Technology offers teachers many advantages to enhance learning, and differentiation is what this post will focus on. Just as every student grows and develops at different rates, they learn in different ways and at different speeds too. Technology is making it easier to support all learning styles, while also controlling the pace of the lesson at each student’s level. Also, being able to support multiple intelligences boosts student engagement, allows technology to further enhance the learning experience.
Differentiated instruction is a teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum in lockstep, teachers should modify their instruction to meet students’ varying readiness levels, learning preferences, and interests.
These apps were chosen based on the SAMR model. Popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR model helps to support technology integration into the classroom. I believe that technology should transform learning by modifying or redefining how learning occurs in the classroom. Otherwise, if you are just using technology as an enhancement that is acting as a substitute, the traditional method may be best as it is less distracting and quicker. I believe that these apps will help modify and redefine learning in your classroom by supporting better differentiation.
Below are two apps for each differentiation strategy. I have given an overview based on students using the app. However, all of these apps can be used by teachers as well!
- You may prefer the first app in each category which is easier to implement. This is ideal for those who are new to using technology in the classroom.
- The second app is a robustly featured app. This is ideal for those who are a tech-savvy educator.
Either path you take, you will be able to support better differentiation in your classroom.
It is important you consider your standards and learning objective before implementing technology to help decide how best to use the following apps. Below are suggestions on how to best use each, but ultimately it is up to the needs of your students and your learning environment to decide how to best adapt each app.
Differentiation Apps 1Video Responses
Video responses can be an optional way for students to present their thinking or a way for teachers to mix up their classroom. It is amazing how shy students find their voice by using video responses compared to reluctantly answering a question when their hand wasn’t even raised during class. All students have an equal voice and time to show their thinking or to express their thoughts.
Make learning social and visible. Amplify your all your student voices.
Flipgrid is the leading video discussion app and the easiest to get started with. Learners of all ages and backgrounds are able to find their voice, share their thoughts, and listen to other opinions.
Teachers begin by sparking discussion by posting a topic or question for the class to react to. Posts can be shared only within the classroom or to the world. Students then record, upload, view, react, and respond to each other’s short videos. This interaction allows students to build and strengthen social learning communities.
The latest update also features a selfie styling feature so students can personalize their videos to express their creativity or emotions.
Recap is a free app that fosters learning connections for all students. Through prompts provided by the teacher or its community, students are able to explain their thinking in a video response. The app also provides immediate insight and analytics of all students. The video responses from students will provide you evidence of their thinking within a social-emotional context. Teachers can provide better formative assessments to support differentiation and personalized learning.
If students feel uncomfortable with recording their face, there is also an option to leave written or audio prompts instead of a video. Teachers also have the ability to make comments private (viewable only by the teacher) or public (the entire class can view all responses).
In peer learning, students will construct their own meaning and understanding of what they need to learn. Essentially, students will be involved in searching for, collecting, analysing, evaluating, integrating and applying information to complete an assignment or solve a problem. Thus, students will engage themselves intellectually, emotionally and socially in “constructive conversation” and learn by talking and questioning each other’s views and reaching consensus or dissent.
Differentiation Apps 2Class Activities
Provide a selection of activities for students to work on at their own pace or optional anchor activities when they have finished their work. These apps provide various ways for students to demonstrate their understanding and then receive the necessary feedback from stakeholders.
Seesaw is a personal favorite. It is very easy for teachers and students to use right out of the box. Although Seesaw is designed to be a digital portfolio, it has many features that allow it to be so much more.
One of best feature that was recently released is its ability to submit digital assignments to students. Students are able to read or listen to directions at their own pace and then complete the assignment using its simple and varied toolbox. It includes drawing, video, speaking, typing, and annotation tools. Once an assignment is submitted, the teacher can grade it and provide feedback in a typed or audio form. Teachers have the option of making assignments visible to other students and teachers which extends the audience reach and also allows for more feedback to be provided.
Create digital assignments that allow students to submit their work in various ways. With Classkick, students can write, draw, photo, or record audio as a way of completing your assignment. Your assignments can be listed in a step-by-step activity to allow students to easily complete work. Lessons can be general for the whole class or personalized for groups or individuals. Each student works at their own pace while the teacher facilitates the learning.
With the “raise my hand” button, students can anonymously ask for help or signal to other students to support them. This means students are able to take on the role of a mentor to support their peers.
As students submit work, teachers can provide real-time feedback. Classkick helps to remove barriers so that student receive support when they need it.
