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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 28, 2010

Renzulli to re-organize the classrooms at Voorheesville

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — The elementary school here is planning to use a computer program to create a more individualized learning style for each student.

The district has bought a yearlong subscription to the Renzulli program, at a cost of about $10 per student, for kindergarten through fifth grade.  The cost is covered by the software allocation in the district’s state aid, which can be spent only on software and would disappear if not used, said Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder.

Developed by Sally Reis and Joseph Renzulli, both professors at the University of Connecticut who have focused on gifted-and-talented education, the program is based on what they call differentiation.  Students in participating classes will answer a survey that will determine their interests, learning styles, abilities, and product styles, or the way in which they best express what they have learned. 

The program will then group students according to learning style — for example, those who prefer listening to lectures will spend more time in front of the teacher, those who prefer technology will spend more time in front of the computer, and those who prefer to learn on their own will spend more time by themselves.

Teachers can also use the program to find pre-screened, online resources to teach the “required content,” set by state standards, to students according to their interests.

In a video produced by Renzulli Learning Systems that Snyder played for the school board at a recent meeting, a teacher faced with teaching students interested in sports, social issues, and performing arts about gravitational pull turned to Renzulli.  “All you need to do is tell Renzulli you want them to learn about gravity and Renzulli will find resources that bridge the content with the motivation,” the video said.

Students interested in sports learned about gravity’s impact on baseball; students interested in social issues learned how to build a water system; and students interested in performing created a dance routine, learning about gravity through choreography and movement.

Snyder first discovered the Renzulli program when she was doing research on enrichment programs while she was an administrator in the Shenendehowa School District.  It didn’t catch on in that school, but, she said, teachers in Voorheesville’s elementary school are enthused.

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Parents, too, can participate, since it is a web-based program, Snyder said, and students can use it at home for additional activities.