Teachers' Tales

Choosing edtech appropriate for
mixed-ability classrooms


by Julia Hudson
on October 15, 2015

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Particularly for the youngest students, developmental difference can have a huge effect on the classroom – at five or six years old, an instructor can find themselves working with students who cannot read at all, as well as those who are eagerly devouring newsletters over their parents’ shoulders. It’s vital, therefore, that classroom tech emphasise more than academics, so that every student can benefit.

Build good learners, not just top students

One of the top features that Teacher Cast mentioned in their summer round-up of edtech developer advice was to consider social elements of the software. In the words of the article’s author, Sam Patterson, ‘If we are training the kids to be digital citizens, let’s get them to share digital space with others and educate them into responsible us of those spaces.’

The wonderful thing about digital communities is that they provide instant reinforcement of the lessons we teach in real-world environments. If a platform or app provides a way to help another user, through boosting their content or allowing them to team up with another class or student, then the lesson goes far beyond “getting the right answer” and becomes one of interpersonal skills.

Gold-standard platforms allow instructors to measure this ‘help’, so that pupils who may not be succeeding in the class work can still be given public recognition for ‘scoring’ well on the helper metrics. If you’re using Pobble, this could be connected to the student who most regularly comments on other writers’ work, for example.

Make completion the goal

It’s instinctive these days to focus on achievement. However, ed-tech tools form only one piece of that achievement journey, so it’s a mistake to look for an instant turnaround in exam results.

However, you can often jump-start dramatic changes in rates of pupil task completion; when your  classroom contains diverse capabilities, this can also often be a much more rewarding goal for both teachers and students. Mixing tech activities into your class that reward reaching the end of a project, rather than how well each individual intermediate step is completed, can help build the confidence of a reluctant pupil by giving them the same ‘credential’ as top performers.

Plus, it reflects the lessons they will learn outside of the classroom as well – that it’s consistent effort, rather than spot-test performance, that ultimately drives success.

What other considerations should a teacher take into account when selecting classroom tech? Let us know over on Facebook or Twitter.

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