Sunday, April 25, 2010


I as draw near the conclusion of my master’s program at Walden University, I feel personally empowered with the skills and knowledge necessary to identify emerging technologies that can have a positive, long-term impact in teaching and learning. I am confident in my ability to become a change leader at my school by influencing and leading the adoption of new and emerging technology that will transform our classrooms into 21st century learning environments. To stay abreast of emerging technologies available, I will use the 2009 Horizon Report (Johnson, Levine, Smith, & Smythe, 2009), which provides a detailed summary of emerging technologies to watch. The report details emerging technologies and timeframes for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, or creative applications.

My first plan of action as a change leader at my site is to form a technology leadership team that will be responsible for creating and implementing a 21st century vision for our school. The first emerging technology I would like to present for adoption consideration in the Quest Atlantis MUVE. This engaging online multi-user environment will support our school in successfully integrating these new technologies to their best potential and to engage our students in meaningful learning activities (role-plays, simulations, virtual apprenticeships, etc.) not previously possible in the classroom. Our goal is to foster dispositions that will inspire productive participation in the 21st century.

This generation of digital natives have been raised with unparalleled access to advanced technologies, including computers, the Internet, instant messaging, iPods, and video games. Research is starting to show that this generation may show higher levels of analytical thinking, team building, multitasking, global citizenship, and problem solving. It seems logical that learners in schools today differ from those in previous generations, simply based on the different activities in which they choose to fill their lives. The structure of many K-12 classrooms limits opportunities for students to engage meaningfully with information, thus positioning students as mere recorders of content rather than critical consumers and producers.

Video games are comprised of worlds where students have to solve problems. According to Deubel (2006), “An expert gamer has anything but a lazy mind. In fact, superior gaming has been linked to expert behaviors such as self-monitoring, pattern recognition, principled decision-making, qualitative thinking, and superior long- and short term memory” (p. 32). The multi-user virtual environments provide authentic learning experiences, which can increase student engagement and their depth of learning. Student work must have meaning. Students must be personally interested in the topic, make a connection between the academic task and the real world, and share their work with an audience outside the classroom (Lemke & Coughlin, 2009 p. 54).

Sharlett Gillard and Denice Bailey (2007) point out common obstacles in adopting new technologies, “Teachers need support specific to the technology they are planning to implement, and they need it when they are preparing to use the technology with their students” (p.88). The authors go on to say, “The level of support that educators receive as they are adopting and implementing new skills and knowledge significantly impacts the success rate” (p. 89). Quest Atlantis offers an extensive training and support system. Teachers are required to participate in a professional development class. There are also school coordinators and regional coordinators available for training and technical support.

Over the next year, the second emerging technology I plan to investigate further is the new iPad. In Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close, Walt Mossberg (2010) provides a detailed report on the capabilities and limitations of the newly released iPad. “It’s qualitatively different, a whole new type of computer that, through a simple interface, can run more-sophisticated, PC-like software than a phone does, and whose large screen allows much more functionality when compared with a phone’s.”

“A recent survey by the PEW Internet & American Life Project predicts that by the year 2020, most people across the world will be using a mobile device as their primary means for connecting to the Internet” (Johnson et al., 2009, p. 16). I can only imagine the learning my students could accomplish with instant Internet access, thousands of interactive applications, simulations, music, art, calculators, and languages to name just a few.


Deubel, P. (2006). Game on. T.H.E. Journal, 33(6), 30–41.

Gillard, S., & Bailey, D. (2007). Technology in the classroom: Overcoming obstacles, reaping rewards. The International Journal of Learning, 14(1), 87–93

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Smythe, T. (2009). The 2009 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Lemke, C., & Coughlin, E. (2009). The change agents. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 54–59.

Mossberg, W. (2010). Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close. Retrieved from

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reflection on Using Technology to Differentiated Instruction

The complex student populations sitting in our classrooms today create even a need for more differentiated instruction. Growing second language learners, expanded identification of students with learning needs, experiential gap between students from affluent and low-income social economic backgrounds, and bright or advanced students are all in the same classroom. DI provides a specific model that carefully examines all classroom elements.

Not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning that gives students multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas. To differentiate instruction is to recognize students' varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests; and to react responsively. The goal is to maximize each student's growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is and assisting in the learning process.

Good differentiation, like all good teaching, it is very complex. With anything complex, we learn it a layer at a time. “Becoming an expert at differentiation is a career-long goal. One step at a time, you can get there” (Laureate, 2009). That being said, I will give myself a little slack if the differentiation in my classroom is not yet where I would like it to be. There are a few key concepts to keep in mind as I continue my goal to increase DI strategies in my classroom. Proactive DI is to first check to see where students are relative to goals before you plan a lesson, and then plan multiple pathways in response to students. DI is not synonymous with different. The key principal of DI is giving students different options with the same important learning goals.

One of the first steps toward planning and implementing instruction for diverse learners is to really know your students. My colleagues have assembled a valuable collection of online resources available to aid teachers in determining their students’ interests, learning styles, intelligence preferences, and learning profiles in our Differentiation Station social network. Selecting appropriate instruments to use with my students will enable me to develop learning goals and objectives to meet each student where they are and provide activities and supports to ensure the success of all learners. A learning profile is an instrument created to organize several categories that influence student learning (Tomlinson, 2009). In the beginning of the year, students will complete the Differentiated Instruction Learner Profile, which combines several components useful for supporting student learning: readiness, interests, learning preferences, and intelligence preferences. Additionally, students will answer the Getting To Know You Interest Interview for gender, family and culture background information.

Enriched, active participation stimulates and enhances the learning process and different students are engaged by different approaches. Again, I will turn to the resources my colleagues have shared in our Differentiation Station social network to quickly locate new and exciting methods of engagement and better reach all students. Digital media increases understanding by giving students opportunity to work, experiment, investigate and even play with new concepts. With digital media students grasp material, return to it, share it with others, recall information and explain their ideas.

Giving students multiple ways to show their mastery of a subject increases the chances of active learning and retention of new knowledge. It also provides a more accurate assessment of their performance as well as the need for any adjustments to instructional strategies. I use digital technology to vary the level of challenge, build in supportive scaffolds and provide choices for optimal engagement. I will also continue to seek out avenues to take learning beyond the walls of our classroom and into the real world.

“The integration of a variety of technologies into the classroom can provide learners with unique opportunities to help meet their diverse needs. Technology can be an empowering tool. For it to be empowering, however, teachers must be deliberate and thoughtful in how it is integrated and utilized in the classroom” (Bray, Brown, & Green, 2004, p.76).


Bray, M., Brown, A., & Green, T. (2004). Technology and the diverse learner: A guide to classroom practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Reaching and engaging all learners through technology. What is Differentiated Instruction? Baltimore: Author.

Tomlinson, C. (2009). Learning profiles and achievement. School Administrator. 66(2), 28–33. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.