Element 4 – Differentiation

Differentiation refers to the strategies employed within the classroom in order to embrace the great diversity that teachers face on a daily basis. The opportunity to allow for educational provision for those dealing with learning difficulties or other imposing circumstances is very important and therefore a solid knowledge and understanding in this area of pedagogy is key to a successful classroom (Sage, 2007).

With the implementation of contemporary teaching methods it brings the understanding that a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy is not the best option. This leaves educators with the challenge of identifying students, modifying tasks and subsequently employing strategies for dealing with differentiation (Resources, 2015). Identifying students who require differentiated learning can be difficult as they can range from dealing with cognitive issues and special education needs to additional issues derived from home (culture/race), gender or generalised learning styles and preferences (NSW, 2012).

With the aim of identifying students’ needs as a high priority, the easiest way to do so is by knowing your students and having a great rapport with them. This will enable you to seek their learning styles and feel comfortable asking them about how they like to learn (Education, 2015). Alternatively, one could use diagnostic tools as an aide, such as the questionnaire created previously in this course. However, instead of basing it on prior knowledge, it could be formulated around learning styles or similar.

As the introduction of positive differentiation enters schools, it brings the negative aspects where teachers are unsure of how to differentiate their instruction without it taking away from the actual lesson. Time is certainly a difficulty associated by teachers with this strategy as it requires extra time to individual modify and adjust the classroom and learning to each student. It is also difficult as often schools want to reduce ‘differentiation’ from the point of view that everyone should learn together simultaneously and that there should be no ‘special considerations’ as the students can take that as an opportunity to complain or reduce productivity.

In order to overcome these issues, educators can employ different strategies depending on the learning need. This may just mean differentiating the delivery of content so visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners can all be included (NSW, 2012). It also could mean the teacher needs to provide vocabulary, develop individual goals in terms of their classwork and understanding or provide extra materials (NSW, 2012). In some circumstances, it could require students to receive modified tasks for summative assessment where agreeable within the curriculum and the school.

Differentiation may take extra time and effort on the educator but the rewards are endless. Not only does it provide opportunity for new learning and classroom styles such as collaborative tasks, project (ongoing assessment) or even a more independent style of learning, it allows students to progress further and hold a greater understanding of the topic at hand. In turn, this also boosts students’ motivation as they feel as though their achievement is increasing and therefore hand in a higher quality of work.

In my future classroom, I would endeavour to provide the most quality education for every single student in the room. Whatever I could do to ensure this happens would be high on my list of things to do. An example of this would be if a student in my classroom had an issue with auditory learning and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s’ disorder, I would make sure that I provided all students with written materials and access to the computer work. Similarly, I would ensure that in a group project situation that the students were required to submit written documentation so that he/she would be able to be involved in that process and also continuously understand the task and the groups’ plans at the same time.

To cater for the individual in a room of 25 other students is certainly a challenge, however I believe that is what our job is. As an educator, it is ultimately our responsibility to create a learning environment where every student does just that. If someone is failing to learn, I would feel as though I am not doing my job. There are many frameworks available to ensure that teachers have guidance when modifying their strategies and subsequently employing those in the classroom. I look forward to the future where I can continue to build my own skills in differentiated learning to create the best possible classroom environment I can and aide my students in succeeding to their full potential.

Tahlia.

References

Education, Q. (2015). Teaching and Learning. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Managing Learning for Diversity: http://education.qld.gov.au/staff/learning/diversity/teaching/teaching.html

NSW, B. o. (2012). Differentiated Programming. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Support Materials: http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/differentiated-programming/

Resources, U. C. (2015). Course Resources – EDS4406.

Sage, R. (2007). Inclusion in Schools – Making a Difference (2 ed.). New York: Network Continuum Education. Retrieved October 22, 2015

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Element 1 – Revisiting Your Professional Identity

Revisiting the past semester proved to be a learning curve in itself as I realised the changes that had been made within myself and my philosophy for learning and teaching. I still believe that being a capable technology teacher is an opportunity to change many lives for the better, in a way that other subject areas may not be able to. Technology is an area for creativity and possibility – things which students have limited engagement with in today’s strict educational society. I also continue to believe that in doing so, students will be moved to innovate and grow in their own personal strengths which will in turn benefit themselves and our future generations.

