Renzulli Defines Differentiation as….

“True differentiation requires that we look at all the characteristics of the learner in addition to achievement level.” – Dr. Joseph Renzulli

Simply put, differentiation is matching a required curriculum with the learning styles, expression styles, interests and abilities of students. It’s predicated on the simple belief that engaged, motivated students score higher, are easier to manage, and enjoy learning more. There’s a wealth of data available to illustrate the importance of differentiated instruction for raising test scores – and no doubt, if you’re a teacher, you’ve often heard how important differentiation is.

But how do you manage differentiation in your classroom?

Dr. Renzulli has written about there being Five Dimensions of Differentiation – or five ways to think about introducing differentiation into your teaching practice:

1) Content: Students come to you with different academic abilities, and interests – and so you can differentiate the content those students receive. Some students need content that’s more in line with their interests, or more appropriate for their reading level – and so not every student should be receiving the same content in any given lesson.

2) Instructional Strategies: Students also arrive with different learning styles – some learn best through group work, some by discussion, some by peer tutoring, etc. – so you can differentiate the instructional strategies you use depending on the preferences of individuals or groups in your classroom.

3) The Classroom: You can differentiate the learning environment itself, and how you manage it. You can give students the opportunity to work in groups with students like themselves, or in groups where every student brings a different strength or style – or, you can introduce new guest speakers or technology – or bring your class into new environs like the computer lab, library, or a field trip.

4) Products: Students express what they’ve learned in different ways – some students’ preferred expression style is written – but others may do better with technology, social action, or visual mediums. You can differentiate products by giving students the option, when practical, to pick their own modes of expression.

5) The Teacher: Obviously, it’s hard to imagine every lesson incorporating all of these various strategies for differentiation – so differentiation always comes down to a professional educator, making choices about how to differentiate given shifting dynamics between the curriculum and the students. Differentiation requires not only that teachers know their students’ learning styles, interests, abilities, and expression styles – but that teachers have the freedom, training, and creativity to bring it all together in the classroom.

“Differentiation is a journey that all teachers must take. With multiple levels of achievement, interests, readiness, learning and product styles represented in each classroom, effective and meaningful differentiation may be the most important attribute of the 21st century teacher who wants to help each student make continuous progress in learning.”
– Dr. Sally Reis
A University of Connecticut Research & Development Corporation Company
Copyright © 2010 Renzulli Learning Systems, LLC. <http://teachers.renzullilearning.com/DifferentiatedLearning.aspx>
6 Sept. 2010

Differentiation Using Technology

Here are some great web tools that I would like to share.

Differentiation Foundations :: Differentiation has three keys…

What you are going to differentiate – In general this entails either the content, process and/or product; affect is also found within this area. When crafting learning experiences consider what you are teaching, the thought processes you ask your students to engage in, the ways in which they will show their learning and how it impacts the way they understand themselves and their environment.

How you are going to differentiate – While readiness tends to guide instructional decisions in terms of differentiation, teachers need to attend to a student’s learning preference (what they like to learn about) and learning style (how they learn best) as well. All three of these facets play an important role when engaging students in meaningful learning.

Necessary practices – The area of respectful tasks which instructional considerations such as flexible grouping and ongoing assessment. Key in this area is ongoing assessment; without formatively assessing students it is nearly impossible to know what instruction they may need.

Content tools:  Prezi,  drop.ioVoiceThread Scrapblog, VcasmoauthorSTREAMMuseumBox 
Collaboration tools:  WallWisherCollabeditLino ItScribblarMighty MeetingGoogle DocsPirate PadTwiddla

Visualization tools:  WordleBubbl.usShelfariGlogsterNewsmapAnimotoVimeoPhotobucketFlockdrawVisuwords

Wolfram Alpha for Educators

*Credit is given to TCEA TechNotes June 15, 2010

Wolfram|Alpha is a relatively new addition to the expanding list of Internet search strategies. Its developers call it “a computational knowledge engine.” It is designed to not just look up answers like other search tools, but to calculate answers based on questions asked it, using an ever-growing collection of data. Currently, it contains 10+ trillion pieces of data and 50,000+ types of algorithms and models.

Some Wolfram|Alpha Basics to Try:

  • Enter any date (like June 15, 1800). You’ll get time from today, major holidays observed, historic events on that day, daylight information and the phase of the moon for that date.
  • Enter any city (like New York). You’ll get population information, location and coordinates on a map, a local map, current local time and weather, economic indicators (such as cost of living index, median home price range, unemployment rate, and total sales tax rate), other indicators (such as violent crime rate, property crime rate, and average daily traffic delay), geographic properties, nearby cities and counties, and nicknames.
  • Enter any two stocks (like IBM Apple). You’ll get the latest trades and tons more financial information and graphs.
  • Enter any calculation (like $250 + 15%). You’ll get the answer and steps in how it was arrived at.
  • Enter any math formula. You’ll get the formula graphed, solved, and with accompanying information.

