As teachers, we are aware that all students learn and access information in different ways. We cannot just lecture to meet the needs of our entire class. Therefore, we need to find ways to share the same information in different ways. The NETS-T or ISTE Teacher Standards list this as 2c, to customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources.
With the use of technology, it can be very easy to offer multiple ways to learn about a given topic. For example, if a teacher was discussing Martin Luther King Jr. in February for Black History Month, they could talk about it in class. But it would be very beneficial for many students to view a video of one of his speeches. In addition, a teacher could find an interactive website that students could access from school or home to learn even more about him and the time period. Additionally, a teacher could engage the students with a blog in which students compare and contrast Dr. King with a modern day activist. The technology makes information about Dr. King available in many forms.
The NETS-T 2c standard also embraces the idea of UDL or Universal Design for Learning. "UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs." Technology can be a tremendous aid for a teacher choosing to implement UDL principles in their classes. You can learn more about UDL and Technology from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.
Teachers can also offer differentiated learning experiences with the use of technology. I have seen this done in many ways from the Khan Academy Coach for differentiating math lessons to learning menus that involve technology and allow students choices of tasks to complete to show understanding.
As you continue to prepare lesson plans this year, don't forget to utilize technology as a valuable differentiated learning tool for students.
Last week we celebrated Digital Learning Day. It was great to see all of the awesome ways that students in Wayland are learning with the assistance of technology. Digital Learning Day is a good reminder that teachers need to regularly incorporate technology into their lesson plans. One standard, NETS-T 2b, suggests that teachers develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress. Basically, teachers need to allow students to be in charge of their own digital learning.
As elementary teachers already know, elementary students still need quite a bit of guidance as to how to manage their own learning. I suggest using a Student Goal Setting Worksheet (see pic of example worksheet at the top). A teacher would sit down with the student to fill out the form. Together they would list some digital activities that the student would choose to complete for improved learning. These activities could be done during classroom time or suggested for at home. One digital activity could involve the student using Sheppard Software (see pic at top) to help the student practice and monitor their progress in math. The teacher is still involved, but the student can begin to learn how to use technology to manage their own learning. Older students could be given a similar worksheet and asked to find their own digital activities that will help them in the learning process.
A teacher could also use Project-Based Learning (PBL) that incorporated technology. One important part of PBL is student choice. If students were also asked to monitor their progress along the way, this would be a great way to teach students how to oversee their own learning.
Another way to allow students to guide their own digital learning could be through menus or choice boards. In Choice Menus for Differentiation by Jackie Patanio, mentions, "All of my students are unique, so the choice is theirs to take charge of their learning." If menus or choice boards were paired with technology activities, it would be a great way to help student manage their own learning. In the math tic-tac-toe example shown above, a teacher could easily add a digital activity to accompany each choice.
Are you allowing your students to become 21st century learners by managing their own digital learning?