Nov 5, 2017

How to Use Technology to Differentiate

Using Technology to Make Differentiation Easier

How to Use Technology to Differentiate
We have all been there. We are supposed to teach students to meet the same standards, but we definitely do NOT have 25 of the same students sitting in front of us! How do you meet these varied needs within one class? You may have student reading at a huge range of grade levels, or students with a wide range of disabilities, and capabilities, or even students for whom English is not their native language. This is where differentiation comes in! Differentiation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. You can make some small changes that can have a large impact on your students, and technology can help make that a lot easier for you.

As we probably are already aware, there are many different ways to differentiate. Differentiation is commonly broken down by process, product or content. For any of these methods, technology can be a great tool for differentiation. Here is good basic overview of the three types of differentiation, if this is new for you, or you want a quick refresher. I am not going to rehash all of that, but instead I will seek to give you some tips on how technology can help you differentiation.

Differentiation by Content

Differentiation by content refers to different ways that students could get the content, or perhaps even slightly different content. What students are learning may be different. Some students may get the material through reading, watching a video, small group instructions, or even different videos, or different reading levels. Students could even read text off of a screen, but use a screen reading chrome extensions so that the text is read to them.

Look into Newsela or readworks for levelled reading materials, and videos already discussed such as Bozeman Science, Khan Academy, Amoeba Sisters, Crash Course, and many others for content at the appropriate level.

This is a place to play around with a flipped classroom idea, and create an instructional video, even if students watch it in class. It allows them to watch and replay, take notes, while you work with other students, and maybe a third group of students reads about it. You can, essentially, be in more than one place at the same time.

This can be done by choice, or with different content sources assigned to them. Google Classroom makes it very easy to assign different content sources to different students.

For additional information, here are some great step-by-step directions for using Google Classroom to differentiate.

Differentiation by Process

Differentiation by process is all about what the students do to process the information, or HOW they get the content.  Differentiation by process can certainly overlap with content differentiation, as students may work through the content using one of these processes (think-pair-share, reflection, diagram labeling, etc). Content differentiation is the content itself. Process differentiation is how students take in the content, or what they do with it to process it. For example, even as students are taking in content, they can use screen reader extensions to read the text, use dictionary or translation tools to help understand the text.

Process differentiation means you may give an assignment with some options. Perhaps some students can work in a group, and other can work alone. Students can choose to use technology, or to do their assignment on paper. Students need a way to process the material, but there are many ways that this can be accomplished. Students can process their learning through drawing, writing, making a video, using a technology such a flip grid, talking with a partner and more. Some students may be helped by a video that they can pause, rewind, re-watch, and use closed captioning.

These methods may need to be taught, or alternated/cycled between, and then eventually students could perhaps have a choice. Another strategy would be to give students a choice between just two methods, and then gradually introduce other methods.

The Science Penguin has a great post on “Output Ideas.” Although these are designed to be on paper, it is not a leap to see how these could be differentiated even more easily with technology. Students could make a short recording, find a diagram and label it, type their response and more.

For more ideas check out this post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge

Differentiation by Product

Lastly, differentiation by product is probably the type of differentiation with which we are most familiar, where student create a product to demonstrate their learning and are given some type of menu, or choice. A very simple example is this very simple Vocabulary Menu where students have a choice over what the turn in to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary terms.

This is also a great place to look at the post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge. Technology gives more options. Are you artistic? Make a poster. Not artistic? Make an infographic or slideshow, where you don’t have to draw. Would you rather write? Or speak? Write an essay or editorial, or make a podcast or video.

Just like in the regular class, without technology, differentiation is key to helping your students be engaged and feel successful. The methods to differentiate may be similar, but it is easier in some ways to make changes to the assignments and to have the changes be less visible (such as through the use of screen reader apps, or Google Classroom to distribute differentiated assignments to different students). There is less stigma attached. Also, technology helps create a classroom culture where students are more independent learners, learning in their own way. This is a great fit for differentiated instruction.   Using technology means you can use the tools available to you to help create modifications, or create additional instruction.  You don't have to create it all! 

How to Use Technology to Differentiate


Oct 22, 2017

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

If your school has just recently gone 1:1, or just announced that they will be going 1:1, hopefully I can help. This is part 2 in a short series to help you transition to 1:1 technology.

This post will assume that you have gotten some of the procedural details and routines out of the way that were discussed in Part 1. Now you are looking for some ways to transition into using more technology in your classroom.

Ten Small Steps to Start Using Your New 1:1 Technology

  1. A video station - There are huge advantages to having students watch at their own pace, and be able to rewind, pause, or replay as needed. Here is a good discussion of using videos in the classroom. One of my favorite strategies is to have the students watch at a station, with a partner, and do a strategy that I call “watch, talk, write.” Students watch a short video with a partner. Talk about it with their partner. Then they write a short summary, often of a specified number of sentences, where they have to decide what information to include.
  2. A vocabulary station with Quizlet - Quizlet is a great site for students to review vocabulary, or really anything that needs to be memorized. You can even add in diagrams with labels where students can quiz themselves. This could be an early finisher activity, a station, or a whole class activity. 
  3. Review games using Kahoot - Kahoot is a great way to do review. It can only be used for multiple choice or objective questions, but students get so engaged! Its quick and easy to set up, and students love it. 
  4. An alternative way to do a research project - rather than only a written essay or research paper, check out these ideas for technology-rich ideas for students to demonstrate knowledge.
  5. Formative Assessment - My favorite formative assessment tool is Google Forms, but there are many others out there as well (Socrative, Plickers, and many more). I have written about Google Forms a few times before, here, and here, and a bit about Plickers here
  6. A virtual field trip or interactive website. Here is a great start on places to look for interactive 
  7. Resources for kids to use when they finish early - Having technology in your room gives more options for differentiation, in a lot of ways. However, one great tool is the ability to have more websites available for early finishers for review, enrichment, or reinforcement. Quizlet is great, various websites with science news articles, or, depending on your state, practice exam questions. 
  8. Change an assignment to a Google Doc - Google Docs have a lot of advantages, they can be accessed anywhere, they save automatically, and they can be shared. It is fairly easy to upload an existing assignment and convert to a Google Doc, making a copy for each student, or distributing through Google Classroom. 
  9. Video instructions of a lab or of a lab demonstration - If you are doing a demonstration, or giving instructions of how to do a lab, it can be extremely helpful to video this. Students can rewind and pause, students who are absent can watch, and somehow they even seem to pay closer attention to a video than to the teacher! This video can be uploaded privately to YouTube, or to Google Drive and shared with students as needed, or posted in Google Classroom. 
  10. Background research or vocabulary research going into an activity - before beginning a unit or an activity, we all know that students need to build background knowledge. As they are all coming from different places, and starting with different amounts of background knowledge, it can work well for them to research vocabulary terms, or a specific topic for background knowledge on their own, before diving into the instructional part of the unit. 
I hope this helped you consider some ways to start using technology in your 1:1 classroom! It can be overwhelming, but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to try something.

Questions? Ideas? Suggestions? Please comment below or join me in the Facebook group.

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Oct 8, 2017

My School is Going 1:1 Where Do I Start?

My School is Going 1:1 Where Do I Start?

My School Just Announced We Will Be 1:1 Where Do I Begin?!

School Expectations

First of all, don't panic! Spend some time finding out what the school expectations and rules about 1:1 devices are, how was the devices will be assigned, where will they be stored and what training is provided. Also think about how often will you be expected to use them, or how often you want to use them? What school policies may be in place around students carrying them between classes, or bringing them home? What is the devices aren’t charged? What will the behavior policies be for students who are on other websites? Some of these questions may not have quick and easy answers but they are important to start thinking about, as you begin framing how you want to use technology in your classroom.

Technology is a Tool

Don’t get overwhelmed, but realize that the technology is a tool just like any other tool. It is there to help you and your students. Using technology could completely transform the way that you teach but there are lots of small steps for you to start with as well. Using technology in your classroom doesn't have to be an overnight dramatic shift.

Procedures and Skills

As you get started make sure you allow some time to teach procedures and teach technology skills. Even though we think students grew up with technology, and that they know a lot about technology, it often turns out that they don't know how to use technology for academic purposes. They may know how to use it for YouTube or other ways, or know how to do things on their phones, but may not know how to do some of the tasks that we ask them.

Some procedures and introductory lessons that you may want to cover in your classroom if they are not taught in school as a whole include: digital citizenship, procedures for carrying a Chromebook or laptop, where they will be stored, charging procedures, what to do if a student's technology is not working or is missing that day. What classroom rituals and routines do you want to set up around the devices. Some teachers have students put in only one earbud, close the lid of the laptop or chromebook, or put tablets face down when the teacher is speaking, etc. What will be the consequences if a student doesn't follow the technology directions? If you take the device away do you have an alternative assignment? If it WiFi is down or technology is unavailable do you have an alternate emergency assignment? These are things to think about and to try to clarify in your head as you begin to picture your classroom with technology. These are not meant to scare you off but to prevent future problems.

How Do you Want to Use Technology 

Once you have some of those procedural things out of the way, start thinking about how and when you want to start to build in technology into your classroom. Do you want to use them at the start of class everyday? At the end of class everyday? (There are a lot of great ways to do formative assessment or warm ups using Google Forms). Do you plan to use them only as needed for certain interactive activities or stations? Especially for science, there are a lot of good videos (BrainPop, CrashCourse, Bozeman Science, Amoeba Sisters) and interactive virtual labs and field trips to use for particular topics).  You could also look into Digital Interactive Notebooks, but probably not as a first step. 

Using technology in the classroom really provides a lot of opportunities to engage students, to individualize instruction, to free up your time to work with students rather than being at the front of the room and for students to connect with others outside of the classroom walls.

My advice would be to jump in and get started. Emphasize to the students that you are learning along with them, and take it one step at a time.

Inspirational Ideas and Resources

Just for inspiration, here are a few of my favorite resources for technology in education happening very differently through technology!

Jump In and Give It a Try! 

Don’t get overwhelmed by learning the tech tool. You can do that with a bit of training or some searching of online tutorials/videos. Instead, spend your time thinking about how you want your technology-infused classroom to look. What will it look like in the long-run? What smaller steps can you take now to go toward that goal? Maybe each marking period you can add on to that? Or maybe take one unit and re-vamp it, but leave your others for now.

What are your 1:1 technology questions and concerns? Leave your questions below or in our Facebook group, but don’t be afraid. Give it a try!
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