About eight years ago, my district eliminated advanced classes for history. This meant that gifted students were placed in the general education population which posed a problem because the question now became…how do I differentiate for all the various academic levels in the same class?
When I started my master’s program in 2008 little did I know that technology was going to be part of the solution to help differentiate learning in my classroom. I was creating lessons that utilized a variety of technology tools that I could incorporate into my lessons that would allow me to create a learning environment that was closer to what I defined to as personalized learning.
[Flash forward to 2011]
I was graciously given a class set of iPads by my principal because through our conversations I was able to convince her that technology was going to enable me to provide learning opportunities that would help all levels of students in my mixed ability classes.
It’s a work in progress and it is by no means near completion…
But we’re happy with the results thus far.
Our district brought in Robert Marzano as a guest speaker. From there we were encouraged to utilize his idea of learning scales. My department (true to form) took the idea and ran with it. We created learning scales for all of our units: world and US. That was in 2011.
[Flash forward to today]
Each member in my department now has their own set of iPads. Our principal purchased licenses for Haiku Learning. We’ve changed our units so that we are offering our students opportunities to work in a blended learning environment. With that, we’re able to create tasks that are required and optional.
Level 3 tasks which fall under the describe/define category of Bloom’s are required. It’s the bare basic concept attainment for our respective curricular areas. Level 4 tasks are analysis and Level 5 tasks focus on evaluation and/or creation. Levels 4 & 5 are optional. Students who complete Level 3 tasks will earn the equivalent of a C for that unit. Students who complete Level 4 tasks have the potential to earn the equivalent of a B for that unit. Likewise, students who complete Level 5 tasks have the potential to earn the equivalent of an A for the unit. Level 4 does not count if students do not demonstrate mastery of Level 3. Level 5 does not count if students do not demonstrate mastery of Levels 3 and 4. Students choose their level of learning. It’s just one part of the personalized learning that occurs in our classes.
[Flash forward to today]
In Haiku Learning, we’re able to create leveled tasks for students. Not only do they have a choice in their learning level, but they also have a choice in how they want to demonstrate their learning. Students who are interpersonal can choose to work with a partner. Students who are artistic can choose to use creation apps like Paper 53 or Notability. Students who are musically inclined can use Garageband or Songify. The point being…the integration of technology into our classes has given us the means to offer our students a personalized learning experience. We can create differentiated lessons and activities, but students also have a choice in their learning. It’s been a crazy first month of school and I’m totally pooped but it’s been fun. I love watching my students get excited when looking at the various options that they can choose from. I don’t think that students often get a choice in how they learn but we’re trying our best to make that happen in our classes. And for that…we’re super thankful that our administration believes in our vision because we’re not done yet. =)