My paper, ‘Strategies for Differentiation’ is an exploration of the online learning tool Khan Academy. It was created to examine methods of differentiation within the classroom, and was completed for my Special Topics course that focused on differentiation processes and the effective use of technology. This document relates to other items in my portfolio in a few key regards. First, it demonstrates the importance that I place on the idea of not simply using technology in the classroom as a means to an end, but as a tool to help promote student achievement. It is not something that can replace sound instruction, but rather should be used to compliment it. Second, this artifact describes one tool that can be used to differentiate instruction. Evidenced in other works, the emphasis that I place on differentiating content for all learners is a task that becomes much easier when technology is integrated into the learning process. This sometimes lofty and time-consuming expectation can be accommodated through excellent, online resources such as Khan Academy, amid many others
Personally, I feel that this specific artifact is largely relevant and applicable to my current studies, as well as my job as a technology instructional coach. It cites specific examples of the use of Khan Academy within my own previous classroom, as well as how it is used in other classrooms, namely the elementary schools in my district of employment. It highlights specific research and describes how Khan Academy can be used to differentiate instruction, and provide content for a flipped model of teaching. This artifact ties directly to three of the NETS for Coaches standards: Digital Age Learning Environments, Content Knowledge & Professional Growth, and Teaching, Learning & Assessments. My work provides evidence for the use of Khan in the flipped model of online learning, while also demonstrating my ability to differentiate content and assessments to address individual learners need. Overall, it reflects my pedagogical strategies emphasizing the use of instructional technology to promote student learning. If I were to create this artifact again, one thing I would do differently would be to survey the secondary (grades 7th-12th) teachers in my district regarding their use of Khan Academy in the classroom. Although I am aware of how our elementary teachers use Khan in the technology lab to enrich math instruction, which was discussed in this report, I was not able to speak from experience on how secondary teachers (other than myself) may use this tool in their classroom. This information would have been beneficial to the reader, as well as myself, in examining how this type of instructional strategy may look in the secondary environment. Although, I am quite familiar with the Khan Academy website, I had never before explored the empirical research that has been documented in looking at the effectiveness of Khan on student learning. I was encouraged to learn that one such study did find an increased level of achievement in students who used Khan to supplement mathematical instruction.
For this artifact I had a strong desire to research and describe an instructional tool not only that I had personal experience with in my classroom, but also wanted to learn more about. My rationale for choosing Khan Academy for this assignment was twofold in that it gave me an opportunity to reflect on my usage of the tool in my own classroom, while also providing an outlet to examine the current research behind it and what experts had to say on the topic. The largest obstacle that I faced in the creation of this artifact was in locating relevant research to support my claim that Khan Academy is an effective learning and teaching tool to enrich curriculum and content, namely math. I came to learn that the research that has been established in the scientific community on the topic in question is limited at the moment, which made tracking down specific examples to cite for the paper the tallest hurdle to overcome. I look forward to learning of these developments in the future, as I am sure that more research is on its way, if not already available.