With an average class size of about 30 students, educators know how difficult it is to personalize learning in the classroom. Some students are performing at a higher reading level, some are at a higher math level, and some need a little more help in science. The current approach to education includes textbooks that serve as a one-size-fits-all approach. A teacher stands at the front of the classroom with textbook material and is probably only fully stimulating 2-3 students.
A key to solving this problem in today’s classrooms is to introduce technology to students in an efficient and effective manner to meet each student’s skill level and personality. In the past, technology has been used inefficiently and ineffectively. For example, replacing a typewriter with a computer but only using the computer as a word processor under utilizes the full capacity of the computer.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura was one of the first people in education to think deeply about how technology could work in classrooms. Dr. Puentedura developed the Substitute Addition Modification Redefinition, or SAMR model, which is an innovation continuum. The SAMR model states that technology that acts as a Substitute or Addition to today’s classroom doesn’t engage students in a different or unique way. It can have some usefulness and it can be enhancing; however, technology that Modifies the learning process or Redefines the activities involved in learning can be transformative and can change the learning experience altogether.
As Susan Oxnevad explains, "Teachers in the substitution and augmentation phase can use technology to accomplish traditional tasks, but the real learning gains result from engaging students in learning experiences that could not be accomplished without technology. At the Modification and Redefinition level, the task changes and extends the walls of the classroom."
Puentedura's SAMR Model
New technology, when utilized to its full potential, has the ability to stimulate every type of learner by delivering visual or verbal stimuli or asking students to draw response to questions. Having different ways for students to interact with technology guarantees that students with different learning styles are being engaged in a way that meets their personality and learning style.
When students are presented a task in which the challenge is precisely matched with their individual skill level, students enter a state of flow. According to the Csikszentmihalyi Flow model, during this state of engagement students are so intensely participating in an activity that they do not notice the passage of time and the “real world” falls away. The Flow model teaches us that with the use of technology, it is much easier to develop lessons that will meet students’ personal needs based on their developmental state, past experiences, and skill level to avoid sentiments of boredom or anxiety in the classroom.
Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Model
There are currently hundreds of thousands of learning apps available to download. However, the average teacher does not have the capacity to sift through apps and determine which are best suited for each student in his/her classroom. According to eSpark’s estimations, it would take a total of 62 hours per week for a class of 30 students to curate and evaluate the apps.
Enabled by iPad technology and economies of scale, we can reduce this time to about 40 minutes per student per week needed to execute the tasks. This enables minimal time for teachers to engage in the process of preparing and managing students and maximum time doing what they do best—teaching.
At eSpark, we are working hard to create an interactive learning environment to produce achievable academic goals. eSpark lets technology help us understand each student, celebrate their uniqueness, and give them a highly personalized learning experience on the iPad. With eSpark in classrooms teachers are able to give more students the one-on-one attention that they need. By using digital differentiation, we are able to change education and build the path for the future.
This post was updated on November 16, 2015.