This is easy, and I can see a huge range of applications. In a recent lesson I taught using wiki (which in itself wasn’t totally successful) I made individual worksheets that contained; personalised instructions, a list of resources tailored to the personalised task of each students and login and password information. Each student needed different instructions (depending on their topic). Obviously they all needed different passwords and login details.
So, I turned to mail merge as a way of doing this fairly easily. I created an excel spreadsheet, which contained the names of each of my students in the first column. I then made a column for instructions, a column for resources and two for login names and passwords.
I then created a master document with spaces where I wanted the personalised data to go. Then using the mail merge wizard tools provided with Word (Under Tools – Mail Merge Manager (Mac 2007) and presumably a similar place in PC land). I combined the two – hey presto, each student had an A4 sheet that explained their task, which was personal to them.
This got me thinking – perhaps I could use this in other ways. Imagine a situation where everyone is used to getting a different sheet – one each. Johnny Briggs’ (showing my age now!) sheet might start with a few more quick and easy questions to get him going but pretty soon might move up a gear into comparing a couple of sources on a point. Fred Rubbles might focus on his getting the grammar right in a couple of sentences because you’ve noticed that he, and a few others, can’t get used to writing ‘their’ when they mean there’. No-one will care that their sheets aren’t the same as the others, because EVERYONE’s will be different!
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a silver-bullet for differentiation, but it is another tool we can use. I can’t figure out how to make it do pictures (but then I’ve not tried very hard yet – perhaps someone can help me out). I think kids would also get pretty (rightly) sick of bleedin personalised worksheets every week.
Now I come to think of it though there are more than ‘worksheet’ possibilities here, what if you wanted specific students to think through something in a particular way, or sum up an argument from a particular standpoint – this would be an easy way to set up a starter or plenary in which different students have different roles, or different evidence to consider.
I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried this kind of thing before – or if you can tell me I CAN use pictures!