Tool for Differentiation

I chose to focus on investigating and using screencasts by using the free program to help differentiate instruction for my students. I know this is a commonly used tool, but it is new to me and I am interested in what it has to offer. After using this tool and watching many screencasts created by others I see many benefits for differentiating instruction. One of the main benefits for students is that students can access the information from home or on vacation for example.  Another advantage of screencasts is the ability to watch, pause, and watch the video again if needed. Students can also produce screencasts in a variety of ways to demonstrate understanding of various web tools, teach others a new a skill, and much more.


Here is a science resource that I made a short screencast for my students to use called Phet simulations. These science concept simulations are a good way for students to investigate different science concepts and actually manipulate the different components of each concept. These simulations are great for differentiation as all students can use them to some extent, and most students really enjoy using them. This is the screencast I made using Screencast-o-matic: Phet Screencast- Waves on a String


Differentiating The Process: What does it mean?

To me this means to vary the instruction and assessment as much as possible to provide students with a variety of learning activities and assessments that will best meet the student’s needs. I have variety of methods I use to accomplish this, and have learned about many more through reading articles, blogs, and Tweets during this past week. I now have many more tools I can use to really differentiate the learning process better. I am excited to work with a group to create lesson or activity to better differentiate the learning process.

I have a very diverse group of learners so my goal regarding this question is to give students as many choices as possible to guide their own learning. I have started this by giving students choices when doing bigger projects such as a solar system project my 6th graders recently did, and an energy project for my 8th graders. I am still working on giving students more choices in smaller learning activities; centers may work well for me. Getting time to develop and test new ideas is my biggest enemy.

Here are a few of the other strategies I use to differentiate the process:

I-can statements/ Learning Targets/ Goal Setting

Choral Response

White boards

Promethean board/ Activotes

Video Clips/ Brain Pop

Popsicle sticks for picking students randomly

Some Kagan strategies such as think-pair-share

This week I have contributed to my PLN moderately. I have read a few blogs and responded to a few; which is very informative and thought provoking. I participated in the Twitter Feed. I also started participating in a new group for differentiating the process, though I haven’t shared much yet. I hope to really kick it into gear this week and read more blogs and find good resources to share on Twitter.

Take – Aways

What are your overall take-aways from the methods/tools that you might use to differentiate the classroom environment (for teacher productivity and student progression)? Which of these may you use in your classroom in the future?

There are so many tools and resources that I have started to explore and use that my mind is still spinning; in a good way. I see a huge potential to use many of these tools and methods to differentiate the classroom environment. The tools that I have been starting to use to gather data about my students to help differentiate better are Google Form surveys and quizzes and Activote quizzes. Students really enjoy using these tools and seem to really put forth their best effort for the most part when taking the quizzes or surveys. Edmodo and Survey Monkey are other resources that I have been researching, and have used to take surveys and quizzes myself. In my opinion the biggest benefit of using these online survey and quiz/test generating tools is that the data can be easily analyzed and feedback can be very easily done as well.

Online videos and tutorials such as Khan Academy, YouTube, Math Playground, and BrainPop give students access to another learning tool giving students another opportunity to learn the concept or get more practice. Online tutorial tools, or just content such as or for my physical science students help students learn at their own rate. I have used many of these resources and have started to match many of the tools to the lessons I teach on my school website for students to explore if they miss class.

I have been researching and playing around with using Evernote, Dropbox, as well as Google Drive to help students manage and share their work, and for teachers to assign work and give feedback. I have not used these resources yet, but I’m proposing to my administration a plan to do so. I will use these resources, but to what extent it is hard to say, as I have limited access to computers for all of my students at this time. I need to help educate my fellow teachers and my administration that our school server is not as effective as these online tools because the students at this time can only access their work at school. Students having access to their work from any internet accessible location is a huge benefit for students especially if a student goes on an extended vacation. The students could still retrieve assignments, turn them in, get feedback and make corrections if need be.

