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1:1 Technology: The Ultimate Differentiation Tool
Author: Mark Pullen | January 11th, 2012

Of the many benefits to having 1:1 technology in the classroom, the single greatest advantage is the opportunity it provides for increased differentiation. Students can receive instruction that is personalized to meet their needs, and the tasks they are asked to complete can be differentiated or even individualized as well. As Carol Ann Tomlinson and others have noted for more than a decade, students’ classroom instruction should be differentiated based on their readiness levels and interests. 1:1 technology can make that happen.

Differentiation By Readiness: Even without 1:1 technology, differentiation in language arts is reasonably common (such as through Guided Reading groups where like-ability groups of students read books of appropriate difficulty), but differentiation in content areas like science, social studies, and math has been rare. In those subjects, students have historically been required to move through a textbook in lockstep fashion.

1:1 technology offers teachers the flexibility to provide students with individualized instruction (through teacher-created videos, existing online videos, or online, interactive activities and tutorials). It also allows teachers to assign differentiated tasks and assessments to various students through sites like quia.com or IXL.com. The power of 1:1 to differentiate instruction to meet students’ readiness levels is so vast that on December 7, 2011, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents actually recommended doing away with grade levels entirely, allowing students instead to move through material at their own pace. This type of student-centered differentiation is only possible with 1:1 technology.

Differentiation By Interest: An important but less commonly discussed form of differentiation involves differentiating student work based on interest. In reading, once again, this is doable even without technology: for example, we can allow students to self-select books when working in literature circles. Adapting to students’ various interests in areas like science or social studies, however, has generally not even been a consideration in many classrooms.

Again, 1:1 technology changes all that. Students can access a nearly unlimited array of information, commentary, and even primary sources with a simple Google search. Even when forced by a state curriculum to teach a specific topic, such as the Civil War, teachers can allow students to research that topic through the lens that interests them the most: slavery, rural vs. urban life, women’s rights, U.S. politics, weaponry, and so on. Similarly, an elementary school biography project no longer needs to be about one of the 50 people about which the school library actually has books; now, students can research the life and times of nearly anyone they find inspiring, no matter how obscure.

Different students deserve different instruction based on their abilities and interests. 1:1 technology allows that to happen more effectively than ever before.

Mark Pullen, 1:1 classroom teacher, on behalf of Worth Ave. Group. Worth Ave Group provides laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance to schools and universities. They have been insuring schools since 1971.

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