Running head: Differentiated Learning Technology

Differentiated Learning Technology
Samuel Curcio
University of Wisconsin-Stout

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Differentiated Learning Technology

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents.............................................................................................................................2
Introduction......................................................................................................................................3
Problem Statement.......................................................................................................................3
Current Status of Technology..........................................................................................................4
Laptops and Mobile Devices.......................................................................................................4
Apple iPads..................................................................................................................................5
Software and Learning Management Systems............................................................................5
Augmented Reality......................................................................................................................6
Blogging......................................................................................................................................7
Educational Technology of the Future.............................................................................................7
Biometrics....................................................................................................................................8
Multi-Touch Surfaces..................................................................................................................8
Holographic Systems...................................................................................................................9
Impact Analysis.............................................................................................................................10
Conclusion.....................................................................................................................................11
References......................................................................................................................................12

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Introduction

The world has changed drastically with the help of technology. It surrounds us and is in
use in virtually every part of society. From plumbers, with sophisticated robotic pipe inspectors,
to the use of UAVs by farmers to inspect crop production, technology is a tool that assists many
with their everyday business. Yet, one place that technology is still being explored, but has not
taken a strong foothold is in the elementary grade classroom. This paper will explore the
problems that technology can address if it is incorporated and used properly by educators.
Technology is not a magic bullet; however, it is a tool that can make a difference in the lives of
everyone that takes advantage of what it offers. Mooresville Superintendent, Mark Edwards,
sums up the reason why schools need technology by saying, “It’s a moral imperative. If we want
our students to be able to find meaningful work and be contributing members of a global society,
then we need to prepare them for their future, not our past.” (Demski, 2012)
Problem Statement
The school day means different things for different students. Some find their classes to be
challenging yet intriguing and fun, while others find the instruction to be challenging and
difficult to engage. It is easy to spot the children that are having a hard time. They are the ones
staring out the windows -- listening to the birds chirping or the traffic passing by the school. On
the other hand, perhaps they are engaged, but in thoughts other than the current subject matter.
They are the doodlers and dreamers that go through school in their own little worlds. The
question is why is this so? (Periathiruvadi & Rinn, 2012)
The current means of teaching has been around for over a century. Every student is
presented with instruction in the same manner, no matter if his or her minds grasp the content of
the material or not. Those that find it relatively easy to absorb the cold facts from their textbooks,

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and the teacher’s screeching blackboard ruminations, will make it through school without much
difficulty. Others, however, are not as lucky.
Students who find it hard to engage in the classroom are not only from the low
socioeconomic sectors of society. They come from upper, middle, and lower class families. Some
of the students are found to be of above normal intelligence – the gifted ones. The main problem
each of these children face is that they cannot fully engage in their studies. The existing mode of
teaching leaves them lost and floundering. (Dieker, Grillo, & Ramlakhan, 2012)
The next section will explore the technologies that are being adopted to eliminate this
disconnection. Most notably, the adoptive systems are geared towards providing a targeted
approach to helping students, which is called differentiated learning. Although they are relatively
new, each method has proven to support positive outcomes in student retention rates.
Current Status of Technology
Technology is transforming education in schools across the United States. Many
educators have changed the model of their teaching to ensure no child is left out of the
educational process. Thomas Greaves, CEO of the Greaves Group, has surveyed over 1,000
schools throughout the United States for a study named Project RED (Revolutionizing
Education). His study provides insights into the technology that has transformed the schools that
have implemented change. Greaves study has outlined several technological tools that have
provided the most benefit in the classroom, and have been included in many school districts
because of that success rate. (Demski, 2012)
Laptops and Mobile Devices
The most success comes from the implementation of laptops and tablets. Due to their
overall acceptance by the general public, it is no wonder that these devices would do well in the
classroom setting. Portability and quantity of applications are the top reasons for the inclusion of

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laptops and tablets. Developers, such as Webber Educational Software, offer distinctive learning
programs that make learning the language arts fun and engaging. In addition, each application is
set up to provide the right amount of learning fundamentals to each individual student. This is
done through assessments before and after each teaching module to make certain the child is on
track.
Apple iPads
More than any other portable device, it has been Apple’s iPad that has made the greatest
impact in education. It alone outdoes any other device in quantity and quality of applications.
Sara Getting and Karin Swainey, teachers at Hilltop Elementary School in Inver Grove Heights,
Minnesota, performed a study to see how well iPads would help with the reading skills of their
first grade students. Outside of some technical problems, these two teachers concluded that,
“iPads truly make a difference in sight word recognition, fluency, comprehension, and
vocabulary recognition, and meaning.” (Getting & Swainey, 2012) Along with that conclusion,
the teachers also noted that a sense of cooperation developed among the students. If a child was
having difficulty using his iPad, other members of the class volunteered to help address the issue
by offering their own insights for a solution.
Software and Learning Management Systems
As stated earlier, software developers continue to create applications that provide new
ways for students to learn. Learning management systems (LMS) are one of the central
components that complement all of the other software. It makes available the structure by which
educators can rely on to initiate differentiated learning to each students. LMS tracks the progress
of individuals as they work their way through the lessons made available to them. With this
system, a teacher can easily recognize those that need extra help and in what areas. Created

