Element 4 – Differentiation

Differentiation occurs in classrooms where teachers implement strategies to overcome learning barriers that enable equitable learning (Tomlinson, 2014). To do this, teachers require forward planning and instruction to engage all students in the learning (Board of Studies, Teaching, & Educational Standards NSW [BOSTES], 2015). All students need to be provided opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do (QSA, 2012), and therefore should be considered in proactive ways (QCAA, 2015a).

Teachers need to understand methods of identifying students requiring differentiation (Bender, 2012) and their respective characteristics (Department of Education, Training, and Employment [DETE], 2012). These methods should be embedded in the classroom during the learning process (Renzulli, 2012). The primary method of identification should include teachers undertaking observations and using professional judgement to identify key students (Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children [QAGTC], 2008). Teachers should seek information from parents/carers, students, and school guidance officer to inform their judgements (QAGTC, 2008). In addition to this, teachers can utilise diagnostic tasks to facilitate the identification process. Results from diagnostic tasks and assessments can inform identification of gifted and talented students, and those who may have a learning difficulty (Crepeau-Hobson & Bianco, 2011). Teachers should also consider non-test criteria (such as student effort and behaviour) to further aid in the identification process (Crepeau-Hobson & Bianco, 2011).

Upon identifying students requiring differentiation, teachers can begin implementing strategies. However, these strategies have associated difficulties that teachers should recognise and understand. In general teachers have difficulty implementing and sustaining these strategies due to a lack of skills, resources, and motivation (Yuen, Westwood, & Wong, 2005). Teachers also find the added preparation time, large class sizes, and their own workload difficult barriers to overcome when implementing differentiation strategies (Yuen, Westwood, & Wong, 2005).

The following paragraphs will outline strategies for implementing differentiation for two focus students to promote educational equity (QCAA, 2015a). Student A is considered gifted and talented, whilst the Student B has a non-English speaking background (NESB).

For Student A, adjusting tasks to involve information of a higher complexity and requiring higher order thinking is a key way to differentiate content (DETE, 2012). The learning process can be altered with faster delivery or providing challenging learning goals that extend the knowledge and skills of a student through the use of problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and reflection based tasks (DETE, 2012). When working in groups, the teacher should place Student A in groups with similar ability or shared interests so they are able to apply their knowledge and skills to their full capability (DETE, 2012).

For an Student B, teachers need to assist them to overcome linguistic barriers (QCAA, 2015b). This can be done by ensuring tasks are clearly explained so they can interpret and comprehend requirements (QCAA, 2015b). Teachers should provide students the opportunity to express their own cultural background both in independent and group tasks (QCAA, 2015b). Within group tasks, the teacher should remain flexible to ensure NESB students work in small groups with different peers (Ford, 2012). Teachers should utilise ongoing informal assessment (such as diagnostic tasks and interviews) to determine the ability of the student and alter their differentiation strategies as the students’ needs change (Ford, 2012).

It is evident that both focus students’ learning is facilitated by working in group based tasks and having flexible assessment. Within an Information Technology Systems (ITS) classroom, both students could be differentiated by utilising Project-Based Learning (PBL) (Savery, 2006). PBL enables students to work in groups, which teachers can differentiate by having teams tailored to different learning levels of students (Miller, 2012). Students can also demonstrate their knowledge in varying ways through the use of PBL (Miller, 2012).

Differentiation plays an important role in enabling equitable learning in the classroom. Teachers need to recognise how to identify students requiring differentiation and what strategies they should put in place to provide them the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do. This short essay has discussed strategies relevant to two focus students; a gifted and talented student and an NESB student. These strategies will inform future teaching practice to ensure all students are considered in the planning of units, lessons, and assessment.


Bender, W. N. (2012). Differentiating instruction for students with learning disabilities: New best practices for general and special educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Board of Studies, Teaching, & Educational Standards NSW. (2015). Differentiated programming. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/differentiated-programming/

Crepeau‐Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. (2011). Identification of gifted students with learning disabilities in a Response‐to‐Intervention era. Psychology in the Schools, 48(2), 102-109.

