At Long Elementary in Harlingen, TX, where I teach 4th grade, more than 72 percent of our students are considered economically disadvantaged, while nearly 10 percent are English language learners, and 11 percent are special ed. When you have this mix of students, the flexibility afforded by technology to differentiate lessons based on student needs is invaluable. It also helps that many of these tools are visual, which can not only help students with additional needs, but will also help other students grasp concepts more thoroughly, as well.

These are the tools that I use in my classroom to ensure every student’s needs are being met:

1. Bloomz is a free mobile app that includes every feature teachers need to effectively communicate with parents, including conference and volunteer sign-ups, direct messaging, and a translation feature for non-English speaking parents. Teachers can also send home photos and videos from the school day, as well as reminders about upcoming events and additional resources to help with homework assignments.

Why it’s essential:

Parental involvement gives students a greater chance for academic success. For instance, before Bloomz, it was difficult to ensure all students completed their homework, but with Bloomz, the parents always get the homework post before the kids even get home for the day. There have been a couple of instances where kids have tried to “forget” homework at school, but the parents drove them right back up to school to retrieve it.

Often, non-English speaking parents can feel disconnected from the classroom, because they are not able to access information like native English speakers can. Using the translation feature, I am able to reach all parents with a single message.

I can use the app to get parents involved with student learning at home. I recently did a treasure hunt competition with the help of parents. The first 10 students to submit pictures of the three types of angles found at home or in public would receive free homework passes. The kids loved it, and so did the parents.

(Next page: 2 more differentiated learning tech essentials)


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