How do we overcome learning barriers in the classroom? What steps do we need to take to address the needs of all our students? How do we keep our students engaged in the learning process?
With the help of classroom technology, getting to know your students and their learning needs and the best way for each to receive information and then express their ideas becomes apparent. Some students understand concepts visually such as charts and graphs, others through lectures and discussion, some process information faster when reading or writing ideas while others learn best through tactile processes and personal experience. If a teacher delivers a lesson using a single strategy only, it is inevitable that some students will have trouble catching up. Hence, the concept of differentiated instruction.
But what is differentiated instruction and how do educators apply this in the classroom? Carol Ann Tomlinson, an author and teacher regarded as a pioneer in differentiated instruction, states “I think differentiated instruction actually is just teaching with the child in mind”. In this approach, students will have various options on how to acquire, process and develop content. This poses a challenge to teachers with the need to tailor each lesson to cater to the changing needs of the students.
Thankfully, technology in education is constantly evolving. Challenges faced by educators in implementing this concept can now be addressed by edutech tools. Such challenges and solutions include:
1. Challenge: The need for domain knowledge to differentiate. Solution: Technology can provide domain maps and possible learning pathways.
2. Challenge: The need to identify learners’ zone of proximal development. Solution: Technology in education can identify these zones through computer-based assessment.
3. Challenge: The need to group students flexibly. Solution: Edutech tools can recommend groups.
4. Challenge: The need to indicate resources. Solution: Technology in education can suggest resources targeting learners’ needs.
Preparing lesson plans and classroom activities while implementing differentiated instruction can be perceived as a daunting task. But emerging classroom technology can greatly assist in this task so teachers can focus more on their goal – teaching with the students in mind.