Department of Education, Training, and Employment. (2012). Supporting information: Gifted and talented students. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/framework/p-12/docs/supporting-info-gifted-talented.pdf

Ford, K. (2012). Differentiated instruction for english language learners. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/differentiated-instruction-english-language-learners

Miller, A. (2012). Six strategies for differentiated instruction in project-based learning. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller

Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children. (2008). Action for Gifted Students in Queensland Schools: Strategies and Indicators of Achievement. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://www.qagtc.org.au/files/Strategies_Indicators_Document.pdf

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2015a). Equity in education. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/10188.html#970

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2015b). A-Z of senior moderation. Retrieved October 28 2015, from http://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_qa_mod_a-z.pdf

Queensland Studies Authority. (2012). Information Technology Systems. Retrieved October 28 2015, from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_its_12_syll.pdf

Renzulli, J. S. (2012). Reexamining the Role of Gifted Education and Talent Development for the 21st Century A Four-Part Theoretical Approach. Gifted Child Quarterly, 56(3), 150-159.

Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1).

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). Differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Ascd.

van Kraayenoord, C. E. (2007). School and classroom practices in inclusive education in Australia. Childhood Education, 83(6), 390-394.

Yuen, M., Westwood, P., & Wong, G. (2005). Meeting the Needs of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties in the Mainstream Education System: Data from Primary School Teachers in Hong Kong. International Journal of Special Education, 20(1), 67-76.

Element 1 – Revisiting your professional identity

From my first blog post for EDS4406, my identity for being a computing specialist teacher was admittedly undeveloped due to my lack of practical experience teaching Information Technology Systems (ITS). For this reason, I drew on the knowledge of others to understand what this identity should look like. I concluded that as a teacher of technology, we must ensure our pedagogy enables students to fully utilise current technology to prepare for the lifelong technological advancements they will face.

In this original blog post I outlined that I would develop my professional identity by subscribing to the QSITE emailing lists. This has proven greatly beneficial as I have been exposed to a medium for reaching out to other teachers for assistance in teaching ITS, and in turn gathering new ideas on what content I can teach. I have also been informed of professional development events such as the Android Apps Programming workshop and Digital technologies to improve student learning, whilst also attending the Digital Technologies – A Queensland Perspective event.

My professional identity has also been developed through the learnings from other courses this semester. EDS3450 has enabled me to understand how the multiple pathways strategy outlined in the Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) personally impacts my teachings within ITS. Within this course I was also able to explore how a pedagogical framework (in my instance, Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy) informs an ITS unit plan, and then understand how I would teach a specific Core Curriculum Element (CCE) in a lesson.

I gained an important insight in week 2 of studying EDS4406. In this week I was remembered of the large proportion of males to females who study ITS in both year 11 and 12. This made me think of the important role I have to try and engage female students with ITS and understand the reasons for why they don’t enrol in ITS as much as males. In this week I also recognised the changes in student achievement in ITS between 2004 and 2014 where VLAs and LAs have been declining whilst more students pass. Both Richard and Jeremy elaborated on this trend and provided insight on how this trend occurred as teachers began to understand the syllabus and recognise that it should not be a difficult subject. In terms of my professional identity, this emphasised the importance of fully understanding the syllabus documents I teach from and ensuring my knowledge of these documents remain current to allow students to achieve their best.

The development of a diagnostic tool within Assignment 1 for EDS4406 also proved important in developing my professional identity. It made me think outside of the scope of ITS in year 11 and 12 and begin to think about the importance of understanding my students prior to teaching them. The diagnostic tool is beneficial to assist myself in gaining an understanding of the types of students I will have and begin planning to ensure units of work and my own pedagogy promote equitable learning. This forward thinking approach builds on the planning process I discussed in my initial post where I only considered planning on a lesson or unit scope, rather than planning to understand my students to inform the design of these.

