In consideration of one of the two selected essential expectations for my focus unit (Evolution 3U Specific Expectation C2.4), I have chosen a natural selection computer simulation activity (PhET Natural Selection) with which to discuss opportunities for employing differentiated instruction (see Learning for All, 2013, pp. 17-23).

Environment: This computer simulation can be undertaken in the classroom, computer lab, library setting, or even at home. Dependent upon computer availability, students may opt to work alone, in pairs, or in small groups. These options would be made clear to students at the outset of the work, and could be adjusted as needed throughout the duration of the activity. Paper copies of simulation data could be provided to students in addition to or in the place of computers based on the classroom profile.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 4.58.22 PMContent: PhET Natural Selection offers many variables, both alone or in combination. Students may to chose to manipulate one to many variables based on their level of comfort with course content, and with the simulation itself, for the purpose of relating the data to Specific Expectation C2.4. In addition to accessing the teacher directly, students may opt to peruse related resources such as those located at this site.

Process/Product: Students could develop their own graphs or be provided with paper copies of graphs. Students may chose to complete their work in a format other than that which is available in the associated Google Sheet. Handwritten and oral explanations are possible, and if any student is a fan of creating websites, podcasts or videos, these would also be options. Some of the questions offer students these types of choices, and these options would be made clear to students at the outset of the work.

Assessment: In consultation with students, some or all components of their processes and products would be useful as assessment tools. In addition, questions on the Communicate tab could be submitted for summative assessment and the diagnostic Google Form could be retaken in a summative capacity. A key component of this assessment would be self-assessment. Students would be encouraged to check their work against the rubric before its formal submission.

Summary: There are multiple options and entry points for the differentiated use of the PhET Natural Selection computer simulation. Readers are encouraged to share additional ideas and resources in the comments section! Thanks!

 

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