EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Janis Beem, a freelance writer and OnlineColleges.com contributor based in Austin, TX.
As a classroom strategy, differentiated instruction aims for inclusion. If educators present a topic in a way that appeals to different learning styles and then tailor assessment methods to individual strengths, more students can benefit from every lesson. Advanced students find ways to challenge themselves, while struggling students receive support and feel that they are part of the group.
It’s a simple concept, but applying it in the classroom can be tricky. That’s where technology can help. The following five tools can help teachers incorporate differentiation into any lesson plan.
Inspired by Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner who carried his written arguments in a portable box, Museum Box serves as both organizational site and visual teaching tool. Students in grades 3 and up can add materials on any topic to their boxes. They can make videos, record sound and add text and images from the Web or a local machine. It’s a smart way not only to determine student content preferences, but also to gauge the complexity level each student brings to a project.
Cost: Schools can purchase site access for classroom use.
Touted as the only periodic table app endorsed by Stephen Fry, The Elements offers students a visual, interactive component to the science-class standard. The app draws on the powerful computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha. Chemistry students in grades 6 and up can interact visually with elements of the periodic table, and advanced students can go deeper to discover fascinating facts and even a history lesson that corresponds to each element.
Cost: $13.99. The app is optimized for iPad.
Apple’s answer to the recording studio is a boon for auditory learners. With GarageBand, students can explore keyboards, drum kits, smart guitars and dozens of other musical instruments. In the classroom, the application goes beyond fun with music: Students can record a podcast to contribute to class discussion on any topic, or compose a musical interpretation for a lesson plan. English teachers, prepare to hear stunning student-created compositions interpreting Grendel emerging from the mead-hall in Beowulf.
Cost: $4.99. The application is available for Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
This app, designed with Montessori math techniques in mind, is perfect for Pre-K students with different levels of math skills. Students can order elements from longest to shortest, trace numbers to learn their shape, work with odd and even numbers to determine their sequence, and more. In a crucial age for basic learning, the application helps students who need basic reinforcement with math concepts, catching them up before instruction continues in kindergarten and beyond. The group Autism Speaks also recommends the app for learners with autism.
Cost: $4.99. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
This dictation app transcribes and allows students to save the text, send it, or even post it to social media. ELL and special needs students of all ages can benefit from the fact that they can easily see their text immediately after speaking. The app supports a number of languages, making it a powerful and variable tool for foreign language instruction. Verbal learners can talk through their ideas for papers or projects and easily save them to text, while students collaborating on a blog post can easily add their verbal contributions.
Cost: Free. Students can also use Dragon Naturally Speaking for the PC.
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