Learning and Teaching with Technology

Working Portfolio I am learning to collaborate with students, and parents using digital tools to support student success and innovation. The second thing I did or decided to let go of was my issue over 'cell phones' in the classroom and how they are used. School policy is that cell phone are turned off and in the backpack in the classroom. I had a few students that approached me, at different times, on using their cell phone for educational purposes - to use it for the calculator (in Math), the dictionary (in Language Arts), and the agenda application at the end of the day for homework, and the camera to take a picture of the notes on the board. My initial reaction (in my head) was no, buy a calculator if you don't have one, use the Oxford dictionary on the shelf and everyone was given a school agenda at the beginning of the year - write in it, and write down what you can off the board and we will photocopy the rest of the notes from someone else. Good thing for reflection in-action. The students that want to use their cell phone are the same students with IEPs, ones who are already struggling to understand concepts, or have difficulty organizing themselves or are dealing with chronic illness. My issues over cell phones and 'control' needed to be set aside. Parsons and DeLucia in their article on Decision Making in the Process of Differentiation (2005), state, "Differentiated Instruction is the approach to education adopted by the teacher; technology is the tool that allows them to be successful." Looking back on my thought processes, critically reflecting on my reflections, I realize that over and over again these students are upper most in my thoughts, constantly I am thinking about how to get them to succeed, how to support them better, what else can I do to create a learning atmosphere in which they can be successful? For educational purposes, cell phones, are used in my classroom - classroom management rules have been put in place to teach the students to use them appropriately. I am seeing the benefit of this, the student that uses the camera to take pictures of the notes has been improving his grades, though I can not say there is a direct correlation between these two things, he and his mother believe it is helping. The student using it for his agenda is getting his homework done more regularly and remembers to record the homework since it is fun to type it into his phone. Discovering how digital tools can help my students succeed, as been significant for me. I realized that I still have some assumptions to work through regarding technology, like cell phones and that what I think is a useful tool for my students isn’t necessarily what they think is a useful tool. I want to keep exploring the idea of learning through games or exploration with technology and working with the students to see what they discover. One of my first areas of growth was in how to collaborate with the students and parents in order to support student learning in the classroom - all of this came about because of my field study question - How can I differentiate my instruction and assignments in math for students to show their learning? As I went on in my field study this question expanded to include other subject areas - but the basic premise was to differentiate my instruction, and assignments to allow for different learning styles and needs. The context in which I developed my question is important. A parent approached about he son who misses a lot of school due to his illness. We were brain storming different ways to support his math learning at home when he misses the lessons and different ways he can show his learning when writing can be tiring for him. With such a diverse classroom of active students it is always a challenge to tap into all the different learning styles and engage all the students and differentiated my instruction and the students assignments would benefit everyone. One of the first things I did was find websites and videos that supported the math concepts I was teaching. I linked these to my website and spent a few lessons showing the students the links and videos. Hoping that if students went home confused about a lesson or missed a lesson they would be able to use the links to support their learning. I discovered that the students enjoyed watching the videos in the class and found the games helpful in the class, but that only one student used the links at home. Though this is the one student that I had in mind when I was putting the resources together it was a moment to step back and reflect on why these resources were not being used by the others. My reflections – or more my questions turned into having my students fill out a survey to discover why they weren’t using the website and what ‘they’ thought were their # 1 learning styles. I was enlightening in a number of ways. Most students believe that they do not learn from games or do not have the time to go on the math links at home. This is in direct disagreement with some of the research I have read. Which again led to more questions - Do students not realize they are learning when playing games because it isn’t blatantly obvious? Do students have trouble transferring the ‘learning’ they do through games into paper and pencil work because it is ‘linear’? How do I help students make a connection from playing math games to doing better on in class tasks? Do I point this out? As to the learning styles of the students – 7 students believe they learn best by Exploring and 6 by Reading, 6 believe they learn least by Listening or Reading. These results were not surprising to me and just reinforced the notion of providing differentiation in the classroom through digit tools and other resources. Participate in and help develop learning communities to support your teaching practice Engage in a critical cycle of action-reflection to understand and develop your practice Use, evaluate and integrate existing and emerging technologies into your practice Draw on educational theories, research and philosophies to inform your use of technologies to support teaching and learning I am learning how to use technology to develop instruction strategies and assignments to meet the different learning styles of my students. My second area of growth in my thinking and planning came when I continued to read about differentiated instruction and attend the districts Whatever It Takes professional development workshops. My default as a teacher is to use the textbook in which ever subject to teach from, use the resources the school has to offer and use the activities that the textbook suggests. This may work for the majority of my class, but will not work for my students with learning disabilities or my gifted students. To explore my field study questions more I delved into "How to Use Differentiated Instruction: with Students with Developmental Disabilities in the General Education Classroom" (Gartin, Murdick, Imbeau, and Perner, 2002) In which, they provide a rational for using differentiated instruction in the classroom and emphasis that it covers differentiating content, process, product and environment. The book also emphasizes that all of this is grounded in the curriculum and that like Vygotsky states, a students readiness to learn is important, their connectedness to the material, and that in order for a student to learn something new they need adult support. I also read “The Power of Choice,” (Bray, 2009) in which she addresses many different ways in which to allow for choice in math, one is in the “. . . freedom to experiment with their own strategies for solving problems.” I decided to focus on taking 'baby steps' in differentiation. I started with incorporating more 'technology' into different areas of my teaching. For example - introducing a new topic with an online video in Math about fractions, and continuing to find SMART BOARD lessons that support learning in Math and Science, having the students explore a plant and animal cells through an interactive website, and introducing the new novel study, Underground the Canada, through Scholastics' interactive website. I am finding that it becomes easier and easier to do this in the classroom and that the students, on the whole, respond well. When I turn on the projector or have the students get the laptops, there is an air of expectation in the classroom. The students are excited about what they are about the do or discover. They are not just looking at their textbook. But as I look back at my journal entries I have discovered that I am still questioning if this is differentiation. Though, I am changing what I do, am I differentiating the 'process' - the activities, lessons, and interactions that occur . . . to help students make sense of the content being presented (Gartin, Murdick, Imbeau, and Perner, 2002)?" The next area I looked at after deciding to attempt to differentiate my instruction was to differentiate the students’ assignments, to allow for their different learning styles. Since my field study came about by trying to solve the dilemma of one student who consistently missed Math I wanted to find a way for him specifically to show his learning. Tests and written assignments are difficult for him because of how tired he gets. I was not yet ready to develop different questions that the students could choose to solve as well as different ways in which they could represent their learning. Instead I focused on giving the students choice in how they were going to demonstrate their knowledge of fractions. The students could choose to use video, kidpixs, kidspiration, jing, word, or a poster. All of these different ways were used with varying degrees of success. The student, who was first in my thoughts regarding this project, put together a video using his iPhone and posted on YouTube so I could view it. Another student, who struggles with math concepts, put together an assignment using word and jing. If he had just written the answers on paper his drawing would have been messy, his answers would have been incomplete and hard to understand, but since he used the computer he could find pictures that showed the fractions and the added 'voice over' allowed for him to fully explain his answers. He did better on this project than any test he has done in math.

After reading Bray's article on the Power of Choice I had also hoped that the Math project I gave them might also give the students a chance to show different strategies in their solutions, but looking back on it after, while I was marking the projects, I discovered that the task didn't really lend itself to a variety of different ways to solve it and I wondered and still wonder whether my 'support' during the process directed students into just one what of looking at the problem. How do teachers influence the students’ product? How do I scaffold my students without influencing them too much?

After my success with the Math project I decided to try differentiating in Socials on an assignment. Again I decided to not yet delve into providing different types of questions that allow the students to show the same learning, but to stick with one assignment, but displayed in different ways. Though all the students used computers to type up their information and print pictures and do research, only one student chose to use the computer to present his project on a PowerPoint presentation. Everyone else did a poster, brochure or report. Gartin, et al. discuss how allternative assessment procedures allow for generating richer and more educationally useful information, but I want to allow for differentiation - how do I put those two ideas together?

What let to the choices they made? It could have been the nature of the assignment, but as reflected on it I think it is also because the students are use to making poster presentations. It is the way they have been taught to present information in this type of project. Like adults they resort to what is comfortable and known, not necessarily what is the best choice based on their individual learning style. How do I change this? How do I help them discover whether they are analytical, practical, creative, etc.?

I think the most significant part of my learning through reading the articles and then trying some of the strategies in the class room is: 'Are you doing what you set out to do?' I set out to differentiate (using technology) the products the students were producing, planning to tap into their learning styles and allow for creativity, but this is not what happened. Which leading to a lot more questions in my mind about how I set out assignments and again - how I help students discover different was to express their learning. Part of a reflection from the week of April 12 - 16

Even though this was our second time looking at this website the students were engaged in the activity. One student was so engrossed that he unfortunately had to take the work home with him because he was busy exploring and listening to the accounts from the journals the 'slaves'. Part of a Reflection - Feb. 8-12

-Two students suprised me in this whole process. K.S. - made a series of pictures with answers as a word processing document. He asked in he was done. I asked him if he added his voice to his project through Jing would he be able to explain his thought process better to me. I left that with him. On his own he decided to do the jing. Compared to his work in class and his results on tests, he did amazing. He handed in a B level product, compared to his usual C+ work. Reflection on Reading - week of February 15 - 19

Looking at the whole big picture of differentiation is a little overwhelming. Trying to differentiate in all the areas at one time isn't practical. I have chosen to start with differentiating the Product the students produce because of the different abilities in my classroom. My hope is that if I allow for students to show their Math learning in a way other than a test, the IEP students will have success. Should I allow some of the students to also take a test if they don't want to do the project? I don't think I am ready for that.

The Power of Choice article stresses that students who have some choice in what they are learning are more actively engaged. Will this transfer to the task I am giving the students, even if I am not allowing them choice between task, just in how they show their learning? Is this true differentiation? Reflection on After school workshop - Jan 7

Spent the time exploring the Differentiated Instruction wiki. Excited about trying out some of the suggestions and using some of the links to learn more about how to differentiate in small ways in the classroom. Finding manageable strategies.

