Cuturally Responsive Teaching using Technology

By Selena Valencia
NMSU EDLT 572

To all my fellow educators out there, have you ever thought about Culturally Responsive Teaching? If you haven’t, you should! However, all of us educators need to consider Culturally Responsive Teaching using Technology.

Now that Culturally Responsive Teaching is on your mind, I want to define what culturally responsive teaching really is. Elizabeth Kozleski (n.d.) put it simply by saying, “In 2000, Professor Geneva Gay wrote that culturally responsive teaching connects students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to academic knowledge and intellectual tools in ways that legitimize what students already know”. This means that culturally responsive teaching allows teachers to create learning patterns that promote student engagement and achievement in the classroom.

If you want to be able to foster the connection between school and a student’s culture/expose them to different beliefs but aren’t sure how, here are some simple strategies provided by Brown University (n.d):

    • Use cooperative learning especially for material new to the students
    • Assign independent work after students are familiar with a concept
    • Use role-playing strategies
    • Assign students research projects that focus on issues or concepts that apply to their own community or cultural group
    • Provide various options for completing an assignment

Okay, so, now you have a pretty good understanding of what culturally responsive teaching is and different strategies you can use, but now the big question: Why is teaching in a culturally responsive way important? Here it is– students need to understand that there is more than one way to interpret a statement, event, or action. By being allowed to learn in different ways or to share viewpoints and perspectives in a given situation based on their own cultural and social experiences, students become active participants in their learning.

Elizabeth Kozleski also says, “Culturally responsive teaching also helps to bridge different ways of knowing and engages students from non-dominant cultures in demonstrating their proficiencies in language usage, grammar, mathematical knowledge, and other tools they use to navigate their everyday lives. Further, by understanding the features of this knowledge, students from non-dominant cultures can learn how to translate the logical structures of their knowledge and map them onto the school curriculum” This is important because children from homes in which the language and culture do not closely correspond to that of the school may be at a disadvantage in the learning process.

Brown University supports this in saying, “These children often become alienated and feel disengaged from learning. People from different cultures learn in different ways. Their expectations for learning may be different.” If you think about it, this is so true because when you visit a friend’s house, set-ups are different, routines are different, and more! You have to be respectful and think the way they do in their home. For our students, