50+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media
JANUARY 16, 2015
Imagine a world where resources were limited to what was found in the classroom or the school closet known as the "Curriculum Materials Room." Picture a world where students wrote letters with pen and paper to communicate with other students and adults outside of the building. Due to postage costs, the teacher either sent the letters in bulk or paid for stamps out of his or her own pocket. Can you recall a time when student interests like skateboarding or video were never used as part of learning curriculum because the tools needed were either too expensive or not yet conceptualized? Do you remember a time when non-traditional learners struggled, and absenteeism meant a high likelihood of students doing poorly in school, and possibly having to retake the course?
If you experienced none of these scenarios, then you live in a world of possibility because you grew up with the many social media tools available to support all learners. If any of these scenarios bring back memories as a teacher or student, then you understand that we have many more tools today to ensure that learners succeed despite struggles, because students and teachers have so much more available to meet every learner's needs.
Selecting the Right Tool
For educators differentiating instruction, social media tools embrace collaboration and global access to people and other resources. We give students a variety of learning experiences that incorporate the capability to:
Differentiating with social media is most effective when we plan learning experiences based on content, process, and product (our lesson structure) and incorporate readiness, interests, and learning profiles (student voice). The following guidelines can help any classroom teacher ensure that the tool used will address students' needs:
While the collaboration capabilities of many social media tools can overlap, some may be more effective than others depending on how they're customized for student voice.
Readiness focuses on a student's current academic skill level. Work is structured to help them address any gaps or needs for enrichment. Students work in like-skill groups for specific, targeted support to address a common need, such as guided reading or tiered (leveled) activities. They also collaborate in mixed-skill groups to support struggling students with needed skill development. Additionally, experiences can stretch the advanced students in a mixed-skill group -- they may have the core skills, yet the critical thinking challenges them and their teammates.
Consider these tools to assist with readiness:
Allowing students to tackle work based on the option that makes the most sense to them is crucial for cognitive connections. Seeing a concept in context of a topic in which the learner has great interest -- and possibly expertise -- can help him or her turn abstract ideas into concrete purpose.
Here are some tools to help focus on student interests:
When students address concepts from diverse perspectives, especially in collaborative groups, it can lead to in-depth understanding. Learning profiles are about providing each student with experiences that incorporate a variety of learning style elements, not just one. Such activities help students find deeper connections, especially if they share points of view via peer reflection and dialog.
Try these tools:
Here are an additional 50+ tools for exploration. Consider which will best fit the "current" needs of your diverse learners. More will be added on a regular basis. What tools do you use? Please share in the comments section below, and I'll keep the 50+ list growing.
We truly are in a brave new world -- the good kind -- where differentiation opportunities evolve due to the variety of social media tools available. No longer are students and teachers limited to resources purchased for the classroom. For example, 1:1 computing grows as schools understand the value of student contact with outside resources. As more schools review their cell phone policy and allow students to use their "internet devices," learning options increase with access to social media apps and other online tools such as those mentioned above.
In the past, limited access placed a hardship on teachers to meet the diverse needs of their students, especially when school resources are limited. In this brave new world, we are fortunate to live and work in an environment where the possibilities are endless for getting students what they need when they need it, and in a format that works best for them. How are you tapping possibilities to meet learner needs?