Other Interesting Features:

  • Enter any two names (like Andrew, Barbara) and receive estimates on births with those names and current population graphs.
  • Enter any food (like 1 apple + 2 oranges) and receive complete nutrition facts on both foods individually and together.
  • Enter any measurement (like 45 mph) and receive unit conversions.
  • Enter any chemical formula (like H2SO4) and receive the chemical names, structure diagrams, basic properties, and more.
  • Enter any musical notes (like C Eb G C) and receive music notations, keyboard displays, scale information, and play the notes themselves.

There is an amazing gallery of visual examples with more things to try available here. Try entering “10 nearest stars” and you’ll be blown away by the data that is instantly available to you! You can also see examples by topic here. Widgets for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, the Mac OS X dock, and more are also available here. And there is a smart phone app as well.

How can you use Wolfram|Alpha in the classroom?

Shouldn’t your students be researching with Wolfram|Alpha?

How to Embed Almost Anything in your Website

Credit is given to Digital Inspiration website for this information.

Embed RSS Feeds in Web Pages

Go to this page, replace the feed URL with your own feed, use the default color scheme or change it to something else and then click Get Code. You’ll get a JavaScript snippet that can be easily placed in the sidebar of your blog.

If you like to embed feeds from multiple sources, merge all of them into one using Yahoo Pipes and then pass the combined feed to the Google Gadget. You can also use RSS widgets like WidgetBox or YourMinis that are done in Flash and not JavaScript.

Embed High Quality or HD YouTube Videos

To embed a high resolution version of YouTube clip in your web pages, first make sure that “Watch in High Quality” or “Watch in HD” link exists next to the YouTube player as most videos are only available in standard format.

Next copy the YouTube embed code and append &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 (for high quality) or &ap=%2526fmt%3D22 (for 720p High Definition) to the URL value of the movie parameter in both instances (see YouTube HD example).

Embed MP3 music and other Audio

If you like to embed audio files like songs, podcasts or interviews in your web pages, use Yahoo! Media Player – its a free Flash music player that automatically detects all links to MP3 files in the current web page and turns them into a music player.  Another alternative is the Google MP3 Player.

To embed other audio formats like 3GP, Midi, Real or Windows Media, it may be a good idea to convert these files into MP3 using Zamzar so that they play on almost any web browser.

Embed Flickr Photos and Slideshows

To embed an individual Flickr photograph in your blog, click the “Share This” link (available next to the photo title) and choose embed it. Flickr requires that the embedded image should link back to Flickr and this built-in embed option automatically takes care of that requirement. (see example)

To embed a Flickr photo slideshow in your web page, open any Slideshow in a new page (see example) and choose “Customize HTML” from the embed option (see example). Here you can specify a custom size for your Flash slideshow so that it fits just right into your web page.

Embed Picasa Web Albums

When you open a photo album inside Picasa, click the link in the right sidebar that says “Link to this album” and choose “Embed Slideshow”. You can use the same approach to embed individual photographs that are available inside Picasa.

Embed Events from Google Calendar

Click the drop-down arrow next to any Google Calendar and select Calendar settings. Open the Google Embeddable Calendar Helper program by clicking the customize button and choose elements that you want to display or hide in the calendar.

Embed Very Large Photographs

To embed really large images in your blog, you may either use Deep Zoom or the Google Maps viewer. These programs break your photographs in small tiles and you can even pan / zoom across these images very similar to the default interface of Google Maps.

Embed Charts and Graphs in Web Pages

My personal favorite is Zoho Sheet – any chart created inside Zoho Sheet can be published as an external image without exposing the full spreadsheet. If you are interested in creating charts with low volume of data, use Google Charts. 

Embed GIF Animations and Screencasts

GIF animations (see example) are a perfect way to embed short screencasts in web pages as they require no plugins and auto-play inside feed readers. You should upload GIF files to your Flickr account as it preserve all the frames while lot of other image hosting website will drop anything after the first frame.

Embed Chat in your Blog

If you like to chat with visitors who are currently on your site, get the chat widget from Meebo Me and place it in the sidebar of your website. Visitors show up in your Meebo buddy list so you can strike up a conversation, answer questions, or just keep tabs on guests. Also see some more options to embed chat in blogs.

Embed Word Documents

Upload your document to Scribd and they’ll give you the embed code in Flash. Scribd supports both doc and the new Office 2007 docx format in addition to Open Office documents. Even Barack Obama is using Scribd to upload his public documents and upcoming plan.

