Meaningful, student-centered, differentiation

D has been a teacher in the Surrey School District for 4 years. She teaches primarily grades K through 3. D is currently teaching a grade 2 class at an inner-city school, which is predominantly ELL (English language learner). Our interview was a phone interview on Thursday evening. She is currently working on her Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership and Management through Royal Roads University.

D uses a web-based program called Splash Math which students can access on the iPads at home and at school. She can align it with the curriculum’s big ideas and curricular competencies they are working on in class. “As soon as I bring Splash Math into our day, the kids are highly motivated, especially because they get feedback immediately.” Roschelle et al. (2000) explains that research and teachers suggest that students who participate in computer connected learning networks show increased motivation, a deeper understanding of concepts, and an increased willingness to tackle difficult questions. D explains that Splash Math is differentiated because it is tailored to each learner’s individual needs and it takes the pressure and embarrassment that comes with being a grade or two behind. The students can attempt harder questions without the fear of failure in front of their peers.

Technology allows D to check in with each of her students through apps like Book Creator. The students can take pictures or evidence of their learning in math and science and share it with her, and then post it on their digital portfolio. “FreshGrade is my reporting style. It shows their parents, them, and me where they are this point in time. I would use that information to then change my teaching, or go back and reflect with them on that concept, or show their parents what their child needs to continue to work on at home.” Digital portfolios encourage reflection at home, encouraging students to set goals for themselves. In their life cycle unit, students are making observations and documenting the life cycle of a plant with iPads. Students make predictions and reflect on what they’ve observed. “The learning results indicate that prompting students to reflect significantly increases knowledge integration in science projects” (Davis, E. A. 2000).

One of the challenges she faces is the lack of technology at her school level. There have been push backs from senior staff who are not willing to embrace something new. She explains that the more she models how technology can enhance student learning, the more teachers are willing to dip their toe into uncharted water. In the beginning, she was hesitant to bring technology in the classroom. Her students are at the centre of her decisions when it comes to technology, so she looks for technology that supports her learners. The question she asks herself when she considers new technology is, “Is it meaningful? More recently I started working with some more technology-minded colleagues and that really helped to push me into allowing technology to be a little bit more open-ended and to use it for more inquiry purposes. I have to trust my students and promote digital literacy. I’ve gone from being somebody who was quite nervous about it, to someone who is embracing it, and as soon as I embrace it and I lose that anxiety, I’ve noticed that my students have also started to embrace it, and its helped them to develop that growth mindset as well. Using technology and making mistakes, and pushing themselves to explore things they may have not otherwise”

For science lessons, she often shows BrainPop Jr. animated clips to support all learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. D uses technology to support inquiry, and with iPads, students are learning to research, access different websites and videos, and find answers to what’s really important to them. Technology has enhanced science in her classroom, and made inquiries more meaningful.

References:

Davis, E. A. (2000). Scaffolding students knowledge integration: prompts for reflection in KIE. International Journal of Science Education, 22(8), 819-837. doi:10.1080/095006900412293

Roschelle, J. M., Pea, R.D., Hoadley, C.M., Gordin, D.N., & Means, B.M. (2000). Changing How and What Children Learn in School with Computer-Based Technologies. The Future of Children, 10(2), 7. doi: 10.2307/1602690

 

3 comments

  1. FershGrade and Edmodo have really changed the triangle between parents, teachers and students. I have parents who have edmodo on their phones and when I update a mark they instantly receive that mark. More importantly the comments I make are connected to that mark along with a link to the students assignment which is generally built in their website called wix. The parents ability to not only view the mark but the work and the possible steps to improve/adapt that work are powerful communication tools. This instant knowledge sharing, reflection and revision this process offers is only accessible because of technology. Students also use the comment sections under assignments to communicate with me or each other. However this has not always been positive as sometimes students will place hurtful or inappropriate comments online, which is surprising as many times they would not say these things in the physical classroom. For the most part though these tools have really enhanced my practice and it is encouraging to see other teachers using these platforms as well.

  2. Thank you for your insightful interview Danielle. I think many of us feel for “D” and their struggle to access technology (especially in an inner city schools where the likelihood of personal devices is small – and certainly at that grade level), as well as working alongside colleagues with very different philosophies regarding technology integration (and the $$ it costs) into their classroom. As those of us using tech know, sometimes it is A LOT of work: booking, troubleshooting, finding meaningful programs/Apps, that will meet the needs of the students. Good for her to keep helping others dip their toes into the water! It certainly adds another dimension to her teaching job – one she probably didn’t expect. It is wonderful to see the student-cantered focus she has, and hopefully she seeks out other educators for collaboration and to give her the much needed encouragement and support to keep doing what she’s doing!

  3. I find it so interesting that when a teacher embraces change, it directly affects the students’ willingness to embrace it. The setting I come from is very open to accepting new technology and input from others, as are our students, I find. It’s a fantastic place to work because even if you don’t understand what you’re doing right away, there’s probably a teacher down the hall or a student from another class that would be more than willing to help you out. I think that when you have an atmosphere of trust towards the new and scary, many wonderful opportunities arise for exploration and creation. It is wonderful that the teacher you interviewed is able to build that confidence within their staff, so they may dip more toes in that water and embrace change.

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