Differentiation Apps 3Interactive Quiz
Quizzes will no longer be greeted with the sounds of sighs. These fun and interactive quizzes are actually enjoyed and requested by students. Teachers also enjoy the ease it can be created and how quickly they can receive the data. This allows for teachers to receive the information necessary to adjust their lessons to meet the needs of each of their students.
Kahoot has found its way into classrooms and workshops around the world thanks to its engaging platform that makes learning fun. Kahoot has a very user-friendly interface that requires minimal directions. It is also a breeze to set up.
Teachers can easily create their own multiple choice quiz or use one created by someone else in the Kahoot community. Kahoot also recently added an ability to play simple educational games. Games and quizzes can be played with your class or linked with other classes around the world.
During the Kahoot, students or groups can see their score. There is an ability for trailing students to move quickly to the top, so no one is ever out of the game. The results provide an overview of total points scored. Although this does not provide specific data on wrong or right answers, it is an easy and fun way to mix up formative assessments in your classroom.
Search the repository or create your own engaging real-time quiz. Quizzes can be anonymous submissions or a competitive game. Student play at their own pace within a game like environment that includes avatars and badges. Quizzes can also be assigned as homework.
The best part is how teachers can easily collect, analyze and share data. The reports that this app can generate are a huge benefit. I enjoy the ability to read results for specific questions. Teachers can use this information to guide their lessons and provide specific support to each student.
Quizizz does not need to be projected on to a big screen, and questions with answers listed below are shown on all student devices. Quizizz comes with a long list of game settings to help give teachers a lot of control on the different types of quizzes to create.
Differentiation Apps 4Interactive Ebook
Allow students to express their creativity in literacy. Ebooks provide an interactive product that is unique to their imaginations. It will challenge students to craft their message and to express their ideas deeper. Creating an Ebook allows so many choices while also support students at all levels.
Book Creator is an open-ended activity that is waiting to be added to your anchor activities. Students are able to independently start creating interactive books or comics. You can simply provide a rubric as a guide, and they will do the rest. Some students make a very basic lined up story, while others enjoy the ability to be extra creative in their designs.
Books can contain pictures, video, colors, text, shapes, and audio. Once their multimedia book is made, it is easily shared to any other app or downloaded to be read on any device. Book Creator has also launched their online library for easier sharing.
Let students at young ages begin to discover the joy of creating stories. They will be able to make meaningful connections to the learning and have a platform to share their work with an authentic audience.
Book Writer is a professional eBook app. It allows students to create an interactive book that can be published. There are templates to help students get started making a photo book, recipe book, diary, marketing booklet, and more.
Books can also be shared within their network to help give your students a large audience. Most teachers, however, just have students download the eBook to be shared in whatever way best fits their LMS.
This app is advertised for students 8 and older. However, for primary students we use BookCreator and for secondary we use Book Writer.
Differentiation Apps 5Presentation
A presentation should not be a simple product completed in a matter of minutes. These apps are simple to use, but they allow students to produce a rich product that demonstrates their understanding of what they have learned over time. Teachers can assign these as options during an authentic assessment.
Shadow Puppet EDU
Made by the makers of Seesaw, I am surprised that Shadow Puppet Edu is not used more often in classrooms. It is a really simple presentation app that I have used to make digital newsletters for parents. Students as young as five can make videos to tell stories, explain ideas, or document their learning!
Shadow Puppet Edu provides an easy option for students to showcase their understanding. They narrate their presentation which can include text, photos, and videos. While they narrate, they can use pointers or stickers to help explain their thinking further. Puppet Edu also easily adds audio to the background with a click of a button. No editing skills needed.
The best feature of Shadow Puppet Edu is that it links to open source media directories. Students can easily add photos and videos for educational purposes without worrying about copyright infringement. Also, since this apps links to these directories, students do not need to learn how to export and import media.
Provide students a blank canvas to explain everything (hence the name). Just like Shadow Puppet Edu, teachers can also use this app to provide a different way for students to receive content. Teachers use this app to create a lesson, and students can easily view the lesson at their own pace whenever they need to.
The real power is giving students control. Interactive whiteboards capture both the process and product of a learning experience. Students create their lessons, animated stories, presentations and how they work through problems; allowing them to become teachers.
There is a long list of list of tools and features with this app. This allows the app to be customized to match the specific assignment and align better with learning objectives. However, be prepared to answer questions on how to use this app as students become excited as they create.
