Teachers for so long have used only a couple of different tools to assess student learning. Now there are many new ways to actually collect data from students. Using tests as the only source of data isn't relevant anymore and honestly may not give you a good picture of what the student knows.
Effective teachers often are collecting data all day long. It could be through quick formative assessments or simply just watching the students work. With the integration of technology teachers and students both have endless opportunities to either collect or share their knowledge. My background is in special education, so I am constantly thinking about how technology can help our struggling learners. The more I have learned, the more I have realized that effective use of technology in the classroom naturally lends itself to differentiation.
Every teachers has different learners in their classroom. Some may be excellent writers, some excellent readers and some are really creative. This is where project-based learning comes in. Projects can be used with groups, where the students can lean on each others strengths. Student A may be really good at summarizing, but struggles with theory application. Student B may really understand the topic but has a really hard time expressing themselves in written form. If these two students were to work together they could lean on each other.
I often think of a former student of mine that was really creative and when we had conversations about topics, rather than reading or taking notes this student had some really good insight. I would have never know it, had I not worked with him individually and had those conversations. Back then technology was not as prevalent so we did not have easy access. I think about all the tools that I know about now and what he could have done with them. It may have been a complete game-changer.
I know that students cannot create graphics for a state test submission, but couldn't we assess some of what they know in other ways? Given the option students could pick a project they felt good about. If it isn't English class, does every assignment have to be a paper or writing assignment? I know it is important, but there are other important skills that can be gained and used completing another project. Yes we should practice writing and reading, but every once in a while couldn't we change it up? Maybe give choices? Like choose a paper, powerpoint, or infographic (Canva or Piktochart). Students would be required to cover the same amount of information they would be sharing it in a way that interests them, which means more participation.
I truly believe effective teachers can glean important data off every day occurrences in the classroom. Project-Based activities gives every student a time to shine and the more a student can shine the better chance we have of reaching and growing them.