Differentiation by ICT in Primary Education

ICT Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

Today in the 21st century, teachers like yourself are being recognised as catalysts of successful knowledge societies in which all citizens and businesses can maximise their ability to use ICT effectively. As teachers, having an inclusive classroom therefore is more than just a practice but a necessity. Society now demands that this occurs within our school and it means increasing the participation of children in cultures, curriculums and communities within our schools. Inclusion focuses on ensuring that every individual student’s learning need is catered for regardless of their backgrounds, culture, ethnic origin, gender, physical abilities or learning capabilities. From my own perspective, I understand that because I chose to work in this profession as an educator, a role that encompasses my desire to help other people learn, providing an inclusive classroom should only be an extension of my own good practice.

ICT is a vital tool for ensuring that inclusion actually happens. It has a long tradition of supporting students with SEN in the mainstream classroom and it enable students of all learning styles to work on the same level. The provisionality of ICT provides all the power of the computer to motivate, interest and enthuse, through the use of graphics, movement and sound in the same way for students without SEN. However, as a teacher you need to find alternative ways in which the students can interact with the computer.

Student capability development is for everyone so being able to differentiate within your classroom is important. It is about adapting resources to suit the needs of learners. Here are some steps to take.

Firstly, within your own classroom you have a number of well-established strategies in play. These are:

  • Tasks
  • Response
  • Support
  • Resource

Let me explain this further to you.

Task

Normally you would set different tasks or variations of tasks to students in your class. It can cover the same topic, however, the less able students may have more limited learning objectives or perhaps be able to address them in a similar way.

Response

In this way, the same task is set for all students but it can be completed in many different ways. Here you can encourage the most able students to produce responses that have more depth and are more complex, detailed or indeed wider-ranging than the less able students.

Support

In this situation, you may set the same task and expect the same sort of response from all students in you class, but the most able students are expected to manage their own learning to a certain extent. By doing this, you can provide more scaffolding for the less able students in the class.

Resource

This is a variation of the above strategy, but here the students’ work on the task is less dependent on scaffolding from you as a teacher. Your choice to use this strategy is dependent on whether students can work independently with the resources.

 

How does ICT provide differentiation?

All of the above strategies can take advantage of ICT as its features provide excellent support and resources for students.

Differentiation by Task

ICT can be used in the classroom for project-based learning and in this situation different students can be working on different aspects of the topic in their project. As a result, you can set project briefs suitable for particular students or groups.

Differentiation by Response

One of the prominent features of ICT is interactivity. This feature allows students to go beyond the basic learning objectives for the class as they make and test their own conjectures.

Differentiation by Support

As a teacher, you can support students in their understanding of topics by asking questions that probe into various aspects of topics or you can use the speed of ICT to switch between various resources such as video clips to help emphasise and clarify students’ responses if they struggle to understand something.

Differentiation by Resource

ICT can aid the teacher I preparation of a range of related resources in the same time that a single resource could be produced using manual methods.

 

How else does ICT provide inclusion?

ICT can provide ways in the classroom to either enhance, facilitate or communicate learning outcomes through:

  • Rich and engaging materials for learning – presentation using multimodal and multimedia features of ICT;
  • New forms of writing (e.g. speech recognition);
  • Augmented and Alternative Communication (ACC): “any means by which an individual can supplement or replace spoken communication.”

(Beauchamp,2012 p80)

Despite providing opportunities to different learners, the above points can be still challenging to you as a teacher. Florian (2004, p18-19 as cited in Beauchamp, 2012) states that these challenges may include the adaptions that teachers like yourself may have to make in order for learners to acquire or use the tools of technology. The use of ICT in the classroom dissolves those barriers to learning for all students as a result of its provisionality and interactivity.

Finally, by choosing the correct strategy for your students it is possible to enable effective inclusion to occur through differentiation. However, it requires a commitment from you to ensure that these options are used effectively. Remember, that ICT use should not be regarded as a tool for just the more able, or even the less able, but as tool for all students so that they will not only achieve their goals but also accomplish other possible expectations.

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