AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

Differentiated Instruction in the Digital Classroom

Posted by: Guest

August 14, 2018

Morah Ziva* has her students working in the iTaLAM digital environment for three periods per week. She feels that—unlike during traditional instruction, when she is aware of everything that happens in class—she doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing. So how can she monitor the students’ learning in this digital environment?
Morah Ziva’s sentiment and question is one shared by many of her colleagues. Yet, there is an answer to the question she poses. In fact, the solution is premised on a basic principle: digital instruction actually offers much more information about what’s happening in the classroom than traditional instruction does. Educators simply need to become comfortable with the different tools that generate precise information about what each student is accomplishing, and what that indicates about the quality of the learning.
Differentiated instruction and teaching toward the needs of each individual student should be the goal of every teacher.  This goal is easy to verbalize but much more difficult to achieve. No two students are exactly alike in their strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. When will the teacher have time to create differentiated and leveled activities for each of the students? Which teacher has time to grade and analyze in depth the work a student does on each assignment and the progress or lack of progress being made?
With these challenges in mind, a digital classroom often plays an integral role in making differentiated instruction a reality. For example, iTaLAM—which is a Hebrew Language and Jewish Heritage curriculum—includes a Learning Management System (LMS) that provide tools to easily and seamlessly differentiate instruction for the individual needs of each and every student in the class. An LMS provides the teacher with quick access to interactive books, songs comprehension activities and games as well as the grading system and automated analysis of student progress.


LMS sample of student progress in 7 different skills compared to class averages.

So, how does this play out in the classroom? First, each student’s progress is tracked in seven different language skill areas. Each learning assignment is available in three different levels and automatically adjusts the level of difficulty that a student encounters based on the student’s ability level in the skills presented in the activity.
Then, at quick glance, a teacher can identify which activities students have completed, how well they performed in each activity and how much time it took to complete. Additionally, they can see which of the seven language skills the student has mastered and which the student still needs to work on.
Morah Shira* works in a rotational model and would like to divide the students into groups according to their learning levels and progress. At the beginning of the year, there is an assessment process to evaluate each student’s level, but by the middle of the year, the students have progressed at different rates and the groups need to be reevaluated and reformulated.
Using the class skill reports and student progress reports a teacher can organize learning groups to work with small groups of students who need additional help with a skill or can tackle enrichment work in a particular area.
Additionally, a new assessment test that was piloted over the past two years for the 2nd and 3rd grade curriculum evaluates a student’s progress over a full year. As with any standardized test, educators and education leaders can use the results to group students by ability for future class placements; to help identify student strengths and weakness, and to evaluate the successes and challenges of the instructional process so that the curriculum and teaching methods in the school can be adjusted to better meet the changing needs of the students.
Digital classrooms equipped with the right programs help teachers and schools identify needs and differentiate the instruction for each individual student. When this interactive and engaging digital environment is combined with adaptive technology and precise reporting, students experience personalized learning that makes for deeper, more meaningful, and more effective educational experiences.
*Generalized, representative examples.

iTaLAM is a new digital blend2ed learning environment based on the successful TaL AM program, a Hebrew language and Jewish heritage curriculum. iTaLAM is re-inventing the world of Hebrew language and Jewish heritage education by transforming the well-established and highly successful TaL AM print program into an engaging, interactive, personalized, and adaptive digital experience.

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