Embed PowerPoint Presentations

While the popular choice is Slideshare, you should also consider using Issuu (best web application) for presentations that are either large or formatted in the form of magazines or catalogues (see example). The only downside is that Issuu accepts PDFs so you need to convert the presentation before uploading onto Issuu.

Embed Spreadsheet Data

Both Zoho Sheet and Google Docs allow you to publish a range of cells from a spreadsheet into a web page but the embedding process in Zoho is less complicated – select a range and choose “Publish” from the contextual menu to embed that range into your web page.

Embed Adobe PDF Files

To embed PDFs in a web page, you can either use Issuu (for magazine style PDFs) or Scribd for PDFs has either have lot of text or have a top-to-bottom reading layout similar to Word documents.

Embed Flash (SWF) or Flash Video (FLV)

The best option to embed Flash content is via swfobject. It improves the overall user experience by providing alternatives in case Flash is missing and your Flash content also becomes more searchable. This tutorial has all the files and other details to help you get started with SwfObject 2.

Related: How to Embed FLV Flash Videos

Embed LinkedIn Profile

If you wish to display your LinkedIn profile in the sidebar of your blog, try LinkInABox. People (site visitors) can read a summary of your LinkedIn profile without leaving the site.

Embed Google Maps in Web Pages

Embedding a Google Map in your website is now almost as easy as adding an image – just open the Static Maps wizard, search for location that you want to embed and specify the dimensions of your map. They’ll provide a simple URL that actually points to a static image of that map.  

Embed Another Webpage in your Blog

If you like to embed another website into your web page, your best bet is an IFRAME tag also known as an Inline Frame. Just set the SRC value to the address of the web page that you want to embed into your current HTML document. You could try IFRAMEs for inserting live search results from Google into your web page without having to worry about APIs.

Embed Windows Media or QuickTime movies

While it is possible to embed mov or wmv videos in web pages directly using the OBJECT tag, I recommend that you put these videos onto blip.tv and then embed them in web pages as Flash video.  That’s because your visitors can then play the video without extra plugins and two, they always have the option to download the video in the original format from blip.tv servers.

Embed Other Fonts in Web Pages

Most web pages use universal fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana since they are installed on most computers and hence your web pages will render correctly. If you want to try something different and render pages in fonts like Microsoft Calibri or Adobe Garamond Pro that are only available on some machines, all you need is sIFR – it lets you use almost any font for your web pages using JavaScript + Flash and is perfect for writing “newspaper style” headlines.

Embed your Lifestream in a Web Page

You have a presence on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Last.fm, Facebook, Amazon and a dozen other online places. It can get really tough for friends to track you at so many places so what you should do is create an account at FriendFeed, import all the different services that you use and then use the FriendFeed Badge to embed your lifestream activity on your main site. You can also create Lifestream with Google Reader.

Related tutorial: How to Embed Video in PowerPoint

Information Literacy…Authentic Conversation..Globalize Curriculum…

In my last post, I mentioned that I was concerned about the ease with which any person can access your personal online content, even though they were not specifically invited to do so.  I’ve spent the last month observing how much I actually depend upon and need access to my educational contacts on Twitter, websites like Classroom 2.0, and blogs.  This morning, I was endowed with a Google Wave invite, and suddenly, I am back in the saddle and can’t wait to use this technology piece to engage in information literacy, authentic conversation, and hopefully, globalized curriculum.  I owe this to Eric Snyder and Silvia Tolisano –  Eric for the Google Wave, and Silvia, who posts such wonderful educaitonal commentary in her “Langwitches” blog. 

Here is an excerpt from Silvia’s 6th grade social studies project, “Jewish Communities Around the World”.

In the 21st century, we need to be looking for and addressing something more…

Information Literacy:

  • Online sites and books are still valid information sources, but are they enough to engage students and give them “authentic” sources?
  • Being able to get, evaluate and work with information from a variety of sources, such as books, almanacs, blogs, wikis, video, audio, interviews, etc.

Networking Literacy:

  • Learn about accessing a network of people who can contribute information from their own experiences, on location and customized (personalized) to our own criteria, not the one a publisher or author chose?

Communication skills:

  • being able to interview through a variety of media and communication methods and be familiar with their distinct etiquette.
    • face to face
    • e-mail
    • twitter
    • facebook
    • video conferencing (Skype)
    • texting
    • telephone
  • being able to present the information obtained through a variety a media (video, images, audio)

These bullets are valid content for 21st century learning skills.  I am reconciled that in order for me as a technogy teacher to be able to adequately teach, then I must be a utilizer of these tools.  The artistry with which I use them will demand some discipline, but I know I can make an impact on helping my students become more literate and socially aware of authentic learning.

Web 2.0 Footprint

I was having a good time and feeling good about myself using Web 2.0 tools, until one day I Googled my user name on Twitter and found that everything I had been writing to specific people, groups, or tech forums was online for the world to read.  I then began the painstaking process of deleting my Twitter, LinkedIn, (and other) sites, just so that when someone did a Search, they would not have the free ride of reading my comments.

