Rigor gets a bad wrap. Most educators think rigor has more to do with being mean or coming down on students. Jeremy Shorr another friend tweeted out the dictionary definition of rigor as a way of saying rigor just means teachers should be inflexible.
Rigor then, quite naturally, leads to differentiation. Differentiation is the idea that each student gets what he or she needs at his or her learning level. Rigor, then, is not about inflexibility as suggested by Jeremy but is explicitly placed within grasp of each student.
When rigor is explicitly established in learning activities students are aided by the teacher to achieve deeper levels of learning.
Differentiation lives at the heart of what it means to teach. By offering students varied levels of work at their instructional levels, students succeed. Without differentiation students fails.
In my technology classroom I offer differentiation at different levels. Here's how I go about differentiation.
Differentiation in the tech classroom
Reading levels vary and in order to differentiate while maintaining rigor, varying the reading levels for learning experiences is essential. To do this I write all student work at the 6th grade level which is good for most of my students.
I have students in IEPs and who have low lexiles who need something different. For these students I write the same learning experience but a lower lexile level. I use less words, less wordiness, and use words that are easy to understand. I then spend time with each individual student discussing what they are to do, review the directions, and have them repeat back to me what they are to do.
Another way is to create screen casts of work I want students with low reading abilities to accomplish. This method allows the student to rewind and watch what I want them to accomplish while listening to my directions. This is a great strategy with students who are far below grade level reading ability.
2. Differentiate via shared materials.
#GAFE is awesome because it allows me to share differentiated Docs with students who need them. I can design a learning experience to be as easy or hard as I need it be based on individual learners. This allows me to vary the rigor per student without having to assign everyone the exact same work.
I can share resources from around the Web that pertain to some students and not others. For instance I may find a video that offers differentiation for students who need high levels of enrichment and share it with them. Or, I may find a video that directly relates to students who need intervention.
What is so wonderful is being able to differentiate by either creating or sharing materials that fit student needs.
3. Differentiate via an LMS.
Schoology is a great tool! It allows me to create a variety of assignments, discussions, and pages students interact with to learn. Right now we are completing a learning activity called "Let's create a movement!" where they have chosen a problem to solve and used the
Google Docs Research pane and InstaGrok to research it. They learned about audience and purpose by answering five questions and submitting sharing those answers with me. The end product will be a "presentation" (I use this word loosely) to get people around the world to follow their cause.
To make all of this happen and provide students with materials they need at their level, I use Schoology. I can make all of the differentiated learning activities in one place, assign them to whom they belong, and engage students in real life learning.
Further I can engage students in online discussions which helps me read their thinking and see how they are responding to their peers.
Using an LMS helps me design learning that is differentiated for all my students.