Tonight, in fact every Sunday night, at 8 PM EST a group of educators meet on the social network site Twitter to engage in conversation. #21stedchat is the stream used in Twitter to discuss topics relevant to 21st century learners and teachers, bring educators from around the globe together to collaborate and build PLN’s. This week, the discussion topic was “Differentiation in the 21st Century Classroom”.
Differentiation is a loaded term in the education world. What exactly does differentiation mean? The definition among a majority of people is hazy and it is often seen under a bad light; a light that portrays differentiation as an exorbitant amount of work. This is not to say that this is inaccurate, differentiation is not a small feat especially for those who have large classrooms or classrooms with more needs than the standard room might have.
I can tell you, that from my experiences as a student teacher differentiation is not easy. However, it is something that I have made a goal to work towards achieving in my classrooms early on. I think that because it is not necessarily a natural thought, it is important as a teacher to make note of individual students needs directly in your lesson plans to allow yourself to stay cognizant of the needs in your classroom. Thankfully, I have zero behaviour issues but cognitively I definitely have some weaker students. I have been able to engage the class in activities which has allowed me to pay closer attention to my “Special Four” or mix my stronger and weaker students to allow for peer collaboration. I think that differentiation is involved in both methods, it’s implementation is just different in each.
This is where the idea of differentiation becomes murky. There is no set definition for differentiation and what works in one room, is by no stretch of the imagination, guaranteed to work in another. However, this is what makes it extremely fun! It requires you to build authentic relationships with your students. Authenticity in the classroom, allows you to better recognize your students needs, differentiate learning and as a result promote higher level thinking among students.
I thoroughly enjoy connecting with other educators, many with more experience than I have to discuss topics that are relevant in today’s classroom. I highly recommend all educators check out #21stedchat and the many other chat streams available on Twitter. This promotes dialogue with experts in the field and the building of your PLN; let’s face it as teachers we are forever learning and this is one easy, engaging way to do so!
Until next time,