Today I had the opportunity to talk about differentiating instruction with a group of educators using mobile technology as a part of ISTE’s Verizon Innovative Learning Schools virtual conference.
At the end of the end of this session (with no time left to respond), this great question came up:
“How do you all suggest differentiating when it comes to kids who don’t work well with technology in a technology based class?”
[wait time...in case you want to think or write about this yourself before I start thinking aloud ;]
Differentiation is all about accommodating different learning styles and empowering learners to guide their own learning. If some learners don’t work well with technology, don’t force it. Instead, help them find strategies that work for them.
(Side note: I think it’s probably worth some time to look with these learners at why they “don’t work well with technology.” Is it certain kinds of technology? Is it certain kinds of content or activities? Are there other factors in play? Do they use Facebook or play WOW? Saying that someone “doesn’t work well with technology” seems a little like saying someone doesn’t work well with paper. I’m not discounting the possibility, but just saying that it merits some exploration. It’s a big world, technology is.)
Depending on the age of the student, I would put equal onus on him/her to puzzle through this. Some exploration about how we learn and taking responsibility for our learning is a good thing for all of us.
Then, if you end up at the same place, accommodate! There are a million ways to learn that aren’t technology-based. When I taught, we had very little access to technology, and so I differentiated in many other ways that you’ve probably all used. I made up independent learning project folders that students could choose from and work on at their own pace. I encouraged individual reading and writing on topics of choice. I tried to avoid a lot of whole class work and to give students flexibility in pacing and had them track and monitor their own progress.
What would I do differently now (but with no technology)? More language support. More use of multiple resources. Less use of textbooks. (There are many non-technology options: magazines, trade books, video, mentors, hands on experiences, etc.) And always more acknowledgement of where students are starting from and working from there, rather than trying to fit a learner into a hole he/she just doesn’t fit in.
And of course, I’d probably try to find some alluring, atypical technology treats to dangle in front of these learners as well.
How about you? What ideas do you have?