Throughout this course (EDS4406), I have been able to develop my professional identity through my lecturers, their advice and resources provided to us. I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘real life’ feel of this course and I feel that it has been one of the more helpful that I have done in my degree for that reason. Within the computing education, I have learnt that there is many responsibilities that I hold to ensure that the curriculum is expressed accurately. I have also appreciated the links to professional bodies which aid in developing our knowledge and skills in many areas. I have since joined the QSITE organisation and TES Australia which have proved very helpful already and am grateful for this. I look forward to completing future professional development with them. I have enjoyed learning different solutions to maintaining our currency as educators.

With the challenges that arise in the classroom, my favourite artefact that was self-created during the semester was the diagnostic test in Assessment 1. I had never thought deeply about how to draw prior knowledge from a group in an abstract or different way and this was an extremely beneficial exercise. It will be useful in many subject areas and it a great tool to observe, monitor and formatively assess a student and their progress throughout the term. I also enjoyed the thinking behind TPACK and how this can be used both in the planning and execution of our computing education classrooms. Until this course, I had often been confused by where TPACK was used, however this has since been clarified in Element 4 of the first assignment which is a great success.

Overall, this semester has truly been a great experience in many areas of my educational journey and I feel that the challenges and opportunities we have been granted are very worthwhile. Thankyou Richard and Jeremy for all your help and guidance!

Tahlia.

Element 3 – Unit Plan Analysis

Please find below my annotations for the unit plan analysis. I apologise for the few hour delay, I had difficulty getting the handwritten element here!

