As teachers get more creative about differentiating for student needs, we’re turning to tools that use other approaches than writing a report or creating a class play. One I hear more and more about is podcasts. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Emily Southey, has some thoughts on how to integrate podcasts into your lesson planning:
In the age of technology, students and teachers alike listen to podcasts in their spare time. They are funny, entertaining, and often educational. Podcasts are episodic series of audio, video, or PDF files that can be downloaded or streamed through the internet. In addition to the podcasts that already exist in the world, there are enormous benefits to having your students record podcasts of their own. I have found that podcasts can be used both as material for class and as an evaluation tool. What follows are 4 ways that podcasts can be introduced into the classroom. Enjoy!
As an alternative to an oral report
Oral presentations can get old for both the students and the teacher. Having students record their presentations as podcasts and upload them to the class website can be both a class time saver as well as a medium where students can express their creativity with the option to include music or interviews. In addition, assigning a podcast instead of an oral report may allow the shyer students in the class to flourish, as their fears about standing up in front of their peers will be mitigated. This lesson plan from Dr. Pastore highlights several topics that students could create a podcast on with links to examples of podcasts that cover courses ranging from French as a second language to math.
We all have that student who just doesn’t get what we’re saying. We want to blame him/her–may even start that direction–but then, many of us, we pause to listen. What’s s/he saying–something about not understanding the problem? What’s s/he mean? What if we [fill in the blank with something outside the box]?
Here’s a 12-year old who happily and successfully sees the world as no one else does. And the world is a better place because he does. His message:
Stop learning and start thinking.
Solve problems your own way.
There are two areas where technology can optimize learning better than any other educational strategy. I’m not talking about iPads or laptops or apps. I mean how you deliver your message–done in such a way that more students are able to achieve their goals.
The first is problem solving. If you want students to be critical thinkers, to take responsibility for their own learning and in doing so, excel–and you do–you must must MUST use technology to teach problem solving. More on that later.
Today, we’ll talk about differentiation
. If you struggle to adapt your lessons to the multitude of learning styles in your classroom, struggle no more. Technology is like that friendly laugh that diffuses a tense situation, the tale wag from a rottweiler to tell you s/he’s on your side. Tech will become your classroom’s transformative tool–a magic wand that can adapt any inquiry to student needs. Take the cornerstone of literacy–the book report–as an example. When a teacher assigns this sort of compare/contract, who/what/when/where exercise, students thinks paragraphs of words and grammar struggles. Thanks to technology, that project is no longer a nightmare for everyone challenged by phrases and paragraphs. Now, students have options that transcend pencil on paper. Communicate the essential ideas with a comic tool like Zimmer Twins
, an art tool like SumoPaint
. How about an audio tool like Voki
–or a movie maker like Animoto.
The challenge for you as teacher is to provide those tech options and then encourage students to be risk-takers in using them to achieve the project goals. The challenge for students is to analyze what’s available and select the tool that uses their learning style.
You’re probably thinking that before students can use these fancy tools, you have to learn all of them–and teach them. Where’s that sort of time come from–and by the way, you aren’t one of the ‘techie’ teachers. Do I have good news for you. The ideas below require very little prep from you. Students learn to read the screen, look for something that says ‘start’, not be afraid to make mistakes, and collaborate with neighbors on the learning. This can happen as young as 2nd grade. The hardest part for you is to facilitate rather than step in and solve their problems. Students will get used to the new reality that teachers provide guidance not step-by-step instruction. I promise.
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Ali:
I would love some information on differentiating tech lab lessons. I struggle with that the most in my lab.
I love tech for differentiating. There are so many software programs and online tools that speak to a student’s individual interests–Word (for writing-intensive), Publisher (for multimedia), PowerPoint (for multimedia), Voki
(for video/audio), Big Huge Labs
(for lots of choices). For 5th grade and up, I have a unit I co-teach with the grade-level teacher. I introduce students to about 18 online tools, then they pick one for a class project (whatever inquiry is going on in the classroom at the time). Here’s a link
to my collection. You will want to those that suit your group. Favorites are Voki, Poll Daddy
, Photostory, a mind mapper. In all the years I’ve taught this unit, I am constantly amazed at student choices. those I would have predicted loved writing pick video tools, and vice versa.
Here are some more ideas for differentiating instruction in your classroom: