Differentiation in online learning

I have spent a good deal of time this week reading about differentiation and seeking tools to assist in designing a module with this knowledge in place.  I have to be honest and say that I am struggling to come up with tools.  I think the major reason is because my students are special needs (all students are) but mine are identified and they are six years old struggling to become readers!!  Therefore I am looking for very simple visual strategies to implement.  I did find one resource that involves clicking in certain areas of a picture or on the screen and information is shared through different modes such as videos, captions, pictures, and audio.   The link is:   https://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-social-media-tools-john-mccarthy.  This tool is known as “Thinglink” and is found under the heading; Learning Profiles.   This website has 100 + tools and is called Edutopia.  I actually found it by reading a classmate’s blog.  Prior to that I searched under “Differentiation strategies in online environments”, “How online teachers differentiate” and spent a lot of time on the Universal Design for Learning website.

I see several similarities between online teaching and face-to-face teaching when it comes to differentiation.  The legislation and guidelines for UDL are almost the same language as the laws governing exceptional education.   Each environment requires the following in order to make learning happen: multiple ways in which content is presented, multiple modes for student expression, and multiple means for engaging student interest. No matter if students are in an on-line class or physical class, they bring a variety of skills, needs, and interest to their learning. However, I’m not sure how on-line teachers can reach those students who crave social contact and are very motivated to perform for others.  Again, I see this with first grade students.  Wouldn’t it be nice if students kept that feeling of love and admiration for their teachers through graduation!

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