Reviewing Student Choice and Technology as Differentiator

Reviewing the material for “Module 5: Choices and Creation” presents the first opportunity to completely share the material from the class. While I have been sharing quite a bit about the experience, the window into the class has been somewhat limited. Some of the material is from a yet to be published book, so I have wanted to be very respectful of that fact. This week, however, the core material comes from material that has already been made public. So I share it here in hopes that others might share what they think of the same material.

Here is a presentation by Davis, entitled Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction

What I like most about this presentation is that Davis uses the notion of a framework. Sometimes frameworks are confused with formulas. Yet, formulas imply that if the right number is plugged in for the variable the right answer can be found. However, frameworks by their very nature imply choice. Instead of plugging in the “right” numbers like a formula, frameworks provide a structure that allows for multiple “right” possibilities. WIthin any framework are possibilities upon which building begins to take shape.

I must admit that I am very partial to frameworks and tend to use them as an instructional practice a lot, especially when it comes to teaching writing. I try to make composition the core of my English classes. Writing is about choices and making decisions. There are many ways to be “right,”  but there definitely are structural concerns to different modes of writing. Presenting students with the compositional structures or frameworks, requires them to make a lot of choices while writing, helping create authentic writing experiences.

In the presentation, Davis’ focus on technology use as the framework for differentiation, an area where technology certainly can be leveraged. By automating certain processes of class, more time can be spent on developing choices. More than that by helping students to develop a kit of tools that will help them to automate certain tasks, they too are empowered to make more choices about how to tackle a specific task. Possibilities begin to appear that were not previously apparent. Sometimes deeper knowledge of a tool reveals new solutions to existing problems.

The strength of this presentation is in Davis’ use of Gardner’s multiple intelligences to frame an array of possible tasks related to a few core digital tools, like Ning, wikis, and digital storytelling. This is the heart of her differentiated approach, which has a lot of insightful possibilities.

The idea that I like most, however, is the idea of giving students the rules and then giving them choices. This too is a practice i employ quite often. How can a student have a voice, if they are not given a choice? What’s more providing rules as a framework creates dynamic opportunities, even the possibility for the unexpected. In fact, from a technology standpoint, it is particularly reminiscent of dynamic web pages, where a scripted template essentially functions as the rules wherein the content will be presented. Extending this metaphor, eventually after some mastery, the students can begin to create rules. Then they are really making choices.

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