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169 Tech Tip #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

Posted by on September 8, 2017

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #126–7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

Category: Differentiation

Sub-category: Teaching, Pedagogy

Here are seven ways to differentiate instruction every day:

  1. While some students take their time to carefully finish a project as suits their learning style, others slam through the steps looking for ‘what’s next’. Both are fine. Have a lot of authentic activities going on in your classroom so students are encouraged to work at their own pace. Let them self-manage their education. Be clear about your expectations, and then trust them to find their way. Have links on the class internet start page for organic learning like keyboarding practice and sponge websites that tie into subject area inquiry.
  2. Let students communicate ideas with not only text but layout, color, and images. These can be graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams, or an infographic.
  3. Show students how to add pictures, borders, and fonts. Some students will tolerate the words to get to the decorating.
  4. Use online tools like Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker to review concepts. Move away from rubrics and study guides. Anything that gamifies learning will go down easier with students. They are digital natives so let them learn in a more natural way.
  5. In fact, gamify anything possible. There are an amazing number of high-quality simulations that teach through games–Minecraft ,iCivicsMission US, Lemonade StandHere’s a long list. There’s probably one for every subject. Take advantage of them.
  6. If students aren’t excited by the tools and widgets you offer, let them suggest their own. If they can make the argument for it, let them use it.
  7. Always offer do-overs. I call them ‘Mulligans’. In a differentiated classroom, let students redo an assignment. What if they didn’t understand? Or were sick? How does trying harder defeat education’s goal of learning? With technology, all students do is open their project and continue work based on your feedback. That’s cool. Rest assured: When you offer this in your classroom, most students won’t take you up on it. It’s too outside-the-box. You won’t be deluged with double the work. But, be happy if you are.

Here’s more detail. Here’s an article on a student’s take on differentiation.  

Sign up for a new tip each week (or so) or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days

5 Responses to 169 Tech Tip #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

  1. Norah

    “Mulligans” is a fun name for do-overs without any stigma. I like it.

    • Jacqui

      It’s a fun term and kids who are already golfers feel ‘in the know’ about it. I always ask if anyone knows what the word means.

      • Norah

        How interesting. I’m not a golfer, so wasn’t familiar with the term. I love learning new things. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Lauren Robinson

    Differentiation is a key “buzz” word in my district and an important one, at that. I am always looking for ways to differentiate instruction, and it’s exciting to see how technology can really provide options for students (and for teachers, too). I’m always surprised to see how much students know – and often times – since they belong to a generation that is already quite tech-savvy – they are able to share and suggest creative solutions and alternatives to “standards-based” assignments.

    • Jacqui

      You’re absolutely right. Given the chance, students are passionate participants in their education. It’s when we tell them how it must be done that we start losing them.

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