Tag Archives: instructional approach

Differentiated Instruction and TechnoKids

differentiated instruction

Every time teachers step into their classrooms, they face the evidence of the need for differentiated instruction. Each student arrives at school at a different starting point: a certain attitude of readiness for learning, an individual style of acquiring knowledge, and a distinct level of mastery of concepts. Multiply these three factors by the number of students in the classroom. The resulting figure is daunting but makes it obvious that ‘one teaching method fits all’ isn’t a practical strategy.

Differentiated instruction recognizes and supports individual differences in learning by using a variety of teaching strategies. There are so many options and resources available today that we can adjust for the diverse abilities, needs, learning styles, and interests of our students. As teachers, our goal is to optimize student growth and success at all levels of ability, not simply to achieve or reach a standardized benchmark. Teach every student.

Brain based learning studies support a variety of instructional strategies. As students make connections between what they already know and their new learning, interconnections in neural pathways are formed. As a result, information is stored in multiple areas. Meaning and retention are both enhanced.

In teaching ICT, we have lots of ways of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. TechnoKids project-based computer lessons support differentiated instruction with student resources, teaching strategies, and assessment tools.


Differentiated instruction requires that we provide a variety of learning opportunities. Students should be able to build a repertoire of tools. They can accommodate their own preferred styles of learning, as well as recognize and build skills in their individual areas of weakness.

TechnoKids project-based learning supports the process of learning using differentiated instruction:

  • Vary learning tools. Integrate technology and use the computer as an alternative and additional tool.
  • Target different senses with multiple instructional strategies. TechnoKids Student Workbooks engage students by reading written instructions, studying illustrations that support text, looking at infographics, and handling manipulatives such as TechnoKids tool flashcards. Sample files have students listen to audio and watch video. Brain based learning studies show that most of us learn best when the kinesthetic senses are used – doing, handling, building. Robotics projects prepare students to build STEM skills and support hands-on learning. TechnoKids Teacher Guides provide teaching strategies, technology integration ideas, and assessment tools.
  • Chunk material into manageable parts. TechnoKids projects are divided into smaller sessions or assignments. In this way, a complex task becomes doable.
  • Present learning tasks in graphic organizers. When students create a plan of their ideas for a an inquiry, TechnoKids projects often have them use a chart, brain storming web, or mind map to outline and develop their proposals.
  • Repeat to reinforce. Students build skills through practice, so Skill Reviews and Extension Activities allow for repetition.
  • Allow students to work at different paces. By using the pdf or print copies of TechnoKids workbooks, individual students can complete the activities on their own timeline.
  • Mix up individual and group collaboration. Individual, pair, small group, and whole class activities should all be part of classroom experiences. Flexible grouping allows students with similar learning styles to work together.


Recognize that students have different levels of familiarity with concepts before a lesson is taught. Differentiate activities by designing assignments that cover various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from remembering (lowest level) to evaluating (highest level).

  • Give students the big picture. Most TechnoKids resource files include a number of samples of completed projects. Seeing and reviewing a finished project solution motivates students, builds interest, and provides a clear example of what is being assigned.
  • Provide a starting point. A number of TechnoKids projects, especially primary level projects, include templates. Students can focus on the technology and learning skills without getting bogged down in the less critical details of setting up a document.
  • Combine methods of instruction. Blend a mixture of teacher directed, print, video, and any other instructional techniques. This serves the purpose of both maintaining student engagement as well as appealing to diverse learning styles.


The final creation or solution to an inquiry process should be interdisciplinary and open-ended. Allow students to build on their learning style strengths by offering choices. Self directed learning allows for students to work independently and develop critical skills such as organization, creativity, judgement, and persistence.

  • Build engagement by offering choices. Involve students by encouraging them to pitch their own ideas for projects. TechnoKids projects allow for creative thinking and open-ended learning experiences.
  • Offer a variety of outputs. When students are given options, they take more responsibility for their learning and become more engaged. TechnoKids projects may be a presentation, visual art, timeline, graphic story, newsletter, questionnaire, blog, interactive map, animation, and many more!
  • Provide opportunities for assorted types of assessment. TechnoKids grading tools include student, peer, and teacher checklists, rubrics, rating scales, marking sheets, and skill summaries.
  • Incorporate reflection. Summarize learning, process new learning, identify areas for improvement, and set goals. Many TechnoKids projects contain a reflection component in a final celebration of learning.

10 Reasons to Use E-Cards in the Classroom

Is there educational merit in having your students send e-Cards to each other? Yes! For both skill building purposes and for engaging digital savvy young people, e-Cards can be used in an educational setting with a variety of benefits.

