I don’t know about you but when I hear conversations about Differentiated Instruction, they almost always center on students: their learning preferences, their readiness and their interests. And while the focus on understanding and responding to the way individual students access and process information and the way that they communicate their learning is all valid, exciting and rather compelling, I found my mind moving off on a much less travelled (at least by me) path this week as I began to map out my own learning goals for the summer of 2012. You see, this is the last year where the boys will be in daycare for most of the summer, and I intend to leverage that time to accomplish some pretty intense stuff.
Here are a few of the biggies:
- A redesign and expansion of the voicEd.ca website initiative
- Finding my way around ProTools 10
- Learning Final Cut Pro X from the ground up
- Preparing to be part of a district-level IB planning team
- Learning to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the piano
I’ve more than likely bitten off a little more than I can chew, but I’ve committed to consuming reduced amounts of red wine in an effort to make the best use of the time available to me. What struck me, however, as I looked through the list is that I will be engaging in each of these learning projects in rather different ways.
For the web project, I will likely do more “in front of the computer” playing, testing, revising and massaging. It will be a “just-in-time” learning project that begins with a vision of what I want to see and leverages available print and online resources to accomplish the task.
For the ProTools and Final Cut projects, although I have specific tasks that I want to accomplish using the software, I have committed to giving myself over the expertise of others right from the very beginning. I’ve actually researched and purchased the best quality online tutorial resources that I could find, and I’m going to follow them pretty religiously. This is not the way that I normally learn a piece of software, but the details that I often miss by simply “playing” are just too valuable to me.
The IB learning is going to take the form of a four day conference in late July. Gathered together with other members of the team, we’ll have the opportunity to learn from folks who have been this way before. This will be a fairly traditional, face-to-face form of learning, and I’m looking forward to sitting at the feet of those who have experience in the vision and approaches embedded in IB initiatives around the world. This learning will be supplemented by online conversations using blogs, wikis and social networking.
Finally, the Gershwin project requires that I do a ton of intense practicing, but I also have access to a professional teacher is willing to “listen” as a critical friend along the way.
So in looking at my learning plan for the next couple of months, I’ve noticed that there is differentiation built into the various approaches and strategies that I will be using. Yet, I’m the same learner with the same learning preferences, learning strengths and “intelligences”.
So, this has me thinking about something that you may have already considered in much more detail. It has to do with basing our sense of differentiation not so much on the individual learners in our class, but on the cognitive demands (and opportunities) inherent in the tasks and learning goals that we lay out. In other words, to what degree are the strategies and approaches we use defined by the object as opposed to the subject of our learning? Is the differentation for which we are aiming be more defined by the demands of the content and skills being learned rather than the attributes of the learner?
As always, just beginning to think…