Differentiation in an Online Environment– KWasosky

differentiation

Differentiation is a term I am definitely used to. I have been teaching in a collaborative setting for twenty years. I do want to make it clear though, that although I differentiate for Special Education students with disabilities, I also differentiate assignments for regular education students and more advanced students as well. All students are individuals and some may learn easily in one format such as reading and taking notes, others in listening, and some in needing visualizations to comprehend material.

When I went to the UDLW site, I was quite overwhelmed at the way it was set up. I had to get my reading glasses on to start moving through the different offerings. I found Wordgen, which I moved through and found for my content, social studies, it is titled SoGen. (SoGen)WordGen word generation sounds like a good thing for me to use in my classes since history has been tasked with helping to improve the writing skills of the students. I have messaged the company and asked for the link so I can investigate it further. With all of the different levels of students in our classes ranging from non-readers, low readers, on-level and above-level readers, this site may help us a great deal. It incorporates writing in short lessons that can be based on the curriculum we are working on at the time. I think it would make a great addition to our classes and help them improve reading and writing. I am interested in learning more about the resources available and how to use them with students with disabilities. One of my big ones is ADHD and low readers which is also leads to poor writers. I have read through some of the check points and sites, and I like that many are free. After investigating the WordGen site, I noticed that the history section doesn’t seem to match up with my studies. I like the layout and all it offers for struggling readers, so I am going to continue to follow up and see if there is more. Perhaps I can use the layout of other lessons and idea to create my own for my curriculum.

WordGen

As for my own resources, I have located a site that I found quite interesting. The title of the website is:

Differentiated Instruction In eLearning:  What eLearning Professionals Should Know

Differentiated Instruction In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

I found this link by typing into Google, “differentiation in online learning”. This link was on page three of my search. I believe this was a helpful resource in giving tips to educators on how to differentiate in an online learning environment. Some of these tips I will definitely explore more thoroughly. One of the very first tips was to allow students to progress at their own speed. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was pretty strict on keeping everyone together for discussion purposes, but I can clearly see the need to allow this practice in some situations.

In all five tips of differentiation online, I feel that all of them are a possibility in the face-to-face classroom as well. Supplemental materials can be produced and handed out in a traditional class. Online, other web address can lead students to other materials to help with understanding. Students who need the supplemental materials will have them available and those that may not need them, but would like to see them would have access, too.

The other tips, individualized a plan for each student still seems a bit hard online, but it is no picnic in class all of the time either. It requires a lot of planning and work. Letting the students understand what the expectations are in the beginning and continually reinforcing those is key in getting the lessons completed successfully. I agree with the writer of the article, it is impossible to create a unique learning experience for every single student, but differentiating can level the playing field so that all students have a successful one.

While reading chapter 8, I read about things I had never considered before with online learning. I do comprehend that there are different types of learners, or ones that favor one type of learning style over others. However, I didn’t think about a student with physical limitations such as cerebral palsy being an online learner. In my face-to-face classes, my co-teacher and I have carried out differentiation solutions such as colored paper because a student has trouble seeing words on the paper. We have magnified assignments on “big” paper and had the student use the magnifier on the computer to read assignments on the computer. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that students with physical, cognitive, or sensory limitations wouldn’t flourish under an online learning course umbrella. After exploring the crazy UDLW, I did click and read about a lot of different sites and products available to help the students in many different disabilities that could be helped.

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes several types of disabilities. I have had a variance of every type that is listed in my classroom at some time during my career. I believe online learning can benefit these exceptional students. Utilizing the array of checkpoints and programs available on the UDLW, and there are many to investigate, would definitely offer a teacher an array of ideas to plan for differentiation for the students who need it.

I’m not quite sure how I will incorporate differentiation into the module yet. I am still developing activities to get the notes. I will most likely look for some visuals and audios to put in there to help with the understanding. “I was working on the Railroad” comes to mind.

5 thoughts on “Differentiation in an Online Environment– KWasosky”

  1. I was looking at the checkpoint on Communication which has great resources for animation, making videos, etc. I thought about your module on the railroad. There is a resource for animating: SAM and in their gallery they have a few history examples. You could have the students create and share an animation depicting their point of view about whether it was good or bad. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

    1. I show this in class for our notes. It is pretty accurate with information. We use the notes acquired through this rather than the text book. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kim, I think you bring up a great point that differentiation isn’t simply for the “special education” student. It is really important to be sure that we are gearing lessons and instruction in different directions for all of our students when appropriate. We all encounter students who may not be labeled as a SPED student but still struggles in certain areas, whether it be reading, organization, attentiveness etc. It’s important both face to face and digitally to differentiate in order to reach all types of learners.

    I am glad I was not the only one who found the set up of the UDL website to be a little overwhelming. I actually found it ironic that we were reading about accessibility and the ease of exploring sites when I myself had a hard time focusing on the information being presented.

    I am going to explore WordGen myself after reading your post because incorporating writing into my history classroom is something I strive to do each year. However, as you mentioned, there are so many different levels grouped into once class it is not desirable (or fair to the students) to offer a one size fits all writing assignment. This tool definitely seems like it would be helpful when trying to vary reading and writing levels for the same curriculum.

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