged and learning at their pace is essential to learning. The buzzword-sounding phrase “Digital Differentiation” really boils down to the question: How do we reach students with technology? Especially now that the population of students is more diverse than ever before, with different learning styles, interests, and readiness levels.
A logical question is, why technology? Since differentiated instruction is not a new concept, what impact does using technology have on increasing student achievement? In this excerpt from a classical study by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) titled Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms, there is clear proof of the effect of technology on learning. The study breaks the efficacy down into six key areas; supporting curriculum objectives, student collaboration, adjusting to student performance, classroom integration, digital projects, and supporting the use of technology. These areas of technology usage can deeply support differentiation in the classroom.
Many current technology tools are available to help bring differentiation into the classroom. To assist educators, we have assembled our top 5 tips for digital differentiation.
- Planning: Something as simple as a Google calendar can help organize the day or week for you class. Plus this can be shared with each student. Another great tool is a stopwatch widget for your computer desktop. You can project this on a Smart Board to help manage time.
- Projects: A great tool for whole class collaboration or small group projects is Padlet. This fun tool allows you to create visual boards to which everyone can post. This allows students to organize and collaborate on group work, or you can use this with your whole class in a large group activity.
- Communication: A great way to foster communication in the class is through social networking. You could setup groups on traditional sites like Facebook, or create a special social network for your class using a tool like Celly.
- Adaptive and Personalized Learning: Meeting students just where they are is essential to help them progress at their own pace. A couple of great tools for individual practice are SRA Reading Laboratory 2.0™ for reading skills practice, and ALEKS for math practice/core instruction. These learning programs are perfect for learners at many different readiness levels.
- Recognition: A great motivating factor for students is group recognition. Positive reinforcement for students actively participating in your digital differentiation strategies helps support classroom success. There doesn’t always need to be a prize-type incentive to provide that motivation. Online leader boards can be posted to your classroom website or can be part of your Celly or other social network.
Last, another great resource on digital strategies for the classroom is this webinar from Dr. Ernest Morrell.
These are just a few resources to get you started. The best advice is to try new things with your class, and see what works for your unique group of students.
Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), http://caret.iste.org
Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K–5 Classrooms, Grace E. Smith and Stephanie Throne, http://www.iste.org/images/excerpts/diffk5-excerpt.pdf
Blog written by McGraw-Hill Education contributor, Doug Calvelage