Differentiation Shouldn’t Stop at Technology

Teenagers + technology = success.  Sounds appealing to the techies among us, but we’ve learned its not that easy.  Yet it is an assumption that many of us make, a trap that can easily snare the technophile educator.  In our excitement for technology and cutting edge, we may forget that, even in the realm of technology, diverse learning styles and competencies exist.

I enjoy exploring new technology.  If I cannot figure out how to do something, I am much more likely to wade through a new technology in search of the answer than immediately ask Google.  For me this is not just about learning a new technology … it is also, well, fun.  As a high school student, my teachers would offer painful step-by-step lessons on how to complete different tasks in Clarisworks or Netscape.  There was, to my frustration, no shortage of wrath for students moving ahead too quickly.  A premature click on “ok” was akin to putting us on the brink of World War III, a la Matthew Broderick in War Games.  Fast forward to classrooms today and there are many students feel the exact same way.  Yet there remain students who feel overwhelmed by this type of exploration and prefer a more methodical approach.  Even for today’s “digital natives”, many appreciate the step-by-step instruction.

I am hardly suggesting we avoid technology in the classroom, but just reminding us (including myself!) that differentiation exists within technology just as it does in math or history.  Nor am I suggesting that we never make students try different ways of learning technology, even if it is outside of their learning “comfort zone”.  However, the more latitude we give for different learning styles, the more likely students will embrace technology and master the skills they need.  Students are not “digital natives” – they are learners.

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