Assignment 1 – Element 3 – 15% – 24th August 2015 – TAHLIA BIRD

Annotations – PLEASE OPEN THIS FILE TO SEE WHERE THEY REFERENCE – Scan_Doc0014

  1. It may be a good idea to add the year group that this unit plan has been written for.
  2. If asked to teach this unit, I would begin with the Backwards Design Process – Assessment, Curriculum and Pedagogy. Therefore with this unit plan, I would start by looking at the final assessment piece for the topic to gauge an idea of what is expected of the students by the end of the term. It also aides me in knowing what I need to know at a basic level in order to sufficiently be able to teach. I would then go through the main part of the unit plan which looks at the syllabus requirements (found under ‘Dimensions and Objectives’). This outlines the factors which need to be understood and demonstrated and allow me to understand what will be looked for in terms of monitoring and/or verification (Year 11/12). Finally, I would then look at the brief term plan and begin to work out the lessons for the term ahead. In doing it via these three steps I believe that I cover all bases and enable myself to have the best understanding of the unit that is possible. (For the purpose of these annotations I will work from front to back of the unit plan).
  3. The time length listed gives me an indication of how long it is expected for students to fully grasp and show evidence of their understanding of the topic. Aligned with the time line given on the assessment criteria sheet, I can work out how long it is suggested for the explicit teaching time to occur and thus how much detail I need to go into.
  4. The first two paragraphs in this box refer to the act of understanding the Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) required by the students – therefore, in teaching this unit, it is vital for me to be able to have a deeper understanding than the students so that troubleshooting and general class practices occur smoothly.
  5. It mentions here about the use of examples, which indicates the level of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) required by educators teaching this unit plan. To be able to use examples to enhance communication levels and aide clarity amongst the learners takes a dedicated level of both pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge in the area. In doing so a teacher is able to take general subject matter and change it to something that is simple to understand. It also allows students to have a more personalised learning experience as they are provided with material tailored to their learning ability and style.
  6. The Design and Development section shows a clear level of TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) required by the teaching staff in this context. It requires staff to be able to analysis, synthesis and solve solutions in a troubleshooting means in order to enhance the creativity and productivity of students. I would be ensuring that I gain advice and personally complete many aspects of the unit in order to be proficient enough to teach it.
  7. Similarly to annotation 6, the implementation and evaluation of this unit outline requires sufficient skills of the teacher to be able to aid refinement and evaluation of the piece, or web development in this context. If there are professional development courses available, I would take these. Alternatively, asking other teaching staff, previous mentors or networking contacts for advice or assistance would be the next best option. Finally, to gain the most assistance required try finding online tutorials.
  8. The ‘Theory and Techniques’ area outlines a more ‘classroom level’ approach to the unit plan and suggests editing and design software which could/should be used. The first issue that would require review upon receiving this unit plan is the resources available at the school. If these suggested Adobe programs are available, it is then up to the teacher to ensure they are capable of teaching others the program and have sufficient competence doing so. This area requires TK (Technological Knowledge) to a high degree and would require many hours of extra time by the teacher to ensure they are prepared.
  9. These areas require TCK on the teaching staff, as one who is capable of teaching this unit requires the ability to understand current trends, and the general workings behind web design. The application of things such as HTML and CSS files are areas which require work before teaching and large amounts of preparation.
  10. The DDE cycle is something that requires all areas of knowledge (TPACK) to be able to aid students in designing, developing and evaluating all the different tasks as listed in the unit plan (eg. greyboxes, web, CIPP evaluations).
  11. The problem solving processes required throughout the use of this unit plan are quite extensive. I would initially create a list of what I would like to be resultant from the brainstorming activity in the case of any blank minds that may occur. Secondly, I would then create a timeline that I would like all of the students to be following including the smaller deadlines of different assessment elements. I would also go through and look at examples or create my own for each of the elements so that you are prepared with something to be able to reference in the classroom. This requires TPACK throughout and will involve a great amount of detail by the teacher.
  12. The application and use of CARP and CIPP during the unit requires PCK on the teachers behalf. Both are processes used within the ITS course – one for design and the other for evaluation. In order to be able to use these appropriately, the teacher must refresh themselves and feel confident in teaching them.
  13. TCK is required in the steps indicated on the unit plan. This area involves the actual development using the technological software and content knowledge. As the teacher, it is vital that you are proficient in understanding the steps that the children are learning. In addition to this, you should have the ability to troubleshoot any queries they have as this is inevitable.
  14. The project management sections of the unit outline show the technological knowledge involved in creating a Gantt chart, recording progress and using timelines.
  15. The social and ethical issues area is highly based around CK (content knowledge) of the relevant copyright and legal issues, and other trends which need to be addressed during the class. This should be noted and therefore, students will need to receive that information from their teacher. If you are unsure of what these are, it may be a good idea to ask other staff members or IT contacts you have.
  16. Throughout the context of these learning experiences, TPACK and all of its sub-categories are required. For example, investigating and using software requires a high amount of TCK but developing a basic understanding of copyright and intellectual property issues requires PCK. All areas of these are vital for a successful unit plan. As the teacher, I would approach this by reading through each learning experience, and further noting every different area I needed to work on, prior to the commencement of the topic. By doing so, there will be no ‘surprises’ appear when teaching the unit and therefore it will run smoothly.
  17. The assessment category outlines the basics of the project or task students must undertake to pass this topic. It is vital that the educator understands the assessment task and how to do every task within it. Examples could be collected from past teachers or other mentors to aid your personal learning and that of the children also.
  18. This area is a basic term plan of what to do in each lesson of each week. Personally I would recreate this for myself in a more clear way with further details. This can be used as a guide, especially if you have never taught the unit before.
  19. Although the task sheet is generally created for the benefit of the students, this assessment guide could become very helpful for teachers who are new to the unit. Plan ahead and read through all of the steps. Challenge yourself to complete the assignment to and it will aid you in being able to teach it better. All areas of TPACK are required to teach this appropriately.

