Curate Resources For Students To Differentiate

I have become less and less of a fan of textbooks as technology has made it even easier to find resources that are better suited to help our students learn.  A textbook is as far away from differentiated resources as you can get as it is written in one way and written for students who are not in the room with you.  Using any type of curation tool you can find resources and share them easily with students so you can better give them those resources they need to learn where they are at right now.  You can find text that is better geared towards their reading level or resources that are more engaging for them than just written text.  There is a tremendous amount of videos and animations out there that can help those students who want a more visual or interactive media as they are learning.

The key to making this work is to find that tool that works best for you and your students.  The easier the tool fits into what you do, the less time it will take to do.  Plus, you will get time back as if you have better resources for your students, geared towards where they are as learners, then you should have to spend less time with interventions later.  If our students are different, why aren’t the resources that we give our students different?

Some of the easiest tools to use are basic curation sites where you can easily use an extension in Chrome to save that page or site to a list or set for the students to access.  I try to focus on options that are free and give you a lot of options without having to pay for them.  I used to be a fan of Scoop.it but they started limiting what you could do for free, which caused me to look at other options.  Some of my favorites are below.

Flipboard

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Flipboard has the look and feel of a digital magazine.  You can use the Chrome extension to easily save a page to any of the Flipboard magazines you make.  You can give students the link to the magazine or embed it on a site, such as Google Sites.  If you have iPads, the students can just use the Flipboard app and follow your resources that way.  I would think you could easily create a new magazine for each unit or topic you are dealing with and add to it as you go on.  You could even have students submit links for you to add to them as they do their own research.  You can get to my Flipboards by using the links on the top menu of my this site and you can see how I embed them onto a Google Site by going to https://sites.google.com/a/ames.k12.ia.us/ahs-technology-integration/home/flipboard-resources

Evernote

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Another favorite of many to use is Evernote.  Evernote is one tool that can be accessed by any device you have that is connected to the internet which makes it really easy to add to your notebooks on Evernote or to access them for later use.  You can also use a Chrome extension to quickly add sites to an Evernote notebook and share out those notebooks with students.  Just create a notebook for each class or topic and put all of your resources into that page.  You can even easily save pdfs into notebooks or large amounts of text also.  Students could get to those notebooks using links or through their own Evernote accounts.  Evernote has a ton of free options that make it a very versatile tool and they even added the ability to have chats in Evernote which can really help with collaboration and communication between students and teachers.  Nicholas Provenzano even has a great post and set of resources for Evernote in education, including his own uses of it with his students at http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/2012/12/the-complete-guide-to-evernote-in_7633.html.

Google Sites

While there are a lot of other options out there for curating resources, organization has to be a key feature of any tool that you use.  Evernote and Flipboard make it easy for you to save in different notebooks or magazines, but there are a lot of other options that do not give you the best ways to manage all of those resources you may keep.  My favorite way to keep things organized for my students was to just use a simple Google Site.  I would create a page for each unit or topic and just make part of that page a dedicated section for resources.  While I did not have a quick Chrome extension for this, I was ensured that I could easily manage and organize them however I wanted.  The extra step involved in this, which took very very very little extra time, meant that my students had an easier time finding those resources that they needed.  We should make sure we are using tools that make the learning process easier and better, not harder.

The key to using any of these tools is to play with them and try them out before deciding which is best for you and your students.  You could even use different ones in different classes to do a trial run and pick the one that works best.  Another key is to be flexible and ready in case the tool changes.  Just because Scoop.it changed their policies did not mean I was done curating, I just went on to the next tool that I was going to try and be ready to see how it works.  Change happens, you can either deal with it or be defeated by it.

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