Digital technologies are making valuable contributions in the field of differentiated instruction.
Differentiated instruction: combining group activities with a personalised approach
Differentiated instruction is a teaching method whereby the materials and approach used are adapted to suit differences in learning abilities, background etc. within a single class. It is particularly useful for classes in which certain students have language difficulties, for example, or suffer from Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs*) and thus require specific teaching materials. Differentiated instruction has been widely and successfully used to help students showing poor academic performance, and typically involves collaboration in small groups, so that students can progress at their own pace, irrespective of their abilities. Differentiated instruction also involves adapting teaching content and workloads, using specific tools for specific purposes, and setting up small working groups whereby students can help each other.
Digital technologies for differentiated instruction
A number of experiments have been made using tablets to help students with not only learning disabilities but communication disabilities such as autism, some of which have yielded spectacular results.
The advantages of tablets in such learning situations are numerous:
- Students have the same technology tool at school and at home
- Easy, remote communication with the teacher.
- Access to a range of learning and writing aids.
- Easier and more seamless than working on a separate display and keyboard, particularly for students with visual-spatial learning difficulties. Less text on the screen.
- The touch-screen format is extremely effective for working on physical movement with children suffering from dyspraxia.
Electronic textbooks which can be used anywhere, at home or the classroom, are also useful for children who are housebound due to ill health, and generally are ideal for enabling students to learn at their own pace.
Digital technology for extra tutoring
Digital technologies can also be used to ensure continuity in the learning process outside school hours and for extra tutoring for students lagging behind. A report by the French government in 2010 revealed that use of digital teaching aids ensure continuity in the learning process, and could moreover help children with motor or sensory processing disorders.
In addition to the various initiatives and experiments undertaken by the teaching profession, software vendors have also been developing specific products for remote learning. For writing and general revision, there are a number of highly effective applications for tablets (with voice and handwriting recognition), such as Hatier’s MyBlee dictation app.
* SpLDs: a group of disorders characterised by inadequate development of specific academic, language, and speech skills, including reading disability (dyslexia), mathematics disability (dyscalculia), writing disability (dysgraphia) or dysphasia, a partial or complete impairment of the ability to communicate resulting from brain injury.
Ten Tips for Personalized Learning via Technology, on edutopia.org