Kristen Plemon writes the following on “The Educators Royal Treatment”: 

We are in the age of the “wild Web” where anyone can easily publish content online for the masses. Students not only need to know how to protect themselves online from predators and scams, they must learn how to be good digital citizens and evaluate online sources to detect fact from fiction.

While an Internet filter is important, it shouldn’t be the only line of defense. You can teach students how to search for appropriate information, sort through the clutter, and make wise online decisions. Your guidance will ensure that they not only use their Web time more efficiently, but that they are less likely to stumble upon something that’s not meant for their eyes.

Students need to know that they are creating a digital footprint with everything they do on the Web, and that they may be judged by the content they create. Teach them to use the Web as a toolbox that contains tools that can help them further their goals and achieve success when mixed with effective communication skills. These tools, like any other, require practice to use well. The more practice, the more comfortable your students will become using these high‐tech tools.

A new eBook by netTrekker offers 10 tips for educators on teaching students how to protect themselves in today’s digital age (“10 Tips to Keep Students Safe in a Web 2.0 World”):

  1. Become familiar with potential Web 2.0 risks.
  2. Recognize that Web 2.0 is just a set of tools.
  3. Look at Web 2.0 as an extension of reality.
  4. Discuss which information to share, with whom and where.
  5. Help your students protect themselves with knowledge.
  6. Remind students that information posted online is archived.
  7. Encourage parents to monitor Web 2.0 use at home, including cell phones.
  8. Remind students that Web 2.0 isn’t all about them.
  9. Teach your students cyber ethics.
  10. Speak up and share what you know.

By monitoring the use of Web 2.0 tools, teaching by example and, when appropriate, controlling access, you will be better able to help your students succeed in the Web 2.0 world.

Generating online content and conversing via social media outlets are skills that are not only in high demand, they are becoming social norms. By educating students on both the benefits and risks of using the Web 2.0 tools, you are helping your students stay safe while honing skills that could impact their future level of success.

Where to Find Keyboarding Lesson Plans and Tutorials

Finding online lesson plans and tutorials for keyboarding is a great way for teachers to save time and engage students in the classroom. Here are a few resources that can be used to teach beginner and advanced keyboarders finger placement, speed, and accuracy:

Teachers.net – The Teachers.net site provides 36 keyboarding lesson plans for students of all ages. The lesson plans range from beginner to advanced.

Learn Keyboard Typing – Learn Keyboard Typing offers step-by-step instruction to help students increase keyboarding skills. This four-lesson tutorial provides demos, tips on finger placement, and a practice area.

Keyboarding & Applications – This instructional site from Tayna Skinner’s Business Education Lesson Plans features lesson plans and activities, keyboarding educational links, and typing tutors for students of all ages.

TestMyTyping.com – TestMyTyping.com offers a fun and easy typing tutorial for improving typing speed. The tutorial features 10 lessons which can be used by beginner and advanced typists.

MrKent’s Typing Tutor – MrKent’s Typing Tutor is an interactive tutorial for learning the placement of keys without having to actually look at the keys. The tutorial features 14 learning lessons in all.

Education World – This open source lesson plan site features a Primary Keyboarding Skills section for grades K-2. The lessons in this section introduce younger students to the home row of keys by using phrases that correlate to the letters on the keys.

Utah Education Network – The Utah Education Network offers keyboarding lesson plans designed for grades 6-9. The lesson plans can be used to improve accuracy, speed, and finger placement.

Glencoe’s Online Keyboarding – This online interactive keyboarding tutorial features 16 keyboarding lessons as well as tips for improving finger placement.

Nail It Now – Nail It Now provides a fun, four-lesson tutorial for elementary school children. The objective is for children to learn and understand key positions as well as finger placement.

Typing Games and Lessons – This keyboarding site provides free online tutorials and lessons for improving typing skills and speed.

Typing Tutor – Typing Tutor is a Java typing tutor/game that can be used to practice keyboarding skills.

MoneyInstructor.com – MoneyInstuctor.com provides lessons, typing worksheets, exercises, and finger charts for keyboarding students and teachers.

TeAchnology – This online teaching resource provides several lesson plans designed to improve keyboarding skills. Teachers can also find rubrics and worksheets for beginner to advanced keyboarders.

Lesson Plans – This keyboarding lesson plan from Lesson Plans improves speed and accuracy through group drills. This is a fun way for 5th through 12th graders to improve typing skills.

Computer Training Tutorials – The Computer Training Tutorials site offers an interactive tutorial for beginning keyboarders. This tutorial gives explanations of the keys and provides a practice area to test skills.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes for OnlineCollege.org, an online college resource.

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