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mainly as a tool for the lecturer, an LMS gives that person more time to spend teaching than
pouring over records and calculating scores on tests. (Kluth, 2013)
Augmented Reality
Another technology that has come to be popular with tablet and smart phones users is
also making its mark in education. Augmented Reality (AR) allows fictional characters and
scenarios to be incorporated into the real world. In some cases, dinosaurs or other images are
super-imposed on the output from the devices’ cameras. The imagery then seems as though it is
part of the actual environment. Students can then interact with the objects in real time. This
creates an engaging experience that allows for greater interaction and cooperation between
participants.
During the 2007-08 school year, middle schools within the Boston area carried out a
study to see how well AR could be incorporated into the curriculum. The researchers’ findings
state that this technology “increases academic engagement by tapping students’ interest in mobile
devices, differentiates instruction by personalizing information…, and creates situated learning
experiences.” (Mitchell & DeBay, 2012)
With those results as evidence of its potential, educators are planning to use augmented
reality as part of the instructional material used in teaching mathematics and social studies. For
instance, students can visit historical locations and see events take place as they actually
happened in the past. Actors, dressed in period costumes, will be super-imposed on the device’s
display when a student points the camera at a specific location. Besides knowing the technical
aspects of creating the scenarios, the only other requirement of the instructor would be a sense of
imagination and the talent for storytelling.

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Blogging
An additional technology that has become part of the Internet culture, and is being
explored for classroom use, is blogging. In the educational arena, instructors have tapped into
this new version of diary writing to encourage their students to practice Language Arts skills.
Each child is encouraged to present his feelings on a variety of subjects in a blog, which is then
shared with other classmates. The learners feel that, since their writing is being placed in an open
environment for everyone to see, they will then need to present their best work. Once an
assignment is completed, each child must share his entries with others in the class to be analyzed
and discussed. Blogging gives each person a chance to express himself in a collaborative setting
without one person controlling the forum. (Fahsl & McAndrews, 2012)
Along with the technologies discussed above, there are others being evaluated for use in
the classroom. Those tools are still in the experimental phase. In the next section, the future of
technology in education will be explored.
Educational Technology of the Future
Companies are continuously updating the old and inventing new products for public
consumption. Technology has taken hold in society -- most consumers have come to rely on
some sort of hardware or software to get them through their day. As anyone who follows the tech
industry knows, the annual Consumer Electronics Show has become a popular event. It offers
developers the chance to present innovative solutions that will make every day activities easier to
manage.
Some of those inventions may eventually make their way into the classroom. If
educators can find a place for technology that passes the investigative stage, then students will be
using it before long. In this section, some of what will be available for future use will be
discussed.

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Biometrics
Biometrics technology has been incorporated into society for some time now. It can be
found at banks, secure corporate installations, and government facilities. The basic function of a
biometric system is to identify humans through specific physical attributes, such as fingerprints,
eye scans, or speech patterns. Once a person passes a test for certain characteristics that are
unique to them, he is allowed access to secure locations or sensitive information.
In the classroom, software that uses biometrics will be able to ascertain the mood of a
child through facial expression, heart rate, or vocal interjections. With this information, learning
programs will be able to establish how well a student is performing during lessons. If there
seems to be hesitation or the lack of confidence, the system with make changes to the
presentations so as to be on the same level as the child’s learning abilities. This is differentiated
learning at its best. Biometrics offers a way to match a student’s style of study as opposed to the
usual methods that present material in the same manner to everyone, no matter if they can
understand it or not. (Grantham, 2012)
Multi-Touch Surfaces
Tablets, smart phones, and many other devices are now incorporating touch surface
displays into their design. This technology has been available to the public for some time, yet it
has not been accepted widely enough into education. Touch is a natural part of human
interaction; therefore, its full integration into learning systems is just a matter of time. The recent
influx of Apple’s iPad is a hint of the future of touch in education.
To take touch further, Microsoft and other tech giants are experimenting with systems
that offer participants the chance to collaborate with other individuals located at a distance. In
schools, this technology will allow students to work in partnership with their equals from other
countries or regions. Nick Grantham, of Edutopia.com, envisions a scenario that could be played