There are other tools I am looking into as well that have to do with monitoring student’s behavior like Class Dojo. I see this being useful for differentiating instruction because you can keep track of things like when a student is obviously frustrated or having that ha ha moment, or when students are engaged or not. If a student is not engaged or is frustrate or bored that could be a sign that the instruction is not appropriate.

This week I have tried to strengthen my PLN by being more active in the following ways: Reading and responding to a couple blogs a day, though I didn’t every day. Participated with my Wiki group in completing the first group assignment, which I feel turned out really well. Joined the Twitter feed and contributed a few resources and comments. I also helped start an Edmodo group at my school and participated in that by offering resources and ideas. I feel this whole MOOC experience is very beneficial and is helping me become more organized while gaining a vast tool box of resources. I did review the short article about the dark side of MOOC’s and do agree there are some possible draw backs, but for motivated learners that are willing to try new things I think it is a great structure for learning and gaining resources. 

Week 4 Essential Question

How can I use tools “in the cloud” to easily manage and deliver feedback to my students?

This week I have discovered many new cloud tools to manage and deliver feedback to my students, and I very impressed with what is out there.  At the beginning of week I was pretty negative about using cloud applications because I have such limited access to computers for my students, but I’m starting to see how cloud services could be utilized very effectively even if students can’t get on the internet every day. Using tools like gives students to ability to save documents and other media online and share those materials with anyone the student chooses. I also downloaded DropVox and experimented with it a little. Giving students verbal feedback is a very powerful feedback tool in my opinion. Although I don’t know that I would be able to give good verbal feedback to all 125 of my students on a regular basis. Although I can see this as being a good way to give feedback to groups as they are working on projects, especially in giving pointers on ways to keep the groups communicating with one another.

After reading articles and watching some of informational videos about Evernote I am excited to start using this tool with my students. There are many different opportunities for students to share work and for teachers to share work using this resource. Evernote also has a family of apps that give students and teachers many resources to enrich the learning experience even further. I would use this tool have students save and share their work. Some of my colleagues are starting to use this tool as well, and have good things to say about it.

I did review some the other cloud tools such as oncloud, and School Circuit. These tools seem to be great tools as well; I just need to focus on a couple of tools at a time to really learn about their usefulness. We currently use a Cloud based grade reporting service called i-Cue. Through this tool we have the ability to manage formative and summative assessments, as well as give written feedback about assessments. Parents and students can also access this cloud tool through the internet and see their child’s grades.

I have a serious quest now to push for 1:1 computing at my school or at least 1:1 ipads. At the Middle School level these tools could really engage students more in their own learning process.

Reflecting on this week’s learning experience:

I have not quite reached my learning goals this week, too many unforeseen time constraints. I did research a few new cloud tools and attempted to use some of them with some success, such as the tools mentioned previously. Finding time to read blogs and to respond was challenging, so I was only able to post blog responses to the people working in my Wiki project. I did participate in the Twitter discussion and also added more resources to Diigo archive. I have been working on the wiki project and trying to stay active in my participation. I am excited that our group is focusing on an issue that I feel is important; helping students overcome anxiety in math. I was planning on meeting this weeks challenge and constructing a tutorial relating to the essential question, as I know by teaching others more is learned, but ti just didn’t happen.


I decided to refine my goals to help focus my energy and time better.


  1. Gain, organize and use technology resources to improve instruction, engage learners, and help students effectively use various technology tools.
  2. Effectively work with my PLN to complete assignments/ projects, as well as contribute ideas and resources through the various communication tools we are using such as Twitter.
  3. Keep my blog updated, and read and respond to other blogs on a weekly basis.



Essential Question 3

What technology tools can I use to manage and track differentiated student progress in my class?

I love this question as it has revitalized for me the importance of having students take ownership in their learning by tracking their own progress. I do currently use binders as portfolios in which students organizer their work and most importantly keep track of their learning goals using learning targets or I-can checklists in which students analysis and record their current understanding of the different learning goals by marking how well they understand the concepts. This process does work well for many, but does not really engage all students and unfortunately even with my constant nagging many students do not take ownership in this process. Hopefully I will be able to incorporate some of these new tools to increase buy in. 