Presentations and lectures no longer need to be a one-way dialog. Students can participate and feel empowered to do so. This keeps students engaged while the teacher is able to receive real-time feedback about what the students know or do not know.
Mentimeter is an easy-to-use tool that helps students have a voice during presentations. There is no installation of app or download required. That makes it very easy to use with any device. Many times during presentations it is difficult to get a response from students when you ask a question. This app helps to create engagement so that you know where your class is during the learning process. You can easily correct any misconceptions or immediately answer any pressing questions.
Use polls, quizzes, and word clouds to interact with your students and increase learning. Don’t let students drift off. Help build their attention span and active listening skills. The interaction that happens during a presentation by using Mentimeter makes it a frequently used app.
Slido is similar to Mentimeter. It also does not require any app to be download. Through a secure link, teachers can engage with their students. The best feature that is available in this app is the ability to crowdsource questions or suggestions from your class. Questions can be voted on so that the most important questions are at the top of the list.
I also like the ability to involve students in the conversation. Anyone with the link can also engage in discussions or comment on the presentation. This feature is perfect if you are watching a video or show in class. All of this data is available on their analytics dashboard.
Easily integrate Slido into any presentation. You can switch between your presentation and the interaction available with this app with their Slido Switcher feature. This is a very useful feature for having periodic checkpoints and regular polls.
Differentiation 7Digital Posters
Some of our students do not have high visual-spatial intelligence. However, we should still challenge these students to use a multi-sensory approach at demonstrating their understanding. Creating digital posters helps make this happen. Students of all levels are able to better express themselves by using these graphic design apps.
Easelly provides students quick access to infographic templates to easily create custom digital posters. This can be a huge help for those who are not artistically inclined or are limited in their language abilities. With simple taps, students can focus on the content without barriers.
Students will need to carefully select the correct template that best matches the information and message they want to communicate. The professional graphics allow students to create maps, graphs, charts, diagrams, flowcharts, and timelines. Anyone and everyone can feel empowered to create a professional poster that they will want to show-off.
Sharing infographics allow students to share information with each other. Infographics help students visualize relationships between concepts, and used as a tool to synthesize learning.
Canva is a powerful graphic design tool that allows students to create and collaborate. A quick peek at their website, and you know the designers of this app know a thing or too about professional graphic designs.
Although Canva has a long list of features and possibilities, their drag and drop feature makes it easy to use. Teachers and students can create presentations, posters, documents and social media posts. Students learn how to communicate effectively through graphics. It provides an alternative way for students to express their understanding. They are able to bring their ideas to life.
Canva also includes a large database of graphics and templates to help students start creating. Students are also able to share and collaborate with others in the class. They can work together to build graphic, provide feedback, or present their work to the entire class in a digital gallery walk.
Differentiation 8Personalized Lessons
The last two are presented from the teacher view. Although, these can be used by students, I have found it best suited for delivering varied content to students. Technology is redefining what learning looks like and where the classroom can be. These two apps do a great job of redefining learning.
Newsela is an “Instructional Content Platform” that supports readers at the level they are ready to learn in any subject. Interesting articles are seamlessly adapted to every student’s reading level. Teachers can create their own content or select lessons from their ever growing database. Students of any age are able to learn at their own pace in an online lesson that aligns with your standards and learning objectives.
This app also offers very powerful assessment options to ensure that students have learned the material. Assessments include quizzes, annotations, and writing prompts. Students are also able to learn new vocabulary words and how to properly pronounce it with their Power Words feature. By having this feature as they read, students are able to learn it in context and not through boring memorization.
Students are also able to take ownership of their learning thanks to this app’s ability to keep track of improvement over time automatically. Seeing results, students are empowered to read and to learn more.
Nearpod is a leading app that brings personalized learning to your classroom. Teachers are able to create an engaging learning experience by providing interactive presentations, and real-time assessments. If you don’t feel like making presentations, there is a long list presentation already created that you can use. Nearpod has also integrated the ability to add VR, 3D objects, PhET simulations into your presentation.
What teachers like most about this app is that they can spend less time planning and more time teaching. Teachers can provide interactive lessons that allow students to learn at their own pace. Enable a 100% student participation and provide all students a voice. Students are able to interact with a lesson in a way that is meaningful to them. While teachers can view student answers individually or a class in real-time.
Kids learn in different ways and at different paces. Personalized learning is a teaching model based on that premise. Each student gets a “learning plan” based on how he learns, what he knows, and what his skills and interests are. It’s the opposite of the “one size fits all” approach used in most schools.