Saturday, June 18, 2011

Are we helping our students learn when we differentiate their products?

My UDL and DI assignments have made me begin to struggle with this question: "When is it appropriate to Differentiate, and when isn't it?"

The problem I see, is that if we differentiate product, such as, a student who has a writing disability is allowed to sketch out a cartoon instead of writing a short story for a short story writing assignment. In this case, he is still able to show what he has learned from the unit but would be presenting it in a different format, therefore, his product would have been different from the rest of the class. However, how does this help him learn to write? Should we really be changing things to suite students 'needs' by not making them practice how to do something? I wonder if what the student really needs is a shorter, more condensed assignment which forces them to practice their writing skills because how else will they get better if they don't practice?

I almost feel like if you differentiate the product for a student then he/she will not get the practice he needs in order to do well and whatever issues he is having. If we don't make kids practice things I find if very unlikely that they will practice on their own; when they are not 'forced' to. 

This is not to say that I believe in forcing students to do something they can't, but I don't see how we can be helping them succeed when we are 'cutting corners' for them so that they can still do well in our course.

I guess the point is that you should not always differentiate the product for a student who has issues in one area, instead, you should differentiate sometimes when it is most appropriate for the student. Also, if you work with the student's strengths, they are more likely to get a good grade and get that extra confidence boost that they might need on the next project in which they may have to practice their weakness. Or, you could always require a student to practice something they are not good at in a project but mix that in with their strength and perhaps weigh their strength more in marking. For example:

Stephen has a hard to expressing himself in writing, however, he is very social and enjoys giving presentation.
The final assignment for a Novel Study Unit is to write a newspaper full of articles about the occurrences in the story.
Since Stephen is stronger in his verbal skills than his written skills, the teacher has allowed him to create a television news cast which discusses the important events in the novel as if they were really happening. Stephen must also hand in his notes for each broadcast for marks.

Total Assignment: 40 marks

Draft (Notes): 5 marks
Information Given: 20 marks
Creativity: 5 marks
Engagement: 5 marks
Expression: 5 marks

In this example, the draft is only worth 5 marks, where as, in the Newspaper Assignment the Draft of the newspaper might be work 10 or 15 marks. 

Smart Boards:

I have only seen a smart board here at UVic but we were finally able to see them in action. Some highlights of the smart board: Colour, Interactive, Touch Screen, Games, Magic Pen (which can hide things, zoom in, have a spot light) and it can transfer bad chalk board writing in to text (which is a must have for me). However, I felt that I didn't learn as much as I would have if I actually had the program in front of me so that I, too, could interact with the smart board. Watching her present just wasn't the best way for me to learn. 

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