What does it mean to differentiate the process (content, strategies for instruction) in the classroom?
Differentiating the process as I see it is to vary the content being presented, the teaching style, method, or manner in which the content is presented. It seems with each passing year the need to differentiate increases. Students today are entering our schools with greater needs, abilities, experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, and cultures than ever before. One way of doing things is no longer good enough. Neither is it appropriate. In order to meet the needs of all educators now have to have a plethora of tools in their “tool bag.”
The research I did this week on the topic above yielded many results on how to “best” differentiate in the classroom environment to provide increased student achievement. There were many sites and articles that promised they had the best means of differentiation to provide students with multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas. Of the sites and articles I sifted through this week I walked at least one suggestion and technology that can better the way I differentiate in my own classroom. I’ll begin with the suggestions.
The one suggestion I walked away with after hours of research was one that we do not heed often enough. The suggestion is simple: play to the student’s strengths. We often adhere to the weaknesses of our students and differentiate according to these weaknesses. However, we tend to overlook the fact that our students, though diverse in their abilities, come in with an array of strengths. The strengths of our students may not be academic and for me, this is something I tend to overlook at times. We often have students who are amazing artists for example. If we have them work simply within our means, say writing a piece for us, it may not be within their comfort level or their strength. If we are to use their strength as an artist though and use software such as Comic Life it could very well be the medium needed to give meaning to the work being completed. What I am proposing here is a restructuring of the frame of mind to teach the same concepts.
The technology tool that I thought might be beneficial to my classroom for differentiation was a document camera. I have one in my classroom but haven’t used it as extensively as I could be. It could be used to present material, introduce topics, or for students to do presentations of their own. There are a lot more options for the use of a document camera for differentiation that I haven’t tapped into yet that I would like to. It could also be used for small group work, modeling, and sharing of work. I am yet to use the document camera for more than modeling and introducing new ideas and topics. With the ideas presented in the research I plan to increase my use of the document camera for more than my own presentation of content and materials.
This week’s question and research got me to thinking about the available technologies either in my building already or in my classroom. Technologies as simple as projectors could be utilized to differentiate instruction. What it all boils down to I realized this week is how the technologies are utilized. It isn’t a simple cut and dry process to differentiate. It takes creativity, deep thought, data collection, and careful, purposeful planning.