When compared to my original post in week 1, my identity now is vastly different. Despite still having the same amount of experience within an ITS classroom, the development of my knowledge that underpins my teachings has improved. In other words, I have improved the server side programming (my own knowledge) to improve the experience on the client side (student learning).

Diagnostic Tool

As part of my assignment for my EDS4406 course, I have been tasked with developing a diagnostic tool to provide to students who anticipate to study Information Technology (IT) in senior secondary.

I decided to develop an interview format for my diagnostic tool. This was chosen as IT subjects have an aspect of being able to communicate ideas with clients and peers in order to develop effective solutions. By having an interview, it would enable IT teachers to not only gauge the knowledge students are bringing in to the classroom, but also what communication skills they have.

The criteria for this diagnostic tool places students on a continuum, ranging from “Extension Student” to “Low Student”. An Extension Student is one that has been identified as having exceptional IT knowledge and would benefit from engaging in extra-curricular activities. These extra-curricular activities may be in the form of using CodeCademy to extend their coding skills and solve problems outside the scope of the unit of work, or having students participate in the National Computer Science School (NCSS) Challenge to compete with other students in solving authentic problems, whilst developing their coding skills for future endeavours. A student identified as being low is one who may have a lower than average technological knowledge and may find some concepts within the course to be troublesome.

This type of tool is useful as it enables the teacher to begin to understand their students in advance and begin planning appropriately in order for each student to have equal learning opportunities.

You can access the diagnostic tool I created here.

Unit Plan Analysis

As part of my EDS4406 course, I have been tasked with analysing and annotating a Year 11 ITS unit plan in relation to good teaching practices and the TPACK framework. This was the most challenging aspect of Assignment 1, however I feel the challenge has been rewarding. I have learned how to take an unfamiliar unit plan and analyse it to begin thinking about how I might teach it, and what knowledge the students will need to complete the assessment task.

I have not had this opportunity in a previous course to do this type of task, so it has been refreshing to do something different. I feel this type of task should be done more often as it is an authentic problem teachers face, and in my previous courses we have only used on specific unit plan template.

After completing this task, I can see a clear gradient that has occurred in my understanding of this unit plan. As I analysed it and began making annotations, I smoothly transitioned from the unfamiliar to the familiar. That is to say, I no longer look at the unit plan thinking “What the…” which I appreciate.

Please find the analysis of the unit plan here. The unit plan is in PDF format with annotations being made using Acrobat XI Pro, I am unsure whether these annotations will appear in software other than this. Please contact me if you cannot see them.

What does it mean to be a computing specialist teacher?

Laboratory by derekbruff, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  derekbruff 

When I think about what it means to be a computing teacher, I think about how I am going to get students prepared to use technology to create efficient solutions to contemporary problems. Just like how in Mathematics we move students towards algebraic thinking, and in Science towards using inquiry skills to understand our world, in computer related subjects we want students to move towards algorithmic and computational thinking to solve problems.

Being a teacher where most lessons will revolve around using technology means planning and understanding technology within the classroom is paramount. I also think that we need to be on the cutting edge side of technology, we need to understand what technology exists and may exist in the future, and understand how we can fully utilise the ‘now’ to prepare for ‘then’.

What I have said above are only general thoughts on what I think it means to be a computing teacher. I have had very little experience teaching ITS, nor did I do any computing subjects whilst at high school, so I am going to draw on the words of others to assist myself in developing an understanding on what differentiates computing from other subjects.

This 2013 study explored how computing teachers implement technology in the classroom to understand what factors influence success. One of the findings showed that experienced computing teachers construct learning environments centered around collaboration and social interactions.

This article discusses what unique complexities graduate computing teachers face. Despite graduate teachers knowing the content knowledge, they may not have the skills to understand the unique ways of thinking like a computer. I feel I am the opposite of this, I am quite comfortable with algorithmic and computational thinking, however I am concerned with not having enough content knowledge to teach the broad topics of ITS.