Element 2 – Diagnostic Test

Assignment 1 – Element 2 – 15% – 24th August 2015 – TAHLIA BIRD

The second element to our assignment for EDS4406 was to create a diagnostic tool to be completed by students when considering studying in I.T. in their senior studies. The following test would be an online test/survey however for the purpose of this element, I have attached a .pdf copy of the survey. You can see that here (Click the link >  SurveyMonkey_68214362 (1) ) Feel free to have a look at this yourself.

The following assessment continuum can be used to analyse the group of students and make further recommendations for their future I.T. studies.

Assessment Marking Criteria  

 

15-14

 

 

13-11

 

 

10-8

 

 

7-4

 

 

3-0

This rubric shows the current level of skill and understanding which students have prior to ITS study commencement A very comprehensive knowledge and understanding of IT topics, vocabulary and situations with no errors. The student does not require further extra-curricular assistance. A comprehensive knowledge and understanding of IT topics, vocabulary and situations with limited errors. The student does not require further extra-curricular assistance. A foundational knowledge and understanding of IT topics, vocabulary and situations with some errors. The student could benefit from some extra-curricular assistance. A basic knowledge and understanding of IT topics, vocabulary and situations with errors. The student requires extra-curricular assistance. Limited knowledge and understanding of IT topics, vocabulary and situations with a large portion of errors. The student requires extra-curricular assistance.

Element 1 – What Does It Mean to be a Computing Specialist Teacher?

Assignment 1 – Element 1 – 10% – 24th August 2015 – TAHLIA BIRD

Throughout my tertiary journey, it has become clearer with each practical experience why education was the path I followed. Becoming a computing specialist teacher brings with it both moments of complete classroom success and those of seemed failure, usually due to the heavy reliance we hold on the technology we are using – the difference lies in how we work with these challenges. When analysing what it means to be a technology teacher and looking into further comparisons between the said discipline and other sectors, there are both similarities and differences.

To me personally, when I state that I will be trained in the area of technology, I feel a great sense of pride and passion. I believe that the ability to teach in the area of computer specialities allows you the chance to open the world of opportunity, creativity and endless possibility to your students. In the digital age that we live in, I feel it is vital for students to be able to engage with and explore the technology in a way that will assist them each and every day of their lives. As the computing specialist teacher I regard this opportunity to inspire a future generation to move towards growth and innovation to be one of high importance and look forward to my chance to do so.

The main difference between computing specialist teachers and other disciplinary areas is the content knowledge and understanding required to teach technology subjects. Each lesson revolves around an aspect of computing, so a high proficiency is key. Unfortunately during one of my professional experiences, my mentor was quite incapable at that stage to be teaching ITS due to limited content knowledge and a specialisation in a completely different field. Placed in the situation due to administration reasons, it made it difficult for both himself and the students. When I could offer assistance in some of the areas of learning, he was very appreciative.

This high level of understanding is key during computing classrooms as troubleshooting is a large percentage of your role when students are working through independent tasks, another significant dissimilarity between subject areas. An example of this for myself personally was during my own experience at highschool. Studying ITS in senior, I thoroughly appreciated my teacher who always had the philosophy that when problems arose in the classroom with the technology that it was nothing to stress over, merely a chance for all of us to learn something new as we fixed it. This process of collaborative learning is not as common in other teaching areas either which I believe is highly valuable and should be encouraged more.

Additionally, a difference that can be noted is that most other areas of teaching pose significantly less elements of change. Maintaining currency is a large area of difficulty as a technology teacher, due to the continual evolution of digital means. Therefore, being able to remain updated with technology will not only enable better, more relevant education, it will also aid in keeping students engaged. There are several methods of maintaining currency depending on personal opinion and how you like to learn. For myself, I have always appreciated a hands-on experience and therefore I aim to attend professional development sessions wherever possible. These can be found by looking at the QCAA website or organisations such as QSITE. QSITE and many other groups have emailing lists such as TES Australia which are also helpful. Blog posts are also helpful, as is the Learning Place a government initiative to have a common area for professional development to be shared.

Being a technology-based teacher is a unique opportunity and with the combination of all of the variances within our specialisation, it certainly makes for an interesting challenge.