Differentiation is a new buzzword in modern education, and an essential concept for teachers to master.
Definitionally, differentiation is a teaching strategy that gears to meet all individual learning needs. It meets the child where they’re at, and caters to the method they learn with best, from visual learning to auditory learning. It provides scaffolding to the struggling learner, and higher level instruction to kids who are ready to master skills. Only recently, though, has differentiation been so easily accessible for teachers, and that is through the evolvement of ed-tech. Modern educational technology allows for more resources and tools to reach each student, leading to better learning outcomes in the classroom. In one study, scholars found that differentiated instruction consistently yielded positive results across a broad range of targeted groups, compared to the general student population (McQuarrie, McRae, & Stack-Cutler, 2008).
Specifically, there are some common types of learning styles in a classroom. Based on the concept of Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligence, 5 learning styles can be identified as prevalent in most students:
- Verbal Linguistic Learners
- Logical Mathematical Learners
- Kinesthetic Learners
- Visual Spacial Learners
- Musical Rhythmic Learners
To determine which students absorb which kind of learning, the multiple Intelligence test can be given as a pre-assessment. Teachers can also conduct individual student interviews and observations.
Ed-tech handily caters to all of these learning styles. For verbal linguistic learners, Voki is a software that allows kids to input text into a custom avatar they’ve built, and then the avatar will speak the provided text, reinforcing this students desired learning pattern of hearing the educational content.
Logical mathematical learners can create spreadsheets and charts using Google Spreadsheet, or use highly focused programs on an iPad to solve long division problems. Ed-tech allows you to see elaborate equations all on one screen, or view spelling words in a logical list format.
Kinesthetic learners absorb learning through touch and tactile movement. For this, the act of typing out text into a computer, or pressing an answer up on a Smartboard meets this student’s needs. Ed-tech has an abundance of physically interactive software, and newer tablets even have the ability to understand the amount of force a finger draws a picture with, and can darker and lighten a line appropriately.
Visual spacial learners like to create mental images, and PowerPoint presentations work ideally. Students can take what they’re thinking in their heads, and translate that to a word or picture based presentation to share with other students. Software like Prezi gives students the opportunity to create even more elaborate and visually appealing lessons, reinforcing the desire to absorb information through sight.
Musical rhythmic learners are especially benefited from ed-tech, because through teacher collaboration, an abundance of lesson-relevant songs are available. Previously limited to the songs that their teacher personally knew, now a simple google search can unveil catchy songs about any topic, from long division to art history.
More broadly, though, ed-tech hits a variety of different learning styles even when one platform is used. Jeopardy, for instance, is a classroom favorite. It can be customized to a teacher’s specific lesson, then displayed on a Promethean Board. Visual learners can watch the game unfold and view the categories and questions. Kinesthetic learners can physically type in the answers. Logical mathematical learners can see the information displayed in a neat, Jeopardy-style grid. Verbal learners can hear the questions played and re-played over a speaker system. Musical learners are engaged with the familiar Jeopardy theme music.
Kids relate to technology because they’ve grown up with it, and find it more exciting because it allows more creativity and gives immediate response answers. It’s hands on and isn’t a standard desk with a pencil and worksheet. iPad station, smartboard station, and computer station can all be set up simultaneously to address educational needs.
Technology gives teachers so many resources to help plan and come up with innovative ideas for lesson presentation – it’s a win win for the student and teacher. A simple google search will open the world to help teach students on each topic.
Differentiation is essentially required in schools, and adapting to learning styles is essential because not doing so means students to fall behind. Catering to several learning styles encompasses 21st century learning, and ensures that each student has a fair chance to achieve their personal educational goals.