Differentiation with Doctopus

No matter what sort of school you find yourself teaching in, the pupils you face in front of you will each be very different. Each will have their own strengths and weaknesses, each will have their own hinterland. This means that in order to get the best out of them a bit of differentiation is called for.

My (now rather dusty) copy of Becoming a Secondary School Teacher outlines four main types of differentiation:
  • by outcome
  • by task
  • by process
  • by response
I want to focus in this post on the one everybody hates - differentiation by task.In many teachers' minds differentiation by task means multiple sheets of paper, confusion and general chaos. Equally, for pupils it can mean embarrassment when they see they have been selected for an easier task than some of their classmates.

There is an answer to these problems though in a little script I was introduced to recently called Doctopus. Doctopus not only eases the administrative burden on the teacher but it also lessens pupil embarrassment (because pupils work online no physical paper changes hands and privacy is easier to maintain).

Doctopus allows teachers to go completely paperless, to track progress in real time, to keep all pupil work organized and easily accessible and to skirt around all the usual problems encountered when sharing a Google doc in class (no need to make a copy, manage sharing permissions etc.)

In the spirit of @lazyteacher's '3Bs before me' philosophy (brain, book, buddy) below is all you need to work out how Doctopus might be used in your classroom.

Things to do before installing Doctopus:

  1. Make the differentiated tasks as separate Google Docs ready to distribute.
  2. Create folders where you would like the completed work stored and where you'd like the originals stored.
  3. Make a Google spreadsheet register with the names of all those in the set. Each column headed: FirstName, LastName, Gmail, Group (e.g. high, middle, low)
Then from inside this spreadsheet install Doctopus: Tools > Script Gallery (Accept, Doctopus menu > Launch Installer).

Lastly, follow steps 1-4, as explained in this screencast.

I have so far used Doctopus successfully with a lower sixth class and intend to roll its use out to other classes next term.

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