Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Technology and Differentiation: Meeting Instructional Needs

This is my teammate, Toby. One of the things that most impresses me about his teaching style is that he is always willing to try something new to make his classroom run smoother. He is forever challenging his fourth graders to think critically and flexibly. Over the past year, he has discovered a really smart way to use technology to better meet the needs of his students.

Our fourth graders review prerequisites and previously taught skills for both math and language arts each day. Typically, students practice independently and then review with the whole class. This sort of repetitive practice allows students to maintain their math and language skills. As you can imagine, some students need more support than others with these skills. While some kids are truly reviewing previously mastered content, others need to be retaught. This is difficult to do in only about ten minutes in each subject, so Toby thought of a new way to review with his class.

Differentiation Through Technology

Toby's students have about 30 minutes of independent work time each day during math. During that time, they are given a variety of review tasks to complete including correcting their math and language review, practicing multiplication math facts with Xtramath, and reviewing recent math skills through IXL. During this independent time, Toby is using technology to meet the needs of his students.

Toby takes about ten minutes a day during his prep to record himself using his document camera. He solves each math problem and reviews the language concepts for the day. Students who need to simply check their work access his Youtube video through Google Classroom and follow along. They can pause it to correct their own work or watch parts multiple times to ensure they understand each question. They can also access these videos from home to review with their parents before the weekly quiz.

Students are also encouraged to use the comment feature on Youtube to ask questions about problems they do not understand. This helps Toby know who may need more help face-to-face. This year he is also thinking about encouraging students to answer the questions that their peers asked through comments, allowing students to help one another as well.

While the majority of the class is reviewing online, Toby is able to work with a small group of students and reteach the skills they are struggling with the most. He sees an average of about 8 students each day for intense reteaching. At times, students choose if they need help, and other times he calls up specific students.

The major drawback of this system, according to Toby, is that he must be very conscious of each student’s progress so that students don’t slip through the cracks. To do this he uses weekly quiz results and weekly reports through IXL to determine who needs help with specific skills.

The benefit of his system is that he can meet each student’s specific needs, while also promoting independence. He has essentially used technology to clone himself and teach two groups at once, providing differentiated instruction to meet the needs of his students. How cool is that? Thanks for sharing this great idea, Toby!

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