Tuesday, December 1, 2009

MEMSPA 2009 Annual Conference

This Thursday, December 3rd, we will present at the MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association) State Conference on "Using Tech to Differentiate by Interest in Middle School."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Technology, Differentiated Instruction, and the Middle School Learner

The Michigan Department of Education, in conjunction with MACUL, asked if we would be willing to continue the conversation that we initiated with technology and curriculum directors via our keynote address on differentiating instruction + technology at the Michigan Technology and Curriculum Director Meeting, October 6. Today is the first of two webinars that we will be presenting as follow-ups to our conversation.

"EdTech Specialists is conducting a series of FREE Webinars entitled: “Listening for Understanding." With a “funding cliff” approaching Michigan schools, the time has come to listen to the ideas of others, brainstorm options that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of student learning, and, as State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has stated: “ReImagine” education in Michigan. To jump start your conversations, EdTech Specialists has lined up an impressive group of individuals who will share their views, programs, strategies, and experiences that have helped to assist their districts and others with innovative options for delivering instruction."

Technology, Differentiated Instruction, and the Middle School Learner
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Some educators believe that differentiated instruction belongs in the elementary classroom but is not appropriate or effective for middle school students. Dr. Grace Smith and Dr. Stephanie Throne, authors of the forthcoming text, Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms (and Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms), will share how differentiated instruction, powered by technology, can serve to reach the physical, emotional and social needs unique to the middle school learner. Drs. Smith and Throne will suggest a variety of different tech tools and strategies that educators can use to differentiate instruction in the middle school classroom and personalize learning for today’s diverse students.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Forest Hills School District

Yesterday, we spent some time with teachers from the Forest Hills School District in Ohio. We surprised them by participating in their professional development session in Elluminate entitled, "The Power of Two: Differentiated Instruction + Technology," which is a phrase from our first book!"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Michigan Technology & Curriculum Director Meeting, October 6, 2009

We were honored to be asked to keynote on the topic "Differentiated Instruction + Technology" at the annual Technology & Curriculum Director Meeting Tuesday, October 6, 2009 in Lansing, Michigan. Sponsored by the Michigan Department of Education and MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning), the meeting was attended by 225 curriculum directors and technology coordinators from Michigan school districts.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

K-12 Teachers of Writing

If you are a K-12 teacher of writing, please let us know which technology tools you use to teach writing and whether the tools are helping to improve students' writing.

As writers ourselves, we are interested in the strategies teachers use with K-12 students to ignite an interest in writing and to help them learn how to write effectively.

As former teachers of writing at the secondary and college level (pre-Web 2.0) and as online instructors now, we read graduate-level daily discussion postings and weekly papers. We notice that written communication continues to be an area of struggle for many, including teachers. We are not certain why graduate level students who have had at least 16 years of education and practice have not learned to write clearly and concisely.

You may want to take a look at the Bob Costas Grants for the Teaching of Writing to see what your innovative colleagues are doing. This year's competition is over, but you can email to ask about the 2010 competition.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tiering vs. Tracking

Advocates of differentiated instruction are sometimes asked whether tiering instruction is the same as tracking students.

Answer: tiering is NOT the same as tracking.

Tracking refers to the decades-old practice of splitting students into homogenous groups based on roughly the same intelligence level. The homogeneous groups typically stay together and move from class to class throughout the day.

Tiering refers to the creating of flexible groups within the classroom to match learners' instructional needs with the learning at hand. Tiering can apply to readiness, learning profile, interest, process (activities), and assessment. Flexible grouping is just as it sounds; students are regrouped according to the learning at hand and regrouped again based on the learning at hand. Tiering takes place only in the individual classroom.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Educational Technology Leadership Conference

If you’re in Michigan in June, we’ll be co-presenting at two different sessions at a new conference called the Educational Technology Leadership Conference on the 22nd at Holt High School. It’s co-sponsored by MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) and MIEM (Michigan Institute for Educational Management). This event merges two conferences that have been around for some time. Check out this link to learn more: We hope to see you there!

Two new online courses on DI +Tech!

We’ve been a part of some exciting projects that we’d like to tell you about. Earlier this spring, we completed a set of videos for a content provider that partners with universities, colleges and school districts to offer courses for graduate and continuing education credits for teachers. Check out Knowledge Delivery Systems later in the summer for our course on differentiating instruction with technology.

And, we’ve almost finished writing the online class that we will be teaching in the near future for the M.S. in Instructional Media offered by Discovery Education and Wilkes University. It’s called EDIM 503: Differentiation Supported by Technology. Check it out!

Exciting News!

We’re thrilled to share with you that we recently had the chance to view the cover of our new book (forthcoming this fall)! Here is the cover of Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms! Look for it in the ISTE bookstore or on Amazon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Online Lit Circles

Literature Circles have long been a favorite instructional strategy, particularly in middle grade classrooms.

If you have never used the Lit Circle strategy before, you can read more about it at Read Write Think. And at Instructional Strategies Online, you'll find a treasure trove of helpful materials for starting your own.

But why not kick an already familiar idea up a notch? You can use a Wiki or Blog application to start your online circle. Better yet, check out a terrific document from Terry Taylor who reports on her experience with Lit Circles: Online Literature Circles: an Engaging Way to Learn

At NECC 2008 in San Antonio, we met students in grades 4-5 who were participating in an online Lit Circle set up by the San Antonio ISD. The students absolutely glowed as they talked about their online Lit Circle experience! In fact, they could hardly wait to read their next book so that they could participate in its Lit Circle. Talk about enthusiasm for reading!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL)

We met two terrific audiences during our presentations at the MACUL Conference in Detroit on March 19-20. In the first session, we showed middle school educators how they could use technology to differentiate by interest. In the second session, we focused on writing, offering elementary teachers several ways that students can create digital "books."