There are many other technology tools I as a teacher can and do use to track student progress in my class. One way is to have students use the Activotes to answer questions in preparation for a summative assessment. This tells me a lot of information immediately about how well the whole class is doing on a concept, and I can look at individual students to see what areas they need help in. Using spreadsheets is another useful tool that I have used to break down Map test data in which students can be taught in small groups using mini lessons. This is especially helpful when teaching math concepts in a multi-age classroom.

Many of the various technology tools I have researched and article I have read lead me to believe these tools have the potential to really engage students in their own learning process, especially in a perfect world were students have reliable and routine access to computers. One tool that caught my attention was the use of a free web based note taking tool that has been used as a cloud based portfolio effectively. This allows students to save documents, videos, pictures, as well as share their works. I have begun using this resource for my personal use and really like it so far, although I have not used it to its full potential. Web tools such as  and  are other tools I have been playing around with to use to manage and track differentiated student progress.

There are so many other resources to use to answer this question that I am feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. I will be focusing on using the resources I have available, because it is not realistic for me to use many of the web based tools since I do not have i-pads or 1:1 computing.

This week I have not done enough to increase my PLN the way I was hoping. I have commented on a few blogs, participated in the Twitter feed and spend some time participating in the Wiki assignment. My group did start a Wiggio group to work on the Wiki project so I am excited to see how that works out.


Essential Question 2/ Reflection

What tools might provide me insight into the learners in my classroom and how might I use this information?

This is just the beginning of my response to this question, as I will inevitably find more tools to help me understand my students better. What I currently do to gain initial insight into my students learning styles, interests, and intelligence strengths and weaknesses is to give them a paper pencil survey that I have created. I also conference with students and have periodically had students take online surveys for learning modalities.

Reflecting on this question I feel I have not been gathering an adequate amount of data about my students. When I taught Elementary students I used these types of information gathering tools much more than I currently do at the Middle School level. I have found many online tools and resources as well as articles related to understanding students better, which are listed at the bottom of this response. I am amazed at the enormous amount of resources available, the structure of this class really is providing more resources and ideas than I thought possible.

Surveys and similar tools are obvious tools to gain insight into my students. I have found numerous online surveys and survey creating websites such as to obtain information about students. I feel that teacher created surveys may often obtain more relevant information for concerning the teacher’s needs. Learning modality surveys I feel are very important because for example teachers may have a group of students that are more auditory learners because they come from a culture that values storytelling or visual because they are taught by their elders how to do things by watching.

Multiple intelligence data is very important to gather using: surveys, observations, conferences, etc… I believe every child has strengths in at least one intelligence and when we understand those strengths we can possibly build on them; possibly even strengthen some of the child’s weaknesses. To be fair to students we need to give them multiple avenues to demonstrate mastery.

Interest surveys are a great way to understand students better and to develop instruction that will motivate students to be engaged. There are many ways to teach many seemingly dry concepts by developing lessons that capture a student’s interest, especially when the instruction is culturally relevant.

Personality surveys are another tool that gives teachers information about student’s idiosyncrasies that can again help teachers to design instruction that is interesting and engaging for students. For older students I have used career surveys that helps students understand what learning paths they may be interested in, and can help teachers to design engaging instruction.

Using learning targets based on state standards where students reflect on their learning by filling out checklist with columns to check if they have mastered, are still working on, or have no knowledge is a very effective way for me to see how students. Using learning targets that students self assess really helps me to plan instruction as well.

Data from all these different sources helps me to differentiate instruction better, especially when my students have access to computers.

This week I have contributed by adding to the Wiki page, posting a few blog responses though not enough, participated in and checked the #diffimooc Twitter feed. I need to work on reading more research and related articles and contributing more articles.

 Some links I found interesting.

Learning styles

 Multiple Intelligence

 Personality Types

 Career Surveys

 Learning Targets/ Formative and Summative Assessment