Even those of us in education struggle to keep up with all the trends and buzzwords in education and technology. We’ve parsed three of the most common (and sometimes most confusing). Readers will note the overlap of each of these with the others, but also the nuances. If you are a breakfast lover, you might also note what a feast they might be taken all together.

Differentiation: Omelet Bardifferentiation learning

We all recognize that feeling of stumbling into a dull hotel dining room for breakfast, expecting oatmeal and sweaty muffins and instead spying an omelet bar in the corner. We eagerly survey the selection of colorful and varied items just waiting for us to make the perfect combination.

EdSurge illustrates the handful of terms associated with differentiation perfectly. Individualized learning means instruction is paced to the learning needs of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but students can progress through the material at different speeds according to their learning needs. Students might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information they already know, or repeat topics they need more help on.

Personalized learning means instruction is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives, content, method and pace may all vary.

Everybody’s gotta eat, but it doesn’t have to be the same thing. Maybe in your omelet you forgo the bacon and add extra cheese, while your friend leans towards meat lovers. If you strike out with mushrooms and need a do-over, you can always try peppers and green onions. Maybe you love cheese but are allergic, so you’ll need to find things you can put in your breakfast based on more than just desire. You have to consider the menu you can objectively handle, too.


flipped learning Flipped classroom: Pancake

It’s Saturday morning. You lean over Dad’s shoulder while he stands at the griddle. He gestures with the spatula, pointing out the bubbles at the edges of the in-process pancake as they form and pop. The popping reliably tells you when to flip it over, revealing the golden glory and aroma of gluten perfection.

EdSurge provides another excellent summary for a flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom, the traditional sequence of instruction is changed. Students spend time with core materials at home, using digital means like videos. Classroom time is devoted to projects or to one-to-one assistance.

Have you ever noticed that you have to cook the first side of the pancake longer than the flip side? That’s echoes the larger balance of time spent at home with learning materials in a flipped classroom. Much of the work is done at home, the first side. The flip side is for discussion and projects in the classroom, and getting your fluffy pancake ready to eat and enjoy.

There are four pillars of flipped learning.

  • Creating a flexible environment
  • Building a strong learning culture
  • Being intentional about the relevant content
  • The key role of the professional educator

Close readers will notice the overlap of the pillars with the goals of differentiation and individualization. There are often components of personalization in a flipped classroom. Like the omelet metaphor, you might choose nuts or berries to go into your pancake. You might get to decide, do you make quick work of a short stack or savor a nap-inducing tall stack?

Overlap is clear in the next category as well: flipped classrooms are one type of blended learning.

blended learningBlended learning: Vitamix smoothie at the kitchen counter with Mom

Technology is a powerful tool. In the breakfast lineup, there is little tech more amazing than a Vitamix blender. But a Vitamix does not have buttons, but a dial which demands human operation and attention to get the most out of the tool.

Blended learning is like that; it integrates tech, but the hallmark of blended learning is actually the preeminence of the human element. Most educational experts caution that the best e-learning outcomes result from good teachers using tech tools, not tech replacing quality teacher-led instruction.

Blended learning has become the term that captures the notion that students learn, at least in part, in an online environment, which is supervised by an adult. Students in blended environments take tests and are assessed on how much they have learned, with a careful eye on the personalized nature of learning: that technology makes it possible for students who either learn differently or have different interests to encounter material presented in a way that is engaging and meaningful to them.


Did we miss any? What edTech buzzwords are you puzzling over? Let us know in the comments.