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Differentiation is really not new...

oneroom schoolhouse.jpg

Though it may look much different than in the early years of our country, the one-room school house still exists in some areas of the United States. Teachers creatively orchestrated the education of all students in a multi-grade setting, covering a wide range of ages. Rural America learned to handle the task of educating students in a way that best served each geographically challenged community. Instead of sending students on long bus rides to a school in the city, hours away, students of all ages were schooled together. Surprisingly, some of these one-room school houses still operate today.

As the the population grew and one-room school houses expanded to larger buildings of multiple grade classrooms, rote memorization and uniform learning became the norm. We were a fairly homogeneous society, and it was just easier to educate all students in our rapidly growing country by planning curriculum in a standardized format with the same expectations for everyone. Few provisions existed for those that didn't meet the norms, and, with the expectation that school attendance was required for all school age children, students may have been held back year after year.

Soon, students were "tracked" for learning or provided limited public school education if deemed "too different" to fit neatly into the current norm. Students were moved progressively to the next grade, even when minimally meeting the expectation of "passing," and rarely was a student "double promoted" or allowed to skip a grade despite surpassing the norms of the next grade level. All students had been afforded the same content, in the same setting, incorporating the same process, and expected to produce the same product. Under this model, some students were shining stars while others barely met expectations. There had to be a better way.

So What is Differentiated Instruction and Why is It Important?

According to Tomlinson (2005), "differentiation is responsive teaching rather than one size fits all teaching." Differentiation results from the teacher's efforts to create the best possible learning experience in response to the variances of the students. It is a philosophy for effective teaching that results in tailoring instruction to meet individual needs by addressing various paths to presentation of content, attending to the individual process of learning, allowing for alternate products to assess for learning, and adjusting the learning environment based on the individual learner. This philosophy is much like educating children in the one-room school house, but with a greater arsenal of tools and resources to meet the various needs of our students across ages, grade levels, and abilities. And, though the focus may have been on arming that one, specific student with a suggested tool, resource, or strategy to provide support for an identified learning need, it is a welcome outcome to learn that other (unidentified) students benefited as well.

As in the past, differentiation is necessary in the provision of curriculum content applicable in any given grade. But the ever increasing demands on today's learners, imposed through legislation and the desire to meet higher standards, requires a new way of addressing differentiation in all classrooms. In this wiki, we will explore technology resources that support differentiation in the classroom. Watch the video below for a brief overview of differentiation and optional strategies, tips, and tools.

Tips & Strategies for Effective Differentiation

Consider this short passage found on Edutopia (April 13, 2010) by Rebecca Alber. She cites the definition of differentiated instruction, beginning with the quote, "Equal education is not all students getting the same, but all students getting what they need," with some thought provoking questions and suggestions to follow.

This concept map of effective differentiated instruction is a good example of DI in action and is especially helpful to those that benefit from the visual support of symbols, drawings, charts, etc., to aid understanding and learning.

Peruse this website link http://www.teach-nology.com/litined/dif_instruction/ at TeAchnology.com, with resources on Curriculum differentiation and how to differentiate instruction.

But Universal Design for Learning really kicks up the opportunities for success for ALL students!

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.

The central practical premise of UDL is that a curriculum should include alternatives to make it accessible and appropriate for individuals with different -
  • backgrounds,
  • learning styles,
  • abilities, and
  • disabilities
in widely varied learning contexts. In a sense, you are differentiating your lesson and learning without a focus on just one student, but setting up options for all students.

The “universal” in universal design does not imply one optimal solution for everyone. Rather it reflects an awareness of the unique nature of each learner and the need to accommodate differences, creating learning experiences that suit the learner and maximize his or her ability to progress. Many students may benefit from your "advance" thinking about provisions in the classroom. Though a student may not have an identified disability requiring an accommodation (as a student with an IEP), the options allowed through a universally designed classroom may support learning differences that lead to greater productivity, achievement, and success. For instance, perhaps your daily classroom routine had included an oral delivery of a homework assignment, with the expectation that students note the requirement of the assignment. To accommodate a specific student with an identified learning disability, you now write the assignment on the board at the start of class. By providing a visual cue to your verbal direction, you've added an extra measure of support that, while accommodating the identified student, may also assist others in the class who may be somewhat undisciplined when noting oral directions.