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out in a future classroom with touch devices: “Imagine a workspace where students are
collaborating live with peers around the world, manipulating virtual objects right in front of
them.” (Grantham, 2012) This may lead to a better understanding of those with cultures and
customs much different from the local environment. Each child will be able to communicate one
to one, and feel a part of the world society. Perhaps he may come to feel that he can make a
difference in, not only his own town, but also in other places across the globe. He will become,
in a sense, a citizen of the world.
Holographic Systems
In 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced TV audiences to the concept of a
holographic projected environment, where participants could interact with simulated 3D objects
and living beings. Yet to come, this technology will provide students with the ability to interact
with historical figures, such as Thomas Edison. Alternatively, individuals could visit places in the
past where significant events occurred. Once there, a student could gain a better perspective on
that period of time.
Although the technology to create such interfaces is well into the future, interactive
holographic telepresence systems are just around the corner. These systems will use projectors to
present a life-like image of a person of interest. This could be a professor, scientist, or political
figure, who would be able to take questions and answer them in real time. This technology will
also be used as a way to get individuals that have difficulty with standard teaching methods
engaged in lessons. Teachers and counselors may use assessment questionnaires to gather
information on what interests a child, and then use that data to produce holographic lectures that
enhance the learning experience. What better way to learn about our history than from those who
lived it, such as Julius Caesar or George Washington. (Bhaskar, 2013)

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These are only a few of the many new technologies that will make learning for everyone
an appealing activity. Although most of the innovations that come to us from developers are
directed to consumers, many of them will find their way into the classroom. It only takes
educators with imagination to conceive of ways to incorporate promising material into their
lesson plans. Differentiated learning through technology is the future of education. Geared
towards every person’s distinct style of comprehension, it is how each child will learn and
become a productive citizen.
Impact Analysis
Using technology as a tool in differentiated learning shows much promise. Several
studies have revealed that, with the right concepts in place, every student is more likely to
succeed in their studies. Forest Lake Elementary School, in Columbia, South Carolina is an
example of that success. Through assessments, the teachers and staff have found a significant
increase in the percentage of students that have become productive pupils. Grades have gone up
and many more students are interacting in class activities.
Forest Lake is now one of 50 nationwide institutions to be part of the NASA Explorer
Schools program. Kevin Durden, a teacher at the school, says this about differentiated
technology in the classroom, “When I was student teaching in a more traditional environment, I
felt that out of a class of 20 students, I was actually teaching maybe 12 of them. Now, with these
tools, I feel I’m teaching every single one of them.” (Rubenstein, 2010)
The following is a partial but significant list describing the impact technology has made
in differentiated education. (Sayparn, 2011)

Students become active participants in class.

Teachers assist in the learning process and are no longer just a provider.

Students become motivated to learn more outside the classroom.

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Immediate feedback gives students the incentive to continue without interruption.

Self-esteem and confidence increase due to mastery of the technology.

Technical skills are acquired through the use of the latest tools.
Conclusion

Each occupation requires certain tools in order for workers to perform their jobs
efficiently. Teaching is no different. Yet, there are many school districts that continue along
without those tools. Technology may not be the only key to the success of a child in the
classroom; however, as shown in this research paper, technology does play a major role.
Educators must understand that the old way may no longer be the right way.
Each student is an island that needs a bridge to the outside. How we go about building
that connection will make a difference in how well that child succeeds in life. As adults, if we do
not provide the right instruction to those who will one day occupy our positions, then their future
is not going to work. That is why teachers, who are constructing those bridges, should be given
the tools and technology to ensure each individual student has the right information to thrive in
the increasingly competitive global village.

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References

Bhaskar, S. (2013, August 20). Potential and Applications of Holograms To Engage Learners.
Retrieved from EdTechReview.in: http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/trends/521applications-of-holograms-to-engage-learners
Demski, J. (2012). This Time It's Personal. THE Journal, 39 (1), 32-36.
Dieker, L., Grillo, K., & Ramlakhan, N. (2012). The use of virtual and simulated teaching and
learning environments: Inviting gifted students into science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics careers (STEM) through summer partnerships. Gifted Education
International, 28(1), 96-106.
Fahsl, A. J., & McAndrews, S. L. (2012). Journal Writing Support for Students With Learning
Disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 47(4), 234-244.
Getting, S., & Swainey, K. (2012). First Graders with iPads? Learning & Leading with
Technology, 40(1), 24-27.
Grantham, N. (2012, April 10). Five Future Technologies That Will Shape Our Classrooms.
Retrieved from edutopia.org: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-future-educationtechnologies-nick-grantham
Kluth, P. (2013, February 1). Differentiating Instruction: Ten Easy Strategies for Inclusive
Classrooms. Ozawkie, KS, USA.
Mitchell, R., & DeBay, D. (2012). Get Real: Augmented Reality for the Classroom. Learning &
Leading with Technology, 40(2), 16-21.
Periathiruvadi, S., & Rinn, A. N. (2012). Technology in Gifted Education: A Review of Best
Practices and Empirical Research. Journal of Research on Technology in Education,
45(2).

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Rubenstein, G. (2010, April 26). Differentiated Instruction: Getting Personal with Technology.
Retrieved from Edutopia.org: http://www.edutopia.org/stw-differentiated-instructiontechnology-elementary
Sayparn, M. (2011, May 9). Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students. Retrieved from
maysayparn.wordpress.com: http://maysayparn.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/effects-oftechnology-on-classrooms-and-students/

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