Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Differentiating Learning Opportunities

Learning is the interactions between students and content and how each affects the other. The practice of learning something occurs when a student is able to understand not only literal content but also the way that content affects him or her. Many confuse learning with a student’s ability to recite or to memorize content, but the student truly needs to be able to interact in a cognizant way with the content before true learning occurs.

I know that I learn best by interacting with content visually. I always have to make a chart or picture of something before I can truly “see” and understand it. By seeing a visual depiction of what I am supposed to learn, my brain truly begins to make the connections of understanding. I have come to the conclusion that I am a visual learner over time. I used to make lists in my notes when I would study for a test, but, now, looking back, I realize that I could picture those lists in my mind, and many times, I could remember something simply by remembering where it was on the page of my notes. I also used mnemonic devices as I learned. To this day, I remember that Thomas Hooker founded Connecticut by visualizing the “hook” “connecting.”

The teacher’s role in seeing learning as a true interaction is to be a catalyst for new ideas and activities that can be used to cultivate the learning within all learning styles. While I am a visual learner, others will be audio learners or kinetic or kinesthetic learners. All of us need differentiation in the provision of methods to interact with content. As a teacher, I am constantly trying to find different ways to present material to my students. I realize that in order to learn that which I desire them to learn, I must provide varied experiences.

Last semester, I provided a list of MENU items (My Educational Networking & Understanding) for students to complete. For each of the objectives for our course, I offered three different options/types of activities the students could complete. I also left a blank for suggestions for each. Some of the students came up with very creative ways to go about accomplishing particular objectives. I feel that they learned more from choosing interactions with which they were comfortable than what they would have learned if I had assigned the same thing for all.

As I see learning as a true interaction between content and students, there is no better connector than technology. With technology, students have a variety of ways that they can interact with even the same content. I might interact with a video from which I can acquire a true understanding of the objectives desired. Another student might do better by listening to someone else talk about the content. Technology can be the great leveler in education if used in a productive and meaningful way.