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Crystal Wheatley – National Conference on Differentiated Instruction

August 1, 2011

I was recently granted the opportunity to attend the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction. Prior to going, I knew I would learn a lot of great things while I was there. After attending, I was blown away by how interesting I found each session, and it added fuel to my love of learning.

Las Vegas is known for its great buffets, and this conference was just like that-An education buffet full of information, tools, and strategies to take back and use in your classroom. All of it is excellent, and you can pick and choose from its offerings based on your needs for the classroom. I kept making connections between what speakers were saying by thinking, “Oh, I could take what she said, and put it with the technology I am learning about in this session.” Kind of like mixing your beans and your rice=delicious. 🙂

The presenter that I found most helpful in my teaching was Lori Elliott, EdD. I attended two of her sessions on technology, and I felt that I related to her the most. As she says, “I am a teacher by choice, and a techie by accident.” She spoke in a way that was easy for me to relate to and understand. She reminded us that brain experts believe that our students, coined digital natives, have brains that are actually wired differently from those of us who did not grow up with technology, known as digital immigrants. Therefore, it is imperative that we take the time to keep up with technology, and allow our students every opportunity to have it in their hands. Many people would quickly agree that they are literate. But are they really? According to the 21st Century definition of literacy, many people may not be. It says that 21st Century readers and writers need to:

· Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
· Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
· Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
· Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
· Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
· Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
(NCTE Definition, 2008)

By using many of the technology ideas that Dr. Elliott gave us, it allows GT students the opportunity to analyze information, apply knowledge, and create products without limitations. Many of the ideas that she shared with us, were the ones I kept thinking of while I listened to other speakers:

Bertie Kingore, Ph.D.-Engage, Motivate, and Challenge Advanced Readers-She talked about how gifted students often love to read non-fiction books. They seek more complex information about their areas of interest. If they are doing research, it should be interest driven, personally significant, require interpretation rather than reporting, promote original inferences and conclusions, and have multiple formats of final products available. Suggestions that Dr. Elliott gave on digital story telling are where students can create digital books as a final product.

Marsha Spears-Flexible Grouping, Maximum Achievement-She discussed the multiple ways that students can be grouped. The important thing to remember is that flexible groups are temporary because they are grouped at different times for a variety of reasons based on preassessments. One idea that I liked was Trio Reading. One student reads a passage aloud to a group, the second student retells what the passage was about, and the third student asks questions about the passage for the other group members to answer.
To extend this activity, Dr. Elliott mentioned where students can create Character Cards to display their depth of understanding of the characters in the story.

Marsha Spears also had a session called “Marvelous Mini Writing Lessons” where she stressed that the mini lessons should have an explicit skill and be no longer than 5-7 minutes, and then students should be applying those skills into their writing. She gave a variety of writing ideas; too many to share here. Any writing product could be displayed on one of the previous websites I mentioned. Another website that Dr. Elliott talked about was Students can upload digital photos (this could be a picture to illustrate their piece of writing) and then use the phone to call and record their voice while they read their writing that goes with the pictures.

I plan on presenting information that I learned to the CISD staff at the beginning of the school year. I would like to share ideas that were given by many of the speakers and how they can easily tie into technology (back to the buffet/beans & rice analogy). Our learning never ends, and I believe that all teachers can learn new information on how to understand and work with our gifted learners. I would like to show the book I purchased by Dr. Elliott called, Teach Like a Techie , where she takes you step-by-step through twenty technology tools to use in the classroom. I’ve already started reading it, and it is very easy to read and understand. We have wonderful technology training in CISD, but sometimes I forget how to do things or there are trainings that I am unable to attend. I think her book would be a great resource to have on campuses. Even better, it would be great to have her as a speaker.

While I feel like this blog is long, it is actually very brief in comparison to everything I learned! I am so thankful to CGA for making it possible for me to attend this incredible learning experience.

CGA has my permission to post this blog entry on CGA’s website, blog, facebook, or newsletter.

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