Sunday, November 14, 2010

Using Technology to Address Student Differences

Guest Blogger: Frank Worts

The university, faculty and students have invested much time and resources into technology as tools for better learning. After review of the Facility Planning Website, I have identified four areas that might lead to further faculty discussion and better differentiated learning for students.

Tomlinson (1995) describes differentiated instruction (DI) as “a flexible approach to teaching in which the teacher plans and carries out varied approaches to the content, the process, and/or the product in anticipation of and in response to student differences in readiness, interests, and learning need” (p. 10).

As I reviewed the material on the , four important issues caught my attention which might provide a framework for using technology to address student differences.

One is the importance of identifying the educational philosophy and methods of learning and teaching of a given department and instructors, before undertaking the discussion of technology. A technology plan can’t be planned in a vacuum;it needs the context for a proper vision to be defined (Brown & Lippincott, 2003).

Second, more and more learning is taking place outside of the physical classroom, especially in higher education. Thus, the meaning of “Classroom” must be defined not so much as a physical space but more of a learning continuum of physical to virtual space. It has to be something that is movable within the bounds of a traditional classroom space, but that seamlessly evolves to other spaces and virtual spaces where individuals continue the learning process. Thus information that is developed should be easily transported from any segment on this continuum.

Third, learning is more and more perceived of as an active, social, collaborative constructive process that requires learning tools that are portable and that encourage debate and discussion, incorporating real life data as well as theory into the learning process in synchronous and non-synchronous media.

Four, the level and number of actors with a say in the process make the planning process more important, and necessitate a broad grassroots continuous process with feedback based on data collected from real educational activities within the educational process. This last point fits nicely into the University’s focus on evaluation. As the NLII White Paper (2004) indicates, administration, faculty, students, facilities management, planning department, information technology, library, teaching and learning support, community, business leaders, and politicians should all be a part of the technology planning process.


Brown, M. B., & Lippincott, J. K. (2003). Learning spaces; More than meets the eye. Educause Quarterly, 1, 14-16.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1995). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. Do you have any more specific suggestions for using technology to address student differences, i.e. technology that you know can easily be used for that purpose, or you are merely suggesting a process to use to identify such technology?