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Differentiation with the Internet

• To understand some of the issues of differentiation with respect to
using the Internet as a tool to support teaching and learning.

• To be able to design Internet-supported activities to take into account a
range of abilities within a class.

All of us are different and, although often repeated, it is the case that in a
class of more than one, you have a mixed achieving group. From the primary
classroom to the PGCE seminar, there will be pupils / students who master
the material with ease while, at the same time, there will be those who
struggle. Do the same issues arise with Internet-supported lessons as with
more conventional science lessons?

Suggested approach for tasks:

Task 1
This task could be carried out in a taught session in the University, before the
trainees have been into school. It could be included as part of an introductory
session to the use of the Internet or may form part of a more general
consideration of differentiation.

Task 2
Some institutions may have already considered differentiation in a separate
session. However, this task is an alternative approach in which the issue of
differentiation could be covered in conjunction with ICT / the Interne.

This task could be completed as part of either a University session on
differentiation or one focussed upon use of the Internet.
Instructions for task 1:
Read the following extract, which contains the edited views of a science
teacher about using the Internet with pupils of differing abilities.

Question: What are your views on the pros and cons of using the Internet as
a teaching tool?

“I think that it is largely dependent on the group you are using it with as to how
effective it is. Obviously there are some groups, high ability groups, that are
good at using the Internet; navigating round the Internet, actually getting the
information that they need or they want almost immediately so when you are
using the Internet with them as a research tool it is very useful because they
can use it very quickly to answer questions that they may have given them or
to find information that they may require. So for them it is very good.
With less able it may be very difficult because they are not that quick at
navigating around web pages, websites so sometimes you think at the end of
the lesson, have I achieved anything by using the Internet? So I think it is
largely the groups that you use it with but also I bear that in mind when
planning lessons. Is it really worth using it as opposed to any other method
for research? Traditional methods are a more controlled environment. I am
wary of access of inappropriate sites. I should perhaps use it more and get
them trained well but it is so much easier in small groups.”

After reading the passage above, briefly summarise the reasons for not using
the Internet with low achieving pupils. Are there any addition points that you
or a peer might add to this list? For each point, try to consider a counter

Instructions for task 2:
There are four aspects of differentiation over which the classroom teacher has
control. These are: differentiation by resource, by task, by support and by

Here are some characteristics of each for you to look out for when you are in

You should take these into account when you plan your own lessons, don't
leave it to differentiation by CHANCE!
1. Differentiation by RESOURCE
• Resources related for: appropriate readability levels, ease of use by
students, good design.
• Well managed storage and retrieval systems.
• Student preparation including instructions on how to work through the
topic or unit, how to find resources, materials needed and how they will
record their work.
• Study skills built into course programmes.

2. Differentiation by TASK
• Providing a variety of tasks.
• Matching of tasks to student abilities, aptitudes and interests.
• Ensuring students stay on task, e.g. a learning contract.
• Identifying the output a task leads to, e.g. offer a variety of acceptable
outputs to suit abilities and interests.
• Providing a range of tasks to allow choice.
• Building learning routes, not all children follow the same route through
the topic. Each has an individually negotiated route depending upon
abilities and interests. However, this may reinforce teacher
expectations of performance.

3. Differentiation by SUPPORT
• Support from other adults and students.
• Individual support from the teacher.
• Support from carefully resourced systems and technology.
• Celebration of achievement.
• Co-operative teaching.
• Small group tutoring.

4. Differentiation by RESPONSE
• Making course objectives accessible to students.
• Making assessment criteria explicit.
• Response partners, allows students to respond to one another's work.
With objectives and assessment criteria made available to them,
students can discuss their work.
• Learning logs, these may be simply spaces in a homework diary.
Towards the end of each lesson, time is made available for students to
reflect upon the lesson. These reflections are recorded in the learning
log and become an additional source in guiding the teacher's
• Small group tutoring.
• Individual action plans.
• Response reflects what the student has previously achieved.
Plan an outline of an Internet-supported lesson and, drawing on the list of
suggestions above, consider how you might adapt your plan to cater for a
wide range of levels of achievement within your class.

