How can I use Pearltrees to differentiate content in the classroom?
The topic for this blog was about how to differentiate content in the classroom using Pearltrees. At first my initial thought was “It’s too much for my students!” But then, I actually doodled on Pearltree to feel confident enough to actually come up with ways to use it with five/six year olds. In order to use this app I would first have to set up Pearltree on the two computers in my room. This was step one. As I would soon find out, there were numerous steps to using Pearltree with kindergarten students.
Step two: research apps and games to use as pearls to create pearltrees. This step was to be done before I actually installed the Pearltree icon onto the computer for my students. It was a bit lengthier than I had anticipated. Research is a time-consuming process where I was required to sift through the good and the bad. Once I found the apps and games I wanted to use I had to list out the purposes for each and when they might be used. I had to thus decide if I wanted to create two different pearltrees, one for math and one for literacy. In the end, yes was the decision.
Step three: creating pearltrees. The next step involved actually creating the pearltrees on the two computers in my room. This part was time consuming as well. I had to find the apps, create pearls, and finally put the pearltrees together. Once on the computers however they were ready for use.
Step four: teaching students how to use the pearltrees. It was simple I thought. They would sit down, click on the icon of their choosing on the pearltree. The difficult part to it all I thought would be the learning of each pearl on the pearltree. Learning the apps and games that I had installed was quite challenging, as I had to be teach the games and apps to the students for the first week of use. But with the ease of clicking on the icons, students quickly caught on to how to use the pearltrees. The difficulty we had wasn’t use of the computers, apps, games, or the like, it was the lack of time and having only two computers in the classroom to use! With only two computers it limits time spent on the computer for each student, thereby creating a dilemma of computer time on any day of the week.
Though the apps and games are engaging to students because they are just that, another challenge to using the Pearltree was finding appropriate games and apps that varied in difficulty as well as the skills they were targeting. Some games and apps targeted skills that would have been excellent for students at the higher end of the spectrum in my classroom, but would have been frustrating for others. After the first week of teaching students how to use the pearltrees I thus created three different pearltrees for the varying levels of ability: lower, middle, high. It was time-consuming but worthwhile in the end. Students worked more at their ability levels due to this. It required me to be there to click on their pearltrees, but it wasn’t something I minded.
Using pearltrees demonstrated that kindergarten students are capable of using computer applications. It took guidance, reassurance at times, scheduling, and time, but we were able to do it. I would be curious how other teachers, especially at the kindergarten level, use Pearltrees to differentiate in the classroom.