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Module #4, Part II - Learner Differences

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BC: Hope you enjoyed the presentation. Signing off.... Jillian :-)

FC: Learner Differences Module #4, Part II By Jillian Franciscovich

1: One way to handle learner differences is to "track" the students. This puts students with similar abilities in the same classroom. My elementary school was organized in this fashion for reading and math class starting in | fourth grade. You were sent to a certain level class depending on your teacher's evaluation of your skills. ADVANTAGES: -Teacher can move at a pace appropriate for that class' needs. -Teacher can spend less time differentiating for different levels and focus on making dynamic lessons on one level. DISADVANTAGES: -Lack of opportunities for scaffolding amongst students. -Students may get "stuck" in a certain track, not leaving opportunities for growth. -Students may only see themselves as the "track" in which they were placed, negatively affecting their self-esteem.

2: Another way to battle learner differences is to break a group into two or three groups in order to meet the needs of each level of students. This can be accom-plished by organiz-ing literature circles by ability. | ADVANTAGES -Students can be regrouped appro-priately per subject. -There is still aca-demic diveristy within the classroom. -Pacing/Difficulty can match the needs of students. | DISADVANTAGES -Teacher needs to coordinate three lessons leaving less time for student/ teacher interaction. -Students may negatively react to their grouping. -Lack of scaffold-ing within groupings.

3: age restrictions. -Teachers can focus lessons on the interests and needs of like-minded students. DISADVANTAGES -disconnect in socialization opportunities because of various ages. -Emotional levels vary. | The third choice offered to deal with learner differences is to group the students by subject, not age. The idea involves a multi-age classroom. ADVANTAGES -Students are not confined by traditional

4: Which of these scenarios would be best with respect to appropriate and meaningful integration of technology for differentiation and why? Technology could really be used in each of these situations effectively. The technology would be most useful to the teachers who are trying to coordinate multiple lessons at the same time (in scenarios 2 & 3). The technology could become the focus and motivation, as opposed to the teacher. Since the teacher cannot morph into three or more beings, this refocus away from him/her would be greatly appreciated. The technology could be used to extend as well as reinforce concepts being taught. | Technology Examples: -Webquests of varying difficulty could be assigned, allowing students to study a similar subject but with varying difficulty/pace. -Children could be assigned individual or small group projects that involve the use of video, podcasts, web 2.0 tools, etc. Depending on ability, the students could use the technology to create smaller to larger projects involving more or less difficulty according to learning ability and motivation. -ipods could be used to lead students through various leveled literature if the teacher is unable to meet with that specific group.

5: In the article "Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education" by Mark Smith it says, "People have a unique blend of intelligences." Our biggest challenge is how are we going to take advantage of that uniqueness? I enjoy the academic diversity of my class, even though the diversity makes it feel as though I am the queen of multi-tasking each and every day. It is through learning as a dynamic group that we press forward and foster growth in one another. I do feel some sympathy for the students who are at the extremes of the "intelligence" spectrum according to traditional standards. They are either dying to go ahead of us or struggling to stay afloat. Yet, there is nothing more rewarding than watching a student finally "get it" and then patiently sit with another peer and teach them successfully what they have just acquired or constructed as knowledge. The same article outlines how Howard Gardner always encouraged teachers to think outside of the box and find more creative ways to reach the variety of learners in their classrooms. The idea of creating false mini-environments filled with students of similar intelligence is convenient, but very unlike the world outside the classroom. Instead the article suggests that we should look for ways to attend to all of our styles of learning, spend more time on the content we deem important, assess in various ways and encourage our students to make the world a better place.

6: When I took the "Multiple Intelligences" survey, I was not surprised by the findings. I was a pretty well-rounded individual. I think this is why I wanted to teach elementary school, since I really could never decide what was my favorite subject. By teaching the younger children, I get to touch on all of the subjects rather than specializing in one or two. On the other hand, when administering any of the standard intelligence tests such as the Stanford-Binet, it is a very narrow measure of one's abilities in attention, memory and verbal skills. It is a quick and inexpensive way to gauge someone's ability to perform in a tradtional classroom. What place does a test such as this have in the classrooms of the future? Does it truly reflect who I am ? I found the field dependence/independence cognitive styles interesting. The independent style was obviously the traditional learner/teaching style. I think that the majority of my students, including me, would fit into the field dependent style of learning. Especially at the age I teach, fourth grade, the social learning plays such an important role. I think this style of "global learners" thrive in a diverse classroom, not a "tracked" more homogeneous room. As the children discover through group learning in a "global classroom" (Field Dependnce/Independence Website) they inspire and scaffold one another towards a better understanding of the material at hand. Technology plays a role by enhancing the learning environment, motivating the participants and helping to structure and organize the learning.

7: In the Learning Styles - Utilize Your Potential Powerpoint, the writers annouce that there are no good or bad learning styles. It is important for people to be knowledgeable of their personal learning styles so that they can manage their own learning effectively. Most people are unaware of their learning style strengths and weaknesses. This profile takes into account one's preferences physiologically, environmentally, and socially. Each plays a role in making one's optimal learning environment. I am always explaining to the students that there are many ways to study, for example. I always point out my favorite ways, with the disclaimer that my way is not the only way. I also point out the ways that have worked for my friends and former students. I find myself often repeating how amazed I am at how diverse our minds are and encouraging the kids to find what works best for them. Our goal as teachers is to encourage the diversity we find in our students. We can highlight strengths, help diminish weaknesses and encourage the love of learning. Technology is an important tool for this journey. It is a dynamic force that draws the attention of learners and motivates them to pursue knowledge. It is also a valuable tool to deepen learning through various formats that allow students to organize, present and reflect on their work.

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  • By: Jillian F.
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