EDUC 586 REFLECTIONS
How might I differentiate content through technology in my classroom?
Discussion Question (Week 5) - EDUC 586
I chose the first essential question to focus on this week because I feel like differentiation is an area in my teaching that I would like to improve and grow in. First, it’s important to understand what differentiated instruction does and does not mean. “Differentiated instruction is when students can be in groups based on skills/interests/readiness/choice, there is a purposeful use of flexible grouping while keeping the lesson’s goals in mind, and teachers are teaching up and holding students to high standards” (Stern, 2015). I used to have many misconceptions regarding how to differentiate instruction. It seemed overwhelming because I used to think that it meant I need to create an individual plan for each of my students. I also think I was unknowingly keeping students in stagnant groups and only focusing on lower-level students.
After a few years of teaching now, I realized that my understanding of how to differentiate instruction was misconstrued. Now, I try to be more mindful and purposeful of what I am doing in my classroom to meet my student’s needs with differentiation. It’s important to accommodate differences among students when teaching new content. I try to be equitable and consider student’s levels of mathematical talent, interest, and confidence so that each and every student can learn important math content. “Equity does not mean that every student should receive identical instruction; instead, it demands that reasonable and appropriate accommodations be made as needed to promote access and attainment for all students” (NCTM, 2009). Even with trying new strategies to support learning, it's important to remember that meeting student's needs does not mean that "one size fits all".
We are fortunate in this new age of teaching that we have access to technologies that can improve differentiated instruction in classrooms. A number of math educators use concrete manipulatives to enhance understanding on elementary math concepts. When teaching a child what 2 + 3 is equal to, a teacher might show two pencils put together with three pencils equals to five pencils. Using a physical or concrete manipulate in that nature is too simple for middle and high school math content, but virtual manipulatives can support and progress learning in more advanced math topic areas. There are now more options to use technology for virtual manipulatives that are useful for teachers and students. “Virtual manipulatives enable concrete visualization of the abstract and more difficult grasp math concepts, they are more game-like in nature, they accommodate diverse learning styles and readiness levels, they are not difficult to store, and is quickly and frequently with internet access” (Smith and Throne, p. 98). When researching virtual manipulatives, I found dozens of recommendations from teachers of various programs and tools that I could use to support this work.
Understanding abstract concepts are essential to understanding and doing math. This is also a source of difficulty for students who struggle with math or struggle with even understanding the very basic math concepts. After much research, I would consider trying to use virtual manipulatives in my classroom to support my work of differentiating instruction with technology. In the past most classrooms might've only had physical manipulatives, but now classrooms and schools have access to computers and the Internet which has opened the doors to opportunities to work with virtual manipulatives. Virtual manipulatives in math can be beneficial in many ways. “These tools in your classroom can help students understand abstract math concepts, lead to richer and more complex understandings of concepts, and help clarify student misconceptions and build connections between concepts and representations” (Zorfass, 2018). This technological tool can support my work in differentiation by meeting student’s needs and ensuring equity that each student in the class has the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution.
National Council of Mathematics, 2009. Why and How to Differentiate Math Instruction. Retrieved from https://www.aeseducation.com/blog/9-tips-using-technology-differentiate-instruction
Smith, G. E., & Throne, S. (2009). Differentiation Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE[. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.oneonta.edu:2048/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=38c83ef7-be6a-4a53-b9a3-3f5ea46a1572%40pdc-v-sessmgr02&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=476090&db=nlebk
Stern, J. (2015). Enhancing Learning Through Differentiated Technology. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/enhanced-learning-through-differentiated-technology-julie-stern
Zorfass, J. (2018). Using Virtual Manipulatives to Teach Math. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/61328/
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What is involved in being a game designer?
Discussion Question (Week 7) - EDUC 586
Students in today’s day and age experience media vastly differently than any other generation. Between social network platforms, collaborative tools, and user created videos and video games, there is an opportunity to interactivity that wasn’t possible even a few years ago. For these reasons, teachers should be pushing the boundaries more to include new multimedia experiences for student’s that also supports their engagement and learning in the curriculum. “Proponents of game design in the classroom say that it promotes students’ systems thinking, problem solving, and critical analysis skills” (Proto, 2013). Including game design in the classroom will drastically increase student engagement with the material which will then lead to an increase in achievement. Digital gaming is a revolutionary way to provide students that 21st century experience to learn content on a multimedia platform.
Gamestar Mechanic is an option for teachers to see the potential of game design in their classroom. My goal is to provide an opportunity for students to try game design while also reinforcing math skills that have been taught. After having done some research, there seems to be a lot of benefits to integrating game design in my, or any, content area. “This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking. It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do” (Tenkely, 2015). I can already envision thoughtful discussions and higher level thinking from students when playing around with game designing than a basic worksheet or board game can provide.
A major standard that 8th grade math covers is the idea of slope and steepness as it relates to graphs of lines. I have an idea to have students create a game on Gamestar Mechanic that will reinforce the idea that steepness. Steepness is measured by slope and is defined as the ratio of rise (upward motion) over run (forward motion), which can translate nicely on a video game. I can apply these ideas to the real world and discuss how steepness isn’t always constant. We can discuss the variety of slopes on the climb to the top of Mount Everest, or the hills of San Francisco, or even waterslides at an amusement park. We can review how to calculate the slope of a line and look at lines on a coordinate grid. Based on what students have learned, I can then ask the class to design a game in Gamestar Mechanic using a list of slopes that I have selected.
To be completely honest, I’m still a little confused and slightly uncomfortable since I’m not familiar at all with game design. Luckily, a lot of articles are giving me hope that this slight discomfort will ultimately be worth it. “Gamestar Mechanic was the best option for the students, and so that made it the best option, period. When the kids played each other’s games, they discovered a fun way to review. After playing all the games, they had covered much of the semester’s work. Students commented that the games were a helpful addition to their typical review process though they did not supplant studying altogether” (Stern, 2012). If utilizing tools like Gamestar Mechanic will give me an edge in engaging students in my content, then it’s worth a shot. Students are becoming more and more technologically savvy, so it’s also my job as their teacher to help prepare them for this new technological future.
Proto, A. (2013). Gamestar Mechanic: Gamification Made Easy. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/gamestar-mechanic-gamification-made-easy-andrew-proto
Stern, B. (2012). Because You Asked: Making Math Games in School. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/because-you-asked-making-math-games-in-school
Tenkely, K. (2015). Gamestar Mechanic: Teaching Game Design in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://ilearntechnology.com/wordpress/?p=4540