Differentiated pedagogy to become the classroom norm

During a recent staff activity teachers were asked to consider what they admired about someone in the room.  Several colleagues told me that they admired the way I can work technology into my lessons or they admire what I can do with a computer. Although flattered, I was left thinking ‘There is a disconnect here…’.  I admit to being a champion of digital pedagogy but find I am continuously battling perceptions that I am a ‘computer expert’ or the ‘eLearning girl’ – as though this is a separate and special type of teacher.

People think I am doing a song and dance about how great computers are, when it is really about differentiating pedagogy. Isn’t that something that all educators should be singing and dancing about? Technology is now a given in the classroom. It is not an optional extra. Students expect technological engagement as part of their mainstream learning experience.

Face-to-face learning is excellent and is irreplaceable in a school environment. I am a firm advocate for blended learning, which provides the benefits of both face-to-face and digital learning.  This is becoming the new ‘normal’ when it comes to a delivery mode. The true power of blended learning is its ability to accommodate and encourage a range of pedagogies. Investigative learning works well in blended mode. Collaborative project work is also excellent in blended mode. The trendy ‘flipped classroom’ is simply blended delivery.

Student directed learning and blended learning are a love match. In my Year 10 ICT class today, a student said Miss, I have a problem. The robot keeps bumping into the table and knocking it over.I replied ‘Yes, that is a problem, so talk with your partner and find out why that is happening, then let me know.’ I didn’t supply a solution.  That student then went to their group and they came up with an innovative way to achieve their goal. There is a misconception that a teacher is not actually teaching in a student directed learning environment.  Not true. The teacher is actually facilitating the learning – which is the heart of teaching – through a series of micro-lessons that are delivered directly to individual students when they realise they have a need of more knowledge. I acknowledge that students with seemingly open-ended control over their outcomes introduce an element of risk for teachers and it does require a strategic shift in the way teachers think about how to interact with students.

Year 10 ICT – Robotics, 2014 – SDSHS

I work in a 1:1 environment in the majority of my classes. Every student has a device, either a laptop or a tablet. I saw a YouTube clip recently titled ‘Look Up.’ It was about how people are constantly on their devices and are missing what is going on around them. Boo to that! Our students were born in a digital age and they are the maestros of multitasking. When I am talking about a topic in one of my lessons and students have their eyes down on their tablets, I can almost guarantee that they are either taking their own notes or researching the topic. Think about it: a student can’t quite get their head around what you are teaching and they take the initiative to source more information on it themselves. Who loses in this scenario? Sure, there is always a risk of students going off-task and the solution to this is to have good behaviour management strategies in place. BD (before devices) students were writing notes to each other, doodling in their books and thinking about the next lunch break.

Year 8 English – Immerse IT, 2014 – SDSHS

This is a wonderfully exciting era for teachers. We no longer have to deliver one-size-fits-all lessons. We can mix our pedagogies and differentiate to suit individual learners.