UDL provides a framework that helps teachers differentiate their instruction through carefully articulated goals and individualized materials, methods, and assessments.

The UDL framework supports learning in this way...
Multiple Means of
Multiple Means of
Multiple Means of
Action & Expression
Affective network -
the why
utilizes the part of the brain...
- where our interests have been
challenged in a way we are motivated to learn
Recognition network -the what

utilizes the part of the brain...
- where we take in information
Strategic network -
the how
utilizes the part of the brain...
- where we plan and demonstrate what we've learned
Stimulate interest and motivation for learning
Present information and content in different ways
Differentiate the ways that students can express
what they know
Expanded copy of the graphic above

Additional support documents

Specially Designed Instruction

UDL at a Glance

Visit the National Center on Universal Design for Learning Implementation page for resources to use in the classroom. http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples

UDL in the Classroom
****UDL Wheel****
NOTE: This online resource WAS, previously, interactive. Perhaps it will one day again become interactive. Currently, a "paper" version is available here for your construction.
Free UDL iPhone/iPad app
A guide to Universal Design in the form of an interactive wheel on the web from the Maryland State Dept.of Education and Howard County Public Schools.
A product of the College and Career Readiness Support Project in collaboration with the Maryland State Department of Education
UDL Tool Finder on the Montgomery County Schools, Maryland, website

UDL Tool Finder

Universal Design for Learning Educator's Checklist

Danielson's Framework for Teaching identifies "good teaching practices" to promote student success.

CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology)
CAST is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through Universal Design for Learning.

Founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST has earned international recognition for its innovative contributions to educational products, classroom practices, and policies. Its staff includes specialists in education research and policy, neuropsychology, clinical/school psychology, technology, engineering, curriculum development, K-12 professional development, and more.

CAST Professional Learning
Visit this portion of the CAST website to access UDL focused professional learning.

Interactive Activity to Foster Understanding of UDL
Found on the Loudoun County Public Schools (Ashburn, VA) website, though it is represented as originating from an outside source (Maryland Learning Links), this interactive exploration is an example of UDL in action (multiple means of presentation!)

Graphic Organizer of UDL Concepts using Thinglink
A fun way to pack information on a single page to further your understanding of UDL. Rest your cursor on the page to activate the dots. Rest your cursor on a dot for information - click the dot for more information.

Visit http://www.udlcenter.org/ for more information.

The IRIS Center of Vanderbilt Peabody College Clarmont Graduate University
Incorporating UDL in a middle school classroom (example)

What is Special About Special Education?


Access this Technical Assistance Paper (TAP), provided by FLDOE, to read about specially designed instruction.

Resource Website of PSRtI/MTSS

Additional UDL videos on the CAST.org website

UDL Toolkit - Great resource incorporating Glogster http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/

Additional Wiki Resource

One Last Thing

Brandy Antonio on YouTube

Objectives of this session

Participants will...

  • identify resources to enhance classroom instruction (teacher tools)
  • identify resources that assist individual learning and support student achievement (student tools)
  • investigate resources and tools for classroom application to support student instruction and learning in the context of Differentiated Instruction, supported by the framework of Universal Design for Learning.

Information on and stories about one-room schoolhouses, current at the conception of this wiki (2015). Here today, could be gone tomorrow!
Still in Operation: The One-Room Schoolhouse Center http://oneroomschoolhousecenter.weebly.com/still-in-operation.html
Reinventing the One-Room Schoolhouse http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-furman/reinventing-the-one-room-_b_4545983.html
Lessons to be Learned From a One-Room Schoolhouse http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/06/01/one-room-schoolhouse-teaching/9837349/
Old School Reflections https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2014/02/old-school-reflections-one-room-schoolhouse-teachers

Please contact me at pawlowskir@pcsb.org with corrections, additions, comments, etc.

Disclaimer: Content referencing various software, products, devices, websites, organizations and businesses, both non- and for-profit, may be found on several pages of this wiki. Be advised that FDLRS Gulfcoast does not recommend any particular entity, nor should inclusion of any software, product, device, website, organization, business, or other entity be viewed as a commercial endorsement by FDLRS Gulfcoast, the FDLRS Project Network, or Pinellas County Schools. Information included on this site is for informational and educational purposes only.