Differentiation and Apps: Understanding your students and course design
Differentiation & Apps:
Understanding Your Students
and Course Design
Rita Brusca-Vega, Ed.D.
Denise Frazier, Ph.D.
Anastasia Trekles, Ph.D.
Download these slides:
What you’ll be able to do by the end of this
Identify common and freely available technologies that can assist with child
Discuss strategies, both technological and “low-tech” or “no-tech,” that can be
employed in working with students with unique differences.
Match various technologies to specific needs that a child may have.
Evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies in assisting a specific child.
How technology can help differentiate
Technology can offer experiences that otherwise are difficult to replicate
Personalized learning adaptations
Multimedia with sound, captions/text, pictures to increase learning and engagement
Virtual “field trips”
Exposure to multiple languages and cultures
What does it mean to differentiate?
Concept 1: Goodness of Fit
Learning is more effective when curriculum & instruction is presented in
ways that complement the student’s learning processes.
Examples of processes:
Visual processing, auditory memory, processing speed, abstract reasoning…..
What does it mean to differentiate?
Concept 2: Relation to Universal Design for Learning
Goal of future learning environments is to maximize:
• Means of representation
• Means of action and engagement
• Means of expression
Students with “special” education needs
About 14% of population age 18 and under have identified special ed needs.
These needs fall into categories of disability defined by the IDEA:
Developmental disabilities (for younger children); Intellectual disabilities;
Speech/language disorders; Sensory disorders (hearing & vision); Physical
disabilities (orthopedic & other health impairments & TBI); Learning disabilities; Autism
spectrum disorders; Emotional/behavioral disorders
BUT also consider English learners; students with processing issues that do not
rise to level of disability; students with unique patterns of strengths &
Matching Instruction to Characteristics
Based on processing characteristics…
Slow processing speed
Receptive oral language difficulties
Receptive written language difficulties
Need technology where …
Students can control speed
Backgrounds are not “busy”
Written language and oral language
are presented simultaneously
Students can click for word
definitions, pronunciations and/or
have text read aloud
Many children need some type of assistance; technology can help bridge their
gaps by giving them the tools needed
Some common examples are:
Speech to text to dictate and control computer functions (i.s., Siri)
Text to speech to read what’s on the screen for blind, non-readers, language learners
Adaptive features of interfaces on tablets and on computers to make the interface easier to use
for little hands or limited mobility
Screen magnification and magnification of real objects through scanning devices
Sound amplification for the hearing-impaired
When technology might NOT be right
Screen time and how much is too much is always a concern, especially for
Children with disabilities may often benefit from non-technical solutions just as
well as technical ones, if not more so (toys, non-tech switches, etc)
NAEYC guidelines indicate that young children should always engage in digital
materials with adult guidance - avoid passive screen time
Learning with children using technology can be great, but too much can
overstimulate some children even when you’re there to guide them; take
frequent breaks and reduce screen time to no more than hour per day
Evaluating technologies for children
Effective early childhood apps should be (see www.CTDInstitute.org):
Open-ended to promote play and problem solving
Promote literacy and vocabulary without repetitive drills
Include engaging, interactive activities that gives the learner control
Encourages fine and gross motor movement
Promotes interaction with adults or peers
Our rubrics give you some options for how to evaluate apps and other tools you find
Communication and Interaction Technology
Children’s interaction with technology should mirror authentic play-social, make-
believe, games with rules, etc.
FaceTime or Skype allows babies to communicate with a live person which
positively impacts learning
Language develops most readily when there is social interaction - research on
the use of passive technologies like TV to develop language shows that it is
not effective as an alternative
Reading tip sheets in other languages
A downloadable handout, for parents of children in preschool to grade 3, is also available below in the following languages:
Spanish (471K PDF)*
Arabic (964K PDF)*
Traditional Chinese (959K PDF)*
Haitian Creole (950K PDF)*
Hmong (943K PDF)*
Korean (446K PDF)*
Navajo (578K PDF)*
Russian (646K PDF)*
Tagalog (943K PDF)*
Vietnamese (945K PDF)*
Find these and other downloadable tips and guides in our Guides section.
Apps that make your life easier:
Google Drive: http://drive.google.com or app stores
Google Cardboard: https://vr.google.com/cardboard/get-cardboard/ (make your own at
Kahoot (quiz game): https://create.kahoot.it
GoNoodle (for getting kids up and moving!): http://gonoodle.com
Educreations (for creating and presenting info): https://www.educreations.com or app
ClassDojo (for classroom management): http://www.classdojo.com or app stores
Sites for kids
National Geographic Kids
Brain Pop Jr.
Language and Literacy apps
David Weisner’s Spot-app for storytelling by Caldecott winner
Scribble press-kids can write and illustrate their own stories
Montessori Writing Wizard
Kids A-Z: https://www.kidsa-z.com
Little Fox stories
NASA apps and website
Happy Little Farmer
Kids Academy Math Games
Johnnie’s Math Page
Social Studies & World Languages
Word Wizards app
Continents and Countries of the World app - Montessori (multiple apps - iOS)
DuoLingo (learn languages)
Low tech option for promoting communication
Picture Exchange Communication System
Phase 1. Exchange single picture for item or
Phase 2. Expand settings, people; learn to
Phase 3. Discriminate among pictures
Phases 4-6. Make picture sentences, answer
questions, make comments
Low tech options for promoting concepts &
structureVisual Schedules & Supports
Using pictures to build sense of daily schedule,
prepare for transitions, follow directions.
Using video clips to teach & reinforce skills &
Roles/Responsibilities of educators in technology
❖Are ALL teachers in building aware of tech for differentiation?
❖In case of student with disability, is need for tech addressed in IFSP or IEP?
❖Who’s responsible for training staff & monitoring student progress?
❖Who’s responsible for purchasing & maintaining equipment & programs?
❖What to do when support is not available?