Differentiation and the role technology plays

Most classrooms in the UK today are mixed ability, which means that teachers need to be able to effectively cater for each and every pupil, so that no one is left behind. But how do we achieve this? Ranjit Singh from Genee World explores how technology can help improve the learning experience and engage the whole class… 

There’s no denying that we all have our own preferred learning styles, and as students make their way through school, they will start to determine the way they learn best; be that visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. However, within this, abilities will still vary, meaning teachers may find it challenging to support each and every individual based on their very personal needs. When presented with the same content and tasks, there will be some students who excel, while others find things more difficult. 

This is where differentiation comes in: the practice of tailoring instructions to meet individual needs, whether that’s the content, learning processes, tasks or environments. Giving students different methods and ways of learning means they are able to work towards the overall outcome of the lesson but in their own way, at their own pace. So how do we go about providing this type of learning effectively?

Is technology the answer?

For many years, audio visual (AV) technology has played a prominent role in the classroom, and is still just as effective in today’s classes. With the kids using project flowintroduction of equipment such as interactive whiteboards, and more recently touch screens, tablets and interactive tables, teachers are able to display dynamic examples relating to particular topics. They can also encourage students to interact with activities and tasks relating to the lesson – be that through full-colour images, detailed diagrams or even video content. 

Being able to incorporate this technology into lessons enables teachers to differentiate learning, or work with a range of materials to ensure that every pupil is able to process and understand the topic in their own way. For example, using an interactive whiteboardas a way to access the internet allows visual learners to benefit from images and videos that explain the content in a more appealing format; for learners that find it easier to understand concepts through practical tasks, interactive tables could be used to engage with activities; and for auditory learners, students could listen to podcasts, videos or online streams. 

Many schools are also making use of tablet devices in the classroom, which means that pupils have hands-on access to interactive and dynamic content at their fingertips, including video, images, activities and sound. 

Teachers can use these tablets to show content on the front-of-house display and then push this information to the devices of everyone in the class, and assign individuals or groups with different tasks depending on their abilities. For example, if working with digital quizzes, teachers could ask some students to work in pairs to talk through possible responses and record answers, while those who may struggle with spelling could work on a drag-and-drop or multiple choice exercise that allows them to choose words that correlate with images or questions.

Differentiating work this way not only means that students learn in a way that suits them, but also means they can do so without worrying about falling behind others who are working on a separate, but related activity. 

Monitoring progress 

Technology also helps to play a role in monitoring progress more effectively. If a student is struggling to complete their work, the teacher is able to easily identify and assess theare as they are struggling with, and offer alternative ways to solve the task. This is alld one in a discreet way to avoid embarrassment for the student, who may not want to admit they are finding the work challenging in front of the whole class. This shields their confidence and increases their resilience, allowing them to try again without feeling ashamed.

Technology features in the majority of young people’s lives, and so introducing it into the classroom gives them the opportunity to work with forms of communication and information that they are already familiar and comfortable with. And no doubt, it is something they will come across time and time again as they move through education and into the world of employment.

Differentiating learning through the use of technology can improve the learning experience for all students and ensure that everyone is able to reach their full potential.Surely that’s a worthwhile investment? 

 

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