Four to six hours in front of a computer for instruction. Unaccounted time for social media and gaming usage. Sounds like too much screen time? Some parents are beginning to see the fatigue in their children. School administrators and teachers are feeling the fatigue, as well as their jobs become increasingly dependent on computer and phone usage. So what gives in the post-pandemic world?
Years ago, I took the lead in writing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for my school site, which was later adopted by my district. At the time, I thought this was a novel approach to address the lack of technology for students. It worked until our site eventually became one of the first sites to roll out a one-to-one policy with Chromebooks. While already aware of the effects smartphones had on students’ attention, I tried to keep a balanced approach to using technology in my classroom. However, being a techie, I continually experimented with new applications and, later, the Canvas LMS. I found that students were happy using the technology, but some would rather complete work pen to paper or do an assessment/project without the technology.
Study.com is an online distance learning portal that provides over 70,000 lessons in fifteen subjects (including algebra, calculus, chemistry, macro- and microeconomics, and physics) aligned with many popular textbooks. Resources include not only videos but study tools, guides, and more. You can read more detail on my Study.com review here.
Today, I want to talk about Study.com’s emphasis on differentiated instruction.
When I first discovered Study.com, I was blown away by its unique approach to providing passionate learners with a college education that fit their lifestyle. If you are that person who struggles with traditional campus-based classes, has a full-time demanding job, can’t get to a campus because of transportation issues, lives on a tight budget but still values high-quality education, AND you are committed to earning a college degree, do yourself a favor and visit Study.com’s website. I’ve worked with Study.com in the past and come to realize the high value they place on differentiating instruction and meeting students where they are ready to learn, so when they wanted to share the news of their online class teaching the basics of differentiating in the classroom, they knew I would want to help.
To me and many other educators:
Differentiated instruction is at the core of effective teaching.
What is differentiation?
Differentiated learning can be defined this way:
With differentiated instruction, teachers proactively create options to accommodate a diverse range of learners while keeping the whole class on track. Teachers observe students carefully in order to design experiences that match the learning styles of the class and the differing levels of ability and understanding. —Study.com
You might call it ‘personalized learning’ or even ‘blended learning’ but at its most basic, differentiated learning is teaching in ways that best serve individual students–providing different resources and lesson plans to suit different learning styles. If for you, the term ‘differentiation’ should always be followed with, “Where am I supposed to find the time?“, it’s because too often, differentiation is conflated with the tedium of creating individual lesson plans for each and every student. Me, I’ve never done that. Instead, I offer a variety of media that address the lesson. Students do the work of picking what is best for them and selecting the assessment medium best suited to their communication style be it audio, video, text, visual, music, art, or another.
Key principles of differentiation
Vivek Singh and his colleague, Ilya Mishra, are new contributors to Ask a Tech Teacher who specialize in online learning and educational technology (more on Ilya’s bio below).
I know you’ll enjoy their thoughts:
To be an integral part of this relatively young digital age, it is imperative for educators to keep up with the technological advances in every sector. A Columbia University research found that, on average, students taught through online learning techniques performed modestly better than those learning through classical classroom approach. In lieu of several such factual findings, educators have begun implementing a novel methodology, such as using blended learning software, that has transformed the rather archaic and mundane ‘classroom teaching’ into a revolutionary educational experience; enter the world of Blended learning.
The predominant limiting factor related to the classical ‘classroom teaching’ approach has been, at times, boring monologues by the educator that not only lead to a monotonous atmosphere, but also restrict a much-needed quality student-teacher interaction that solidifies learned concepts. Blended learning overcomes this limitation by reducing the need for homework, and provides course content to students via the internet. The educators get more time for discussing queries and doubts and the students can be better engaged in activities related to the topic being taught online. Think of this as a flip between what was considered as ‘homework’ and ‘classwork’ in the classical teaching approach.
An article published in the Journal of Social and Behavioral Sciences indicates an increasing tendency to implement blended learning as a favored pedagogical approach due to the evident benefits it holds. There are innumerable advantages of such an advanced teaching approach.
