By: Jessica Sheley, Community Team
Teachers really are amazing. Every day, they commit to helping dozens, if not hundreds, of students master state standards, technology skills, and other benchmarks that dictate each step in a learner’s journey. To me, it isn’t just that teachers commit themselves to this higher calling that makes them some of the most inspiring professionals out there, it is that they are doing so with students who are all different from one another. Every classroom out there has students with varying backgrounds, strengths, learning styles, and challenges. Teachers not only acknowledge these differences, but they differentiate their instruction so that every student has a chance at reaching the goals before them.
Tracey Hall, a researcher for the Center for Applied Special Technology, gave one of my favorite definitions for differentiated instruction back in 2002 and, fifteen years later, I believe it is still true. Hall defined it as “a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent is to maximize each student's growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is . . . rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum.” (Hall, 2002)
Teachers can differentiate the content they provide their students, the learning process that students experience, and the products that students produce. What I want to focus on in this post is differentiating by process and how Discovery Education’s Techbook can support teachers as they design how students will experience learning.
Differentiating by process is when students’ learning styles and preferences are taken into consideration. When teachers consider HOW their students learn best and HOW each student may need a different process, or path, to make sense of what they are learning they are differentiating by process. The Techbook has built in features that allow teachers to differentiate by process.
These embedded features include:
- Text to speech capabilities in the Core Interactive Text for students who need to hear the words read aloud.
- Reading levels with different Lexiles that students can access on their own.
- Language options, which include English, Spanish, and in some instances, French.
- Text annotation to help students personalize their own learning and process what they read.
- Closed Captioning in videos for visual and language learners, that can be turned on and off, as needed.
The Techbook also addresses differentiating by process by offering resources that help students make sense of the information they are studying. Just simply exposing students to content isn’t always enough to ensure that they understand it and the Techbook provide supports and activities to foster deeper understanding and synthesis of information.
These resources include:
- Graphic Organizers that help scaffold and organize the learning process for students.
- Technology Enhanced Items from simple drag and drop activities for students who need to manipulate concepts to Virtual Lab that simulate experiments for hands on learners.
The resources in the Techbook can also be paired or embedded with other instructional tools housed within Discovery Education. These are opportunities for teachers to create customized learning experiences for students that take into account the unique needs of students and the academic standards that are required of them.
These options include:
- Studio is a creative space where teachers can curate and house content from the Techbooks. This is a great tool for designing tiered assignments for students.
- The Spotlight on Strategies collection offers an array of active learning strategies that can be paired with Techbook resources to help students process the content they are learning.
Of course, other ways that teachers can differentiate by process is to leverage flexible grouping. The Techbook can work well for students to work individually but it can also be used in small group or whole group instruction. For teachers who love to use stations or centers as a way to differentiate, the Techbook and the features that have been described in this post can be easily integrated into this student-centered learning approach.