Meaningful language arts activity

Inspire creative writing by assigning an e-Card activity. Students can browse through an electronic card site for suitable suggestions. Alternatively, teachers can assign a specific topic, such as a celebration, an ‘end of project’ congratulations, or encouragement notes. Require students to write a brief but expressive and original personal message with the card.

Advocate for a cause

There are e-Card sites hosted by organizations that support important issues. For example, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund both have web pages that allow students to send free cards. By choosing a card and adding a personal message, students express their support of environmental issues. Integrate this activity with a unit of study about conservation and stewardship to help students promote awareness.

Learn letter writing skills

Instead of a traditional letter writing activity, use digital cards to teach the lost yet valuable art of writing friendly letters. E-Cards have many conventions of basic letters: salutation and closing, address, date (some sites let the user set a future date for sending), letter body with the personal message, and preview feature for editing.

Suitable for primary students

Young children who have limited reading, writing, and keyboarding skills can use e-Cards with their appealing graphic displays and simple text. They can easily choose a card, write a brief message, and send it.

Creates a team environment

Sending and receiving cards supports a feeling of mutual support and kindness. As students write e-Cards to each other, they build a common mood of thoughtfulness, concern, and empathy.

Extends home-school connection

Students can send cards home to their parents, promoting communication about their classroom activities, demonstrating their technology skills, and cultivating a strong connection between home and school.

Celebrate successes

E-Cards can be sent for an infinite number of occasions: recognize school or class accomplishments, observe important events, and celebrate individual dates such as birthdays or graduations.

Go green

No trees are harmed in sending e-Cards! The ecofriendly aspect of digital greetings and letters supports environmental school goals.

Teach manners and courtesy

Young people should be aware of the formal language conventions of letter writing. Often online social interaction involves a much more informal use of spelling, grammar, and word choice. Sending e-Cards with a personal message is an opportunity to teach netiquette and mastery of conventional language skills.

It’s fun!

The appeal of online social communication for young people is certain. We can tap into this attraction using e-Cards and, at the same time, build essential and valuable curriculum and life skills.

In my next post, I’ll list some great sites with free e-Cards that are suitable for classroom use. Then I’ll list some tips for both students and teachers when searching for, sending, and receiving e-Cards.

Digital Collage in the Classroom

Why Make a Collage?


Collage about Amelia Earhart created with Windows Photo Gallery

Art assignment, end of project celebration, technology integration activity, communicating learning visually – these are just a few reasons to create a collage in the classroom.

The traditional way of making a collage is to cut out pictures and glue them into place on a background. But using the computer to create a digital collage from photos or images offers a different option that has lots of ‘WOW’ factor to capture students’ interest while building technology as well as creative arts skills. Do you have a classroom project in which students have already gathered a collection of themed digital pictures? Making a collage is an alternate or additional way to display the work. No existing folder of pictures? Make one: students can search for a series of images about a subject online and then create a unique display using the collage technique.

Generating a collage using technology is easy and fun, enhances design and layout skills, encourages creative expression, and will actively engage your students to bring out their ‘inner artist’.

Use Windows Photo Gallery

If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can download a free program called Photo Gallery to organize, edit, and share photos. But it can be used to make a collage as well. Here’s how in 5 easy steps:

  1. Open Photo Gallery.
  2. Add your collected folder of images.
  3. Select a minimum of 7 images.
  4. From the Create tab, click Auto Collage.
  5. Name the collage file and select a location to save it.

Use a Free Online Collage Maker

There are many free programs online that you can use to create a picture collage. They offer a variety of options for editing and creating distinctive collages. Some offer additional features with a paid subscription or membership. Here are a few along with some of their distinguishing features:


Fotor Photo Collage

  • Choose from a variety of collage layouts, including funky shapes
  • Photo stitching options include spacing, corner design, colors, and background

The World’s Best Collage Maker

  • Add text, labels, clip art and more
  • Save to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, or the desktop


  • Shuffle feature easily changes layout of pictures randomly
  • Apply photo filters such as ‘Black & White’ and ‘Sepia’
  • Signing up for an account is free



  • Basic options available without creating a free account or log in
  • Add stickers and speech callouts
  • Cut out tool allows user to select specific areas of photos

Photovisi Photo Collage Maker

  • Choose and edit a background design from a fun and extensive variety of choices, including ‘Magic’, ‘Girly’, ‘Scrapbook’, ‘Words’, and ‘Sports’
  • Add photos from a saved folder or from a webcam
  • Free collage has a watermark

Collage of Amelia Earhart

Canva’s Collage Maker

  • Many free images, photos, shapes, clip art, and backgrounds
  • Upload your own photos
  • Easy drag and drop format
  • Export and publish as a png or pdf

A Teacher Speaks Out: Yes, you should teach Internet skills!