The article also links with a study that interviewed a set of high school computing teachers to understand what teaching practices lead to success. One of the successful interviewed teachers focused on having students explain code, write code by hand, and grading themselves using a rubric. This successful teacher also engages students in small weekly formative tasks, actively provides feedback, and uses these tasks to understand where the class is currently at.

We all know that technology is constantly and rapidly changing, so it is vital that as computing teachers we maintain currency with hardware, software, and emerging technologies (Thoonen, Sleegers, Oort, Peetsma, & Geijsel, 2011). But not only this, we also need to maintain currency on how these can be implemented in the classroom. I intend to do this by increasing my personal learning networks. I have begun doing this by subscribing to QSITE emailing lists and following an ICT in education feed using Feedly. I have also found this website which has great publications about computing teachers to further my understanding and skills to adhere to contemporary research.

Thoonen, E. E., Sleegers, P. J., Oort, F. J., Peetsma, T. T., & Geijsel, F. P. (2011). How to improve teaching practices the role of teacher motivation, organizational factors, and leadership practices. Educational Administration Quarterly, 47(3), 496-536. doi: 10.1177/0013161X11400185

Connect.ed Certificate

Bit late to the party on this one! Just ensuring I meet all the requirements to receive maximum marks in the learning journal and realised I forgot to blog about this.

Overall I found the course to be rather boring. Most of the things I already knew, and some of the things I didn’t find engaging at all. I mean, I don’t want to spend 5-10 minutes in a simulated Facebook environment that fails to even be close to reality, nor explain what anything means. To be honest, I found the course to be a bit of a waste of time, it took me about 2 hours to complete and I took nothing away from it other than it trying to make out the Internet is a scary place, unless you are agoraphobic!

Connect.ed Certificate

Will I Keep Using WordPress?

So the semester is coming to a close, and I have started thinking whether or not I will continue to run this blog after the submission of the last EDC3100 assignment.

I have enjoyed having a medium to express my experiences or concerns, and knowing that maybe a few people out there might read and agree with me or challenge my views has made it a great learning experience. Reflecting back to the beginning of this course, my initial impressions of having to maintain a blog was “I don’t have time for that, what a lame idea”. But I think my views have changed.

As far as being part of our assessment goes, it has been great being able to receive marks for being able to casually converse with peers and be a part of a big pool of knowledge. Also, not having to write academically has been a great change, something a lot of other courses should consider.

But coming to a decision on whether or not to keep this blog running is a hard choice. I feel it would only be beneficial if people were genuinely interested, otherwise it’s just one more thing to have to do on top of uni work and the like. I’m leaning towards just discontinuing my blog posts after this course has finished, but it would be great to hear what others are going to do with their own blogs!

Keynote Remote on iPad

In my previous post I mentioned my usage of my iPad on prac as a form of integrating ICTs. In this post I will explain this in further detail.

First of all, to do this it requires both an iOS device (in this instance, an iPad) and a Mac computer running Keynote (in this instance, my Macbook Pro). I won’t explain step by step how to do this, if you are interested please follow this link.

So, using Keynote Remote in the classroom was easily the best thing I have done in a classroom whilst on prac. In the classroom my Macbook was connected to the projector, and then my iPad was connected to my Macbook wirelessly. What this allowed me to do was utilise the efficiency of a presentation, whilst allowing myself to remain mobile at all times. The iPad allows me to go to the next or previous slide wirelessly, and utilise an on-screen laser pointer or pen.

The pen is where the magic happened. I could pass my iPad to a student, and they can write on the screen of the iPad (like below) and this would be wirelessly transmitted to my Macbook, and then outputted to the projector. So, what you see in the screenshot below is what students see on the iPad screen and also on the projector.

IMG_0373 2

To say students loved this would be an understatement. As much as this is technically a method of integrating ICTs, I also see it as an assistant in managing behaviour. Students would view being able to use the iPad as a reward for good behaviour and were constantly intrigued by how it worked, which meant they would engage with work easier knowing it might mean they got to use the iPad.

This is definitely something I will continue to do in my teaching practice, I am overwhelmed with the positive response it had with students!