Differentiating instruction is doing what's fair and developmentally appropriate for students. It's a collection of best practices
strategically employed to maximize students' learning at every turn, including giving them the tools to handle anything that is
undifferentiated. It requires us to do different things for different students some, or a lot, of the time. It's whatever works to advance
the student. It's highly effective teaching.
- Wormeli, Rick "Busting Myths About Differentiated Instruction"
When I consider the many theories about learning (Gardner’s, Piaget’s, etc.) it always occurs to me that there is one underlying fact: we all learn in different ways. I think to most of us, this is common sense and we see that by understanding the nuances of each of our students we can provide better individualized, differentiated or engaging work. I am currently completing my student teaching and through this time in the classroom where I alternate between active teaching and observing, I have realized that there is a stronger purpose in understanding learning styles. Teaching styles. Effective teachers know themselves, their own learning styles and have developed teaching styles that not only fit them as the instructor/leader/head learner but also can more easily mesh with and relate to their students. The only way to reach a room full of people is to mix things up so you have a chance at finding something that works for each of them, but to stay true to yourself.
I came across some great resources this week of hunting. One of them was a reformatted questionnaire designed to help students determine their learning style according to the multiple intelligence theory. The idea was to help students identify their strengths and then to celebrate them. Another great resource is a blog for teachers. The ‘coach’ teacher tackles an assortment of topics but the main concept that has stuck with me all week is that teaching is a two-fold step. Whole group instruction must be engaging and is useful, but must be followed by ‘coaching.’ In this way, differentiation and personalization simply fall into place.
There are a lot of ‘tools’ online (surveys, tests, games) that can help assess things like learning styles and personality types. For me, observation and interaction still seem to be the key components that I can fall back on. I think a lot of it’s age-related. Sitting a classroom of five and six-year-olds on a computer to take a survey isn’t going to get me very far, other than to reiterate that some ages have things in common. For instance, through my observation and experience, ALL kindergartners can benefit from kinesthetic-based learning. Some do well with visual, audio and concrete methods. They all love to sing. I don’t need an inventory or survey to tell me this. However, middle school students may greatly benefit from learning about themselves. It’s a strong step toward leadership.
I enjoyed reading several (over 30) blogs this week from fellow students in this MOOC. I left some feedback, but I’ve often found that the best way to help someone learn is to listen to them. I’ve connected with fellow students from past courses, mostly through private email, and have increased my PLN by doing so. I felt much more secure in the twitter chatting this week, but still prefer other settings for communication. I do like that my ‘peeps’ have to summarize their thoughts to fit into a tweet…saving any rambling (like this) into a blog posting. I was happy to contribute information to a wiki page – glad I can contribute - but more glad that I now have irrefutable proof that my time in the classroom has taught me more than the last 1.5 years of my MAT program. Apparently, through observation and practice, I’m more of a hands-on learner than I realized!
The final way I have contributed to the learning of others is to share this long listing of resources that I read over the course of this last week. Here’s the link to my Diigo resource list for week 2:
It has also been ‘tweeted’ at #diffimooc. It’s the only thing tweeting; at below zero nothing else is flying around here…
Any thoughts out there about how you learn and how you teach? Having someone observe you (or videotaping) is a great tool to answer our weekly essential question for ourselves. So is self-reflection, so feel free to do that here.
These last two weeks have been an adventure within an adventure. I have enjoyed past technology courses and look forward to utilizing my new found knowledge with the kindergarten class I'm student teaching in this semester. In fact, I've created a website to act as my own reflection and ongoing portfolio - an idea stemming from technology-based courses.
This first week within the MOOC has felt like the washing up on the shore of the lone beach sort of adventure. I am looking forward to what we all find on this island, but right now I barely made it ashore! Below are my introduction video and resources that helped me answer week one's essential question: What are the characteristics I will need to be successful in this MOOC?
I have discovered an enduring understanding that a MOOC is an online course that is open to a great number of participants and relies heavily on participation. Some of my other understandings are that I will only get out of a course like this what I put into it - I can't expect to have knowledge handed to me. Therefore, I will have to hone skills of online investigation and bookmarking, becoming efficient at scanning information, setting time aside to correspond within groups and interact within multiple areas. I have already become skilled at google groups and blogs. I will continue to develop skills in twitter.
The key characteristics I've identified for myself are the ability to communicate through different means, allow time to explore, and to contribute many times throughout the week to keep knowledge growing and changing. Keeping an open mind will allow me to adapt as the MOOC adapts.
It was a bit of a swim this week, trying to learn twitter and get set up, but I feel I can look back and say that I have arrived on the island. I really enjoyed making my video. It's short but a great example of ways to make learning fun. I read some fantastic articles about MOOCs and whether or not they're a fad, buzzword, or here to stay - I can at least mark it off one thing I've tried. I enjoyed visiting with other students and while most of this week focused on my own learning and familiarity with the course content, I hope my Twitter conversations, questions and suggestions helped some. Hopefully this blog will contribute further, as well. Good luck, fellow MOOCs.
My Introduction Video
Resources about MOOCs