I recently conducted an interview with the classroom teacher upon the completion of teaching TechnoJourney to learn more about her thoughts and ideas about the experience.

UPDATE: TechnoJourney was replaced with TechnoInternet. The activities are similar.

Your students just spent the past few weeks completing activities from the technology project TechnoJourney. What was your overall impression of the experience?

I was really impressed with the project. It’s a great computer curriculum. The assignments were easy to follow and the students learned the skills.

TechnoJourney is full of a wide-range of Internet-based activities. You selected several from the technology project to use with your students. How did you make that decision?

Students learn Internet skills using TechnoJourney computer project

The students were engaged and focused in all the TechnoJourney activities.

From all the activities available in TechnoJourney, I chose the following:

  • Visitor’s Center: Safety Booth, Search Engine Station, Favorites Center
  • e-Library: Research Center
  • e-Playground: Webcam Observatory, Arcade
  • e-Media Center: Video Theatre, Image Gallery, Map Collection
  • e-Mail Depot: e-card Shop

I based my choice on what I thought was relevant for my grade 3 students and what skills I knew they would be able to apply in other areas of the curriculum. If I had to eliminate any of the activities, I would probably not do the Arcade again. The students really enjoyed playing the games, but I think they have a lot of opportunity to do that outside of school.

Your students have spent the past few weeks engaged in Internet-based activities. What skill do you think your students learned that is the most valuable? Why?

Learning effective search strategies was most valuable for my students. They learned to identify trustworthy sources on the Internet. I saw them apply these skills in other themes we studied in the classroom. When they undertook their research for both our Oceans project and the Body project, students showed much more independence and asked for less help from me as they were searching for information online.

I often hear that technology skills should not be taught. Do you believe that teaching Internet research skills to your students was a good use of instructional time or do you think they would just learn them on their own?

I definitely think that TechnoJourney was an important use of our time in the computer lab. Not only did the students gain new skills, but I learned a lot too! Learning the search skills formally as opposed to just figuring them out on their own was certainly beneficial. I believe the students will retain these skills more effectively since they’ve explored and tried them out, talked about them during instructional activities, and finally reviewed them when they shared their new skills with another class in our final Internet Tour Guide activity.

TechnoJourney was scheduled for 10 classes, but ended up being 12 classes due to the addition of the Internet Tour Guide activity. At first glance, this does not seem like a lot class time, however, with only one computer class per week the reality is that this technology project has stretched from January to May. That is a lot of time to spend on one technology skill. Are you happy with the pace of instruction?

The students always retained their enthusiasm, so the pace was fine. It seems like a long time to spend on one project, but with all the different parts of TechnoJourney, the students were always doing different activities and learning new things. They were always excited and looking forward to the time in the computer lab.

Students teach each other their newly acquired Internet skills

The Internet Tour Guide activity was a great success using peer to peer teaching.

Would you teach activities from TechnoJourney next year? Why or why not?

Yes, I will certainly teach TechnoJourney next year. I plan to teach it in the first term, so that the students can benefit from using and applying the skills throughout the year. I think the safety guidelines are very important. Next year, before my students use the Internet, we will do these activities to ensure that they are responsible digital citizens.

At the end of the project, your students participated in an Internet Tour Guide activity. What educational value does this activity have on your students?

Students are reviewing and reinforcing the skills as they are teaching them to their peers. I’ve also noticed that the students’ self-confidence has been boosted. They’re very proud to show the other class what they know. This was especially important for some of the students with low self-esteem. I was surprised by how confident they were as they instructed the other students.

In one word, how would you summarize your experience with TechnoJourney?


Other Articles about Teaching Internet Skills using TechnoJourney

Now the Students’ Turn: Reflecting on TechnoJourney
A Teacher Speaks Out: Yes, you should teach Internet skills!
Peer to Peer Teaching – Students Become the Teachers
Internet Tour Guide Activity
Use YouTube Videos in your Classroom
Students Love Google Maps
Review How to Sort Google Images with Your Students
Teaching Internet Skills – The Trust Test
Wikipedia in the Classroom
Bookmarking is a Basic Internet Skill that can be Complex
Metacognition and Teaching about the Internet
4 Strategies for Reviewing Internet Search Results
When Should Students Start Using the Internet?
Should you Teach Internet Skills?