Using technology to differentiate by learning environment
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Classroom footage and interviews with educators illustrate a variety of ways to differentiate by learning environment using technology.
This video is one in a five-part series about integrating technology into differentiated instruction. The other videos include:
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Content
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Process
- Using Technology to Differentiate by Product
- Using Virtual Worlds to Engage Gifted Learners
The videos are associated with the article “Inclusion in the 21st-Century Classroom: Differentiating with Technology.”
- Dr. Alena Treat (00:08)
- I view the technology not really being the goal in itself, but it’s actually the tool. It enhances the ability to teach. It enhances the ability to learn. It’s an enhancement that enables them to go much further than I possibly could through books, through lecture, through projects. It’s something so uniquely different, it seems to involve such a high level of analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and working on the affective components at the same time.
- I had to go through not only the virtual training, but I had a lot of homework that I had to do. And I felt like, I felt morally obligated to be ahead of the students, so that I would know what they were going through. So I’d do these missions and quests before they would, so that I’d be able to help them on it. And so I was able to experience what they would be going through before they went through it, which helped me make more informed decisions. What was surprising to me is I began feeling like I was this character in this virtual world and I was actually making these decisions. And I thought, if I’m feeling this, and I’m wanting to continue to do these things, and I know it’s work but it doesn’t feel like work, I’m thinking, well maybe the students would feel the same way. And they sort of keep each other on task, because they’re constantly going, "Which one did you get to?"
- Student (01:41)
- Some people are, like, really good at it and they’re a lot farther along than other people. It’s fun because you can kind of like see the other people in the world, so you may be in a different place than another person, but you can still like chat with them on the little things.
- Dr. Alena Treat (01:53)
- What really impressed me the most was that it was tied in so closely with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and that they could do these interdisciplinary missions that were so highly complex that would really engage gifted students. And gifted students need that level of complexity. I think all students need that kind of realistic kind of approach. But it’s a high enough level of complexity that it engages gifted students very very well. And the fact that it’s technology, of course, tends to also engage them.
- Leila Moog (02:36)
- I think technology fosters independence, and that’s a good thing. The student is working harder, they’re working on their own, they’re working in an environment that they’re comfortable in and they’re focused. If you come in the media center and see these kids, they’re not playing games on that computer. They’re doing research, and they are focused. So I think the technology, since it’s so innate, and they’re so used to doing it, that they really have improved their skills.
- Jeremy Cox (03:09)
- What I’ve noticed when the students are using technology is that they do become much more engaged. I mean, these are children that are growing up in the digital age, they’ve got their cell phones, they’ve got their desktops at home. They want to be using the technology. And so by incorporating that into teaching, that engagement increases dramatically, I think, from the standard, you know, “here’s the content, get it down, study it, spit it back.” By giving them the option of using that technology, it makes them create something with the content in a way that they may not ordinarily do, or even think about doing if we’re just teaching them the material without having them use it.
- Becky Goddard (03:48)
- We do have the one-to-one laptops that the students have. Every student is issued a laptop in July, August, and they can keep it all year long, they return it in June, but they take it home with them, they do their homework on there, their grade book is on there, they have access to internet here at school, they can connect to their internet at home. The Angel system that we use, they receive their assignments through the Angel on their laptops, they turn in their assignments, they take their tests. That’s pretty much our web-based program that we use here at the school system.
- Jeremy Cox (04:28)
- By having the Angel environment, being able to access it pretty much from anywhere, and uploading all kinds of different content, the student can get what they need when they need it from the Angel environment, so it doesn’t have to be necessarily in the classroom. I’ve done a live chat before where I’ve given a homework assignment, and then I said, "I’m going to open up a live chat, and I’ll be in that chat room from eight to nine if you have a question." And “you guys, it’s going to be open all night,” so even if I’m not there, they can ask each other questions. So they can access it, and they can work together, even when they’re not together. Having the content available at all times in Angel is certainly beneficial to students that may have different needs, maybe they can’t stay after school, because they have a sports commitment, but they can get together and work on something later in the day when I may not be available. But it’s always there for them when they do need it.
- Christina Zack (05:21)
- What I’ve been able to do with technology is to videotape my review sheets, for instance, the whole solution key to a review sheet, and then the students would have access to that solution key, and then if they didn’t know how to work out some problems, they could actually go on there and see how the problems were being worked out, and not just look at the answers. As far as, like, the number of kids that would come after school for help, they don’t come anymore, and it’s not that — it’s because they know they have access to this stuff at home, you know what I’m saying? So in a way, teachers complain about having to, this extra job, they’re having to help all these kids after school, you have different levels, and different subjects, it’s hard to do, and it’ll drive you nuts if you have to do it everyday. So it’s really less on the amount of kids that are even coming after school for help.
- Leila Moog (06:13)
- I’ve used VoiceThread with this at-risk class that we had, and it was a small class, and the teacher was trying to put everybody to get to know each other. So they each made a VoiceThread about themselves, and I made one about myself, the teacher made one about herself, because if we’re going to ask the students to do it, we’ve got to do it ourselves. So we taught them how to do it, we showed them what we did, and people who you never hear from, the shy ones, you know, they’re recording their voices. So when they present they don’t really have to orally get up there and present. They can have the microphone and the voice that’s already recorded do it for them. And we found out so many — they talked about their interests, and their pictures of their family, and it was fascinating, so that worked really well.
- Becky Goddard (06:58)
- You do have students who have sensory issues, especially more now, we’re seeing a lot more students who have things like autism, or one of those broad-spectrum disorders. They can work in a group sometimes without ever actually sitting next to the person or working with them through chat rooms and things like that. They really like that. Probably the most recent "a-ha" moment that I had was with a young man in my class who has, for years, refused to do any work on paper. And I spoke to his teachers from last year, and they were like, "Oh, he’s just not going to do it, but he’ll pass the end of grade test." I’m like, wait a minute, they’re has to be a reason, you know, there just has to be a reason. And so I asked in the art room if we could borrow some tablets, and amazingly enough, he went to Paintbrush and showed me his work for, at the time, it was addition, subtraction, and decimals. And so it really made us sit there and think. Well, in talking to the child one on one, it’s not that he didn’t want to do it, it’s not that he didn’t know how to do it, he said that it physically gave him a headache to hear the pencil on the paper. Which, with today’s EC population as they are, I don’t think that’s all too uncommon. And I get the same outcome: He’s learning, I’m learning, we’re all happy, and, it’s just, it wouldn’t have been possible without the technologies that we have in place.