What if we taught like an iPhone?

What if

instead of trying to adapt our lessons to meet each student’s need, we . . . create lessons that students can customize themselves?

Robyn Jackson over at Mind Steps takes an interesting angle on the use of iPods and iPhones in the classroom. One that I’ve been thinking and talking about for a while now. But I really like how Robyn walked me through her thoughts.

The angle?

Games (and apps on the iTouch) can actually differentiate instruction as kids use them and provide a great model for us of how we can better plan our own instruction.

The thing that makes Robyn’s post so interesting is that she argues that we spend too much time attempting to find ways to personalize instruction for our students. She suggests the opposite.

For years we have tried to differentiate our instruction, creating several different lesson plans to meet the needs of more of our students. Often we miss several students’ needs and wear ourselves out in the process. I wondered, what if instead of differentiating our lessons for students, we created lessons that were customizable? What if we taught like an iphone?

I like this. I like this a lot.

She uses her purchase of an iPhone to illustrate her point. Rather than trying to figure out a way to make the iPhone specific to each personal, Apple went in the opposite direction. They made the iPhone generic.

. . . Apple didn’t focus on trying to build a phone designed just for me. In fact, it did just the opposite. Rather than offering an array of colors, the phone comes in only 2 – white and black. Instead of offering an array of built-in applications, it offers just a few basic programs loaded into the phone. Instead of trying to offer an array of phones to meet my needs, Apple offers just one.

I’ve got an iTouch but the point’s the same – I can personalize the thing myself  . . . picking apps, cover, operating system, photos, video, music to fit my own needs.

Maybe instead of differentiation, we should focus on building lessons that are flexible enough that each student can find a way to access the curriculum. Maybe instead of trying to guess what our students may need, we should teach students how to show us what they need in ways that can be quickly addressed by the supports available in the classroom. Maybe instead of trying to adapt our lessons to meet each student’s need, we should create lessons that students can customize themselves.

Differentiation focuses too much on individualization rather than customization. We are trying to meet the individual needs of students rather than showing them how to meet their own needs. We are building individual lessons for each student instead of building lessons that are flexible enough so that all students can access them.

I like this. A lot.

It gives me a way to re-think the whole differentiated instruction idea. You really need to read the full version. Check it out and let me know what you’re thinking.