Reflection of February's Afterschool workshop

Explored a few different strategies - RAFT, Tiered Tasks, Jigsaw and Sternberg. Hoping to try some of them in the classroom and wondering how I can fit technology into it. Most information on Differentiation does not include technology - or ideas on how to include technology into it.

I am learning about differentiation, how to incorporate it into my classroom and how to draw on educational theories around differentiation to support teaching and learning. As I explored and search for different readings that had to with differentiation and technology I grew extremely frustrated. There are many articles about technology and education, many articles about education and differentiation, but almost none about how technology can fit into the process of differentiation. So for me this has been an up hill battle and huge learning curve. Parsons and DeLucia (2005) in their article on Decision Making in the Process of Differentiation was the only article I found that met my needs. Though I haven’t been able to try some of their strategies is was extremely interesting. They discuss how Online Survey tools can help teachers in the process of differentiating lessons based on interest and readiness and how the Student Response System and Databases in creating tiered lessons, flexible grouping, etc. Though I spent time exploring what Google has to offer in creating online questionnaires, I did not use it when I created a survey for my students about their learning styles because of time and availability of the computers in the school. In Gartin, et al. and Theroux both go into deeper or more elaborate explanation about areas to differentiate in, where to start, and they give some examples. Theroux states “Differentiating the processes means varying learning activities or strategies to provide appropriate methods for students to explore the concepts.” Gartin, et al. quotes Tomlinson “Differentiated instruction accepts students products based on individual characteristics, not products based on teacher choice.” Both of these areas seemed to me a place where I could start differentiating. I choose to explore the area of differentiating in what students produce (in Math and Socials) for my field study where I included technology and leveled groupings and activities in Science and Language Arts. Reading about it in these articles and carrying it out in the classroom are two different things. My principal keeps telling me it will get easier and faster to do. But I look back on my planning and my reflecting on how things went in Science and Language Arts and I am left wondering how I can become more effective at differentiating? If I included technology into those two subject areas would it have been easier? More difficult? More engaging? In Math and Socials the students were quite engaged in the activities and needed little prompting to stay on task. Refection - Feb 1- 5

Though I am not using technology in my Language Arts Novel study - I am using differentiation. My students were split into 6 groups, reading different novels and i prepared for each of them a package that I believed would be at their learning level, each package included pages to create a summary, questions, vocabulary, illustrations and connections. But in each group members might have a summary page that is point form, or paragraphs or pictures - depending on the student level.

I found that this took a long time to put together, but was worth it. I also discovered that I need to learn how to evaluate better, not where my students are at, but the worksheets I am giving them- the levels. There was one worksheet that I thought was 'easy' or explained better the instructions - but this sheet students found very difficult.

Reflection - Feb 8 - 12

Students handed in Math Projects. The process of creating the projects was in some ways more than I bargained for. Have students working on different ways to produce or show their knowledge, and using technology - I felt pulled in different directions. Setting up the JING on to the laptops - if I had thought of it before hand, I should have taken the time to put the product on 5 laptops and logged them in, this would have saved me much stress.

First day of Science Groups - Set up the 4 groups for science, tried the ‘Primary’ approach – 3 groups were doing different tasks and one group was with me. Found myself distracted with making sure the other groups were on task, but also enjoyed working with the small group and discussing electricity.

Day two – finding that some groups work better independently than others. The ‘lower’ group needs more help as well as one or two other students. Maybe I should have set up the groups differently. If I put a higher level reader in the lower level reading group would they be challenged enough?

Day three - interestingly enough the students don’t like it if they don’t get to do an activity that the other groups get to do. Two of the groups had a vocabulary game of Go Fish and the others groups kept asking when they would get to play the game – I will have to include some how. Still finding it difficult to work with one group while the others are off being independent, but they are getting use to the idea. Finding out that I am ‘a bit’ controlling and am having a harder time adjusting – hmm!

Bibliography

Bray, Wendy S. "Power of Choice." Teaching Children Mathematics (October 2009): 178-183.

Gartin, Barbara C., Murdick, Nikki L., Imbeau, Marcia, and Perner, Darlene E. "How to Use Differentiated Instruction with Students with Developomental Disabilities in the General Education Classroom." pp. 4 - 73. Arlington, VA., 2002.

Parsons, Catherine V. and DeLucia, Jodi M. "Decision Making in the Process of Differentiation." Learning and Leading with Technology (September 2005): 8 - 10.

http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/differentiating_article.html

Visions, Goals and Wonderings . . .

How do I help students discover what way they learn best and also challenge them to grow in the other ways?

How do I allow students to differentiate in what they produce, but also challenge them to explore out side their comfort zone?

What programs, online or other are there that allow for differentiating or is it just how I use it?

Since differentiating is where education is leading - (or may be it has always been there and we are calling it by a new name) I feel passionate about implementing it into my classroom more and more. I am also motivated to find better ways to implement it with technology. It is a huge area to be explored and I feel like I have barely scratched to surface of it in my teaching.

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# Differentiated Instruction Teaching and Learning With Technology

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