A reflection about what is shaping my understanding of differentiation

The essential questions this week really prompted me to examine what I do when I design or structure a lesson and a whole cycle of programming; and not just what I do, but why I do it and the choices I make.  I enjoyed reflecting on my own experiences as a elementary or high school student and how that impacted my teaching style and approach to my work.  I realized that I have been fortunate to work for schools and organizations that valued teacher/staff innovation, creativity, and collaborative teamwork.  These types of work environments have also helped to shape how I teach and my understanding of how students learn.

So many times when I’m working with deadlines, changing priorities, and supporting students on a daily basis, it’s tempting to use the most familiar methods for differentiation or ones that will help us quickly complete an activity or lesson.   Writing my blog this week was a good reminder of the theory and principles behind my work and how that fits into my personal philosophy of teaching.  In my work, I value and try to model relationship-building, empathy, flexibility, creativity, curiosity, consensus-building, transparency, and humility.  The ways that I differentiate will be completely different than another teacher working with the same students; differentiation works both ways – to meet the students’ needs, interests, and abilities, but also should be effective within the teacher’s own skills, personality, and teaching style.

Reading other blogs and connecting with others in the twitter session has become an important part of my weekly routine in helping me to think about differentiation and how I can improve my practice.  The blogs this week got me thinking about project-based learning activities that give context for students and how that is an important tool for differentiation.  A teacher has so many more roles and responsibilities in supporting a PBL activity, but the relationship between teachers and their students is an important aspect of differentiation in the activity and for the class as a group.  Reading about others’ classes and strategies and methods for differentiation was helpful in thinking about how we might try to do the same in MinecraftEdu.  While some of us expressed in the twitter session that we are still unsure of how to differentiate, I think the blogs show that many of the methods can be applied to Survivalcraft.  When we are still learning a tool, it’s hard to see past your own efforts to figure it out, but when we step back and see the broad range of experiences everyone in the group has, I believe we know more than we think.

I enjoyed making my concept map this week and I had this elaborate idea in my head; but what worked was for me to take my reading notes and create a map of important tools and methods for teachers.  The resource hunting that happens each week when I’m writing my blog is also deepening my understanding of how many teachers differentiate in their own classrooms.  I discovered the Teaching Channel this week and spent a lot of time watching some awesome and innovative teachers do their thing!  And the STEM curriculum resources by Dr. Fryer were also a gold mine for me because I love anything STEM related; I enjoyed my time exploring the lessons and resources for various tech tools being used in classrooms!

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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