Instructions for task 3:

You are given a case study below and your task is to analyse the case study
in relation to some key questions about differentiation.

School Background
Clare was teaching in a mixed middle school of around 600 students from
Years 6 to 9. The school is on the outskirts of a village and has a wide, mainly
rural, catchment area.

There are 3 computer rooms in the school; the one closest to the science
department being shared with the mathematics department and contains 25 of
the oldest computers. The two other computer rooms each have data
projectors and 20 more recent computers. The regular class teacher admitted
that these rooms were more popular and were sometimes booked well in
advance as the computers were more reliable and were more regularly
supported by the computer technician. Access to the science computer room
was seldom an issue. All computers had Internet access. Clare was not
aware of any interactive whiteboards in the school.

Clare had observed other members of the science department use the
Internet with their classes and their lessons had been, in the main, biology
based where students were asked to research topics from specified sites.

Case study of the lesson

The class taught was a high achieving Year 8 set.

The main aim of the lesson was to enhance students’ understanding of the
working and uses of electromagnetic devices. The students had previously
experimented with electromagnets in the laboratory where they had carried
out conventional experiments in order to learn how changing different
variables would influence their strength. The students were directed towards
two specified sites ( and, which Clare had found after searching with
Google. A third site had been recommended by a class teacher but when
Clare tried to access it in order to judge its suitability she had found difficulty
and therefore decided not to use it in this particular lesson. Clare would like
to use other sites in the future if time could be found to trial them in advance.
The decision to use these particular sites was that they were attractive,
interactive and Clare felt that the animations would help her students
understand how the devices worked better than if they were presented with
the actual devices in the classroom. One site was judged to contain more
detailed material than the other so that the more able members of the group
could be presented with more demanding examples.

The class had been introduced to the task during the previous lesson where
they had been told what was expected of them and had been given the URLs
to use. The students had been asked to go directly to the computer room
rather than their normal laboratory in order to save time. A computer
technician remained in the room during the lesson to offer technical support
but no issues arose. At the start of the lesson the students were reminded of
the task and directed to begin the activity. The students were asked to find
examples of devices that used the electromagnetic effect, make notes in their
books on what they were used for and how they worked. Clare then
circulated to monitor progress and help anyone who found difficulty.
Unfortunately, some of the students had forgotten to go directly to the
computer room and arrived after Clare had reminded the others of the
purpose of the activity. The late arrivals resulted in having more students than
computers (or seats) and some ended up sitting on the floor behind their
colleagues. Three students went off to work on the task in the library.
Towards the end of the lesson, the three pupils who had gone to the library
returned, claiming to have been unable to find any information on the Internet
or library books and had been ejected by the librarian.

If you wanted to use this resource with a mixed ability group of Year 8
children, consider with one of your peers:

(a) What problems might this approach have?
(b) What changes might you make to this lesson if you wanted to use this
(c) What sort of worksheets might you want to use to support the children
of different abilities in this lesson?
(d) Share your thoughts with others in your PGCE group.

To be carried out after trainees have been introduced to the idea of
differentiation, close to the beginning of the PGCE year.

Task 1: approximately 20 to 25 minutes, including group discussion.

Task 2: to be carried out as a small group activity, over 2 hours.

Task 3: to be carried out as a small group activity, over an hour, including a
plenary discussion.

Access to the internet.
Flip chart and pens.
Differentiation with the Internet: Evaluation

Task 1: Do you believe that this task contributed to your understanding of
some of the considerations to take into account when deciding if an Internet
supported activity is suitable for use with low achieving pupils? Are there any
additional issues that you would suggest be added to this task?

Task 2: Do you believe that this activity will help you plan a differentiated,
Internet-supported lesson? Are there any additions or modifications that you
would suggest should be included in this task?
Task 3: Do you believe that this task contributed to your understanding of
some of the resources needed or approaches to take when planning a well-
differentiated lesson for mixed ability pupils? Are there any additional
considerations you would suggest including?