Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ideas to Differentiate Instruction in a 1:1 Classroom

After one year of 1:1 instruction with Chromebooks, I have seen a great deal of opportunities to differentiate instruction for students that are not as easy to accomplish in a traditional classroom model.  Being able to utilize Google Apps for Education, a plethora of online resources, and a few key web tools can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to meeting the need of every type of learner.  In a traditional classroom of 28 students whose interests, attention spans, and abilities range greatly, the introduction of devices in the classroom has allowed me to shift how I instruct slightly to make sure that students have the support they need, access to resources, and can use class time productively and at their own pace.  I still have quite a ways to go in terms of redesigning my classroom to maximize class time and encourage students to master the curriculum while using their time wisely, but with experience and reflection comes growth!

1. Screencast-o-Matic

Using this web tool is easy and has allowed me to create think aloud videos for writing prompts, demonstrate how to use a specific web tool, or provide feedback for students.  I have found that students do utilize the think aloud videos, which are used to supplement and re-teach skills that I review in class.  I'd like to do more with this in terms of grammar, thesis statement creation, and perhaps even close reading of non-fiction articles next year.  When a video has been created, students who struggle with specific skills have the option to review that skill as many times as necessary at home or even in-class while other students draft or work on another activity. 

2. Google Apps for Education (Specifically Docs): 

My school district just finished year two of utilizing Google Apps.  Students are certainly becoming more proficient and learning how to maximize the benefits that these tools provide in terms of collaboration and cloud computation. One approach I have taken with some students this year is "meeting" on their docs to help with specific writing or formatting issues.  Especially when using Google Docs, the chat feature allows me to provide direct instruction and answer questions more effectively when we cannot meet face-to-face.  Next year, I hope to try and hold "office hours" during major writing units to make myself available as well as continue to capitalize on the benefits of using these web tools.  I am eager to see how Google Classroom will work and how this might allow teachers and students to interact and engage with one another, anywhere and at any time.  


Video Notes is my new favorite web tool that allows students to take notes while watching videos that could be created by an individual teacher or simply a video found online.  The web tool syncs with Google Drive, it is user friendly, and it allows students to take notes and track the time in which they make comments.  If a person is using the flipped classroom model, this is an excellent tool.  Once a student take notes, the notes sync with a folder in Google Drive and from there, can be shared with the teacher.  While I did not discover this tool until EdCamp Chicago a few weeks prior, I definitely want to use this next year and have been sharing it with anyone who wants to experiment with the flipped classroom model in any capacity.  

4. TEDEd Videos

TED has compiled a series of videos and resources for educators and students that are absolutely fantastic.  Focusing on countless topics across many different disciplines, these quality lessons/videos are informative, engaging, and easily adaptable for teachers. In addition to great videos, TEDEd has compiled quizzes, additional resources for each video, and a place to discuss the content of the video.  Teachers can even create and share lessons with other teachers on the TEDEd website.  This is another resource that I have not explored much, but I am excited to see how I might use this to continue to approach differentiated instruction in the classroom.  

5. Google Calendar: 

 did not use Google Calendar this year with students.  Instead, I created a shared folder and made daily agendas, which the students had access to all semester.  I would like to and plan on using Google Calendar to link the agendas and also map out due dates for students.  Organization is key to keeping students on track.  The more files that are accessible, the easier students will be able to find key course documents, manage their own workflow, and engage with the course.  

I am excited to see how this will work and if it will improve the student experience.  At the same time, the Google LMS (Google Classroom) might do all of this automatically.  Technology is constantly evolving, as are the ways in which students learn.  The exciting part about next school year is that there will be more to learn, resources to experiment with, and new students to teach!

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