In talking with participants before, during, and after the presentations, we learned that teachers are eager to try new strategies that incorporate technology. We are thrilled about their enthusiasm to redefine teaching and learning in Michigan classrooms.

Monday, February 2, 2009

ISTE Webinar Q & A

During our ISTE Webinar on January 28, participants asked a number of questions about and commented on differentiated instruction and technology. We've posted some of the questions and our replies below so that bloggers can join in on the discussion. (P.S., you can read more about the Webinar in ESchoolNews at http://tinyurl.com/apso85.)

Q1. Joanne: Do you always recommend Web sites or do you let students search for their own?

We do both. We have found that searching takes extra time, so we often prepare a list of good sites prior to an elementary project. Middle and high school students are sometimes given "starter" sites to save them time as well.

Q2: Cheryl: Which strategies would you recommend for special needs students?

Look at the terrific and free 28-page booklet Exploring New Territories at http://tinyurl.com/afkgof. It has many wonderful suggestions for struggling students and students with disabilities plus pages of excellent websites.

Q3: Mark: I have a student who can not type due to his disablilty. In my class I have to teach PowerPoint, Excel, etc.; what would you recommend that he can do with technology due to his disability?

We would suggest that he partner with another student or work in a group so that he can be involved with tech, but not restricted by his inability to type. You might also check with your tech director or special ed director to see if any there are any assistive technology devices that might help. Education World has a a good overview on assistive devices at http://tinyurl.com/breb7u.

Q4: Janis: I am a little confused on how this is differentiation. Are all kids using the technology, or are you giving them options to use other tools that are not technology based?

We advocate using technology when possible. Technology is another choice that helps to differentiate instruction. In our books, we outline more options for gifted and struggling students in our sample lesson plans. In addition, we often suggest additional product options, just as we did today in our webinar. As our focus today is differentiating by interest , the main way we are differentiating is by student choice or passion. However, many of the strategies could be used to differentiate by process or product or another means.

Q5:Allen: What tools do you use to search?

We like netTrekkerDI, KidsClick, KidsGov, and Ask for Kids. You might also try the Kids' Search Tools page from the Ramapo Catskill Internet Guides.

Q6: Shawn: Do you have other suggestions on technology for basis of differentiation like the tic tac toe wiki first presented?

Teachers should start with the technology tool most comfortable for them. Regarding the tic-tac-toe board, it would be easier to start with three choices, then six choices, then nine choices. We have more information in our book about how to use the choice boards.

Q7: Bob: Given that students can choose various topics and ICT products, how do you approach/manage differentiated evaluation?

We provide students with rubrics for each project well as anchoring and scaffolding when needed. With some students, we use learning contracts

Q8: Linda: Is there anywhere where students could publish their Webbes online?

Check out the RealeBooks site for how to embed Webbes on your website. Be sure to look at the Lopez Elementary Library as an example. You can also contribute your Webbes to the RealeBooks site where they will be displayed. A third alternative is to have RealeBooks set up and host the library (fee).

Q9: Jack: Could you provide more information about how the Jigsaw project comes together?

The Jigsaw strategy involves teamwork. Often, teachers will choose a reading based on a theme, whole chapter, or set of pages. In home groups, each student is assigned a subtopic or section of text. Students with the same topic jigsaw to their appropriate expert groups, where they use electronic tools and resources to investigate their portion of the task. They use technology tools to produce information for their peers. They then return to home groups to share their knowledge as they are the only experts in their home groups on their topic.

Note: If you choose subtopics, you will need as many subtopics as there are students in each group. For example, if you divide your students into 5 groups of 5 members each, you will need 5 subtopics.

Q10: Sandi: Another advantage to point out on PBWiki is that students don't need email accounts. The site will generate usernames.

Sandi, you are correct. Using a PBWiki Classroom Account, you can add users without email addresses.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Differentiating by Interest

So what is Differentiating by Interest?

Thomas Armstrong, Multiples Intelligences guru, shares that "Giving students choices is as much a fundamental principle of good teaching as it is a specific intrapersonal teaching strategy." We absolutely agree!

In our view, differentiating instruction by interest means setting up activities that allow students to explore their own current interests and tap into new ones. Teachers who use interest centers or literature circles in their classrooms are differentiating by interest. Teachers who encourage independent study are differentiating by interest. Teachers who permit their students to research topics of personal choice are differentiating by interest.

How can you get started with Differentiating by Interest?

The first step is to pre-assess your students! There are a number of ways you can assess interest.

Think about the following:

  • Set up a short survey in Zoomerang, SurveyMonkey, or at Free Online Surveys.

  • Interview your students.

  • Ask students to create a personal collage that depicts their interests.

  • Ask students to design a personal coat of arms that depicts their interests.

  • Use an existing survey such as The Student Interest Inventory designed by the Orange School District in New Jersey. Depending on their age, students may be able to tabulate and organize their class data as well as discuss it. Talk about generating interest! You would be well on your way to differentiating by interest with such a project.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Welcome to EverythingDI

We are the authors of Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms (ISTE -2007) and the forthcoming book, Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms (ISTE-2009).

We welcome you to our discussion site on differentiating instruction using technology and invite you to visit our website.