Anyone who attends online classes or any sort of remote learning knows it’s different from traditional classes. To thrive in this environment requires a mindset that appreciates the pros and adapts to the challenges. The folks over at San Diego Virtual School (SDVS) have put together a list of quick productivity tips on how to excel in this increasingly-popular learning environment:
Remote Learning Productivity Tips
Studying and working from home will share a lot of overlap when it comes to staying productive. It’s a completely different environment than being in a traditional school and it will require a much different (and stronger) level of discipline to stay successful in your studies.
So what can you do to stay on top of your lessons and ensure that you’ll be productive throughout your years of education when going remote?
Use a Clean and Organized Study Space
Studying remotely means you get to customize your study space in any way you want. It’s important to have a space that you’re comfortable in, but you also want it to be as clean, organized and clutter-free as possible. This helps keep your mind clear, and allows you to avoid unwanted distractions.
If at all possible, try not to have anything on your desk that isn’t related to your studies.
Technology remains–still–a love-hate relationship between teachers and teaching. Yes, it enriches learning but at the price of too many problems, preparation required, and confusion. I like Felicia Zorn’s summary of how that go-nogo decision really has become ‘get with the program’.
Growing up, my generation did not use verbs like ‘Google’ or proper nouns such as ‘Siri’. We were the pioneers of the digital era. We played Oregon Trail, asked Jeeves questions for our research, and waited for hours while Napster downloaded our favorite songs. Now, children are digital natives. Children as young as two are utilizing tablets, exploring the apps on smartphones, and accessing knowledge via the internet. How do we as educators keep up with this trailblazing generation who can navigate technology at breakneck speeds? Or better yet, why should we integrate online learning into our classrooms? There are countless strategies and resources at your fingertips, but this article will spotlight the importance of digital teacher support for your blended learning environment.
Digital resources can save teachers innumerable hours of planning, grading, assigning, and assessing in the classroom. As online resources develop and create more curricula, teachers will transform classroom dynamics by devoting less time to lecturing and spending more time enriching and mentoring. Rigorous, standards-aligned content is uploaded daily to educational websites, apps, and test banks. Most online assignments are auto-graded and scores are sent directly to a digital gradebook for teachers. Assessments can be altered with settings to meet the needs of all students with a few short clicks.
For years, my teaching revolved around textbooks as my resources. When the Internet arrived, I — as did my colleagues — adopted it mostly for two reasons: 1) research — in place of the library, and 2) rote drills, such as supporting math practice. But that has changed. Using the Internet in classrooms has morphed from optional to organic. In fact, it’s transformed 21st-century education, offering a normative tool for adapting to varied student needs, a scalable approach to differentiating for student learning styles, and a collaborative must-have with its vast offering of virtual meeting and storage options. It is regularly called the “present and future of education”, “one of the central features of modern school reform”, and “the newest way to personalize education”.
For many teachers, it’s fundamental to a style of teaching called “blended learning” (sometimes referred to as “hybrid learning” or even “flipped classroom”). Blended learning occurs when an education program combines Internet-based media with traditional classroom methods. For example, a unit on space is supported by a virtual chat with an astronaut from the space station or his Houston training facility. What used to require school buses and lots of time now is accomplished more effectively for less money through the Internet.
But blended learning is more than simply replacing lectures and books with web-based technology. If you follow the SAMR model, this type of substitution is the lowest level of the pyramid. When technology is mixed agilely with traditional teaching methods to deliver a more rigorous, more purpose-built program, it moves your class to the top SAMR levels — Modification and Redefinition — by replacing less-effective approaches (like pictures) with more-authentic methods (like a virtual visit to a zoo).
Guest blogger, Emily Cleary, has some great ideas on some of her favorite must-have resources for today’s blended learning. She makes some great points about first, why blended learning is becoming so popular, and second, how to make that happen in your life:
Blended learning is becoming increasingly popular as institutions transition from classroom style learning to mixed media and online learning. Both schools and workplaces alike are accepting the shifting times, moving from traditional to technological resources and approaches. The best things about eLearning are likely the flexibility and accessibility that come with online instruction: People can learn about things they are interested in or need help with, at their own pace, on their own time, and from nearly anywhere in the world!
The Internet is a big place – so there are tons of options available when it comes to eLearning resources, and looking up explainer videos and DIY tutorials on YouTube is pretty much a given. The abundance of tools could understandably come off as a bit overwhelming, though. Luckily, some of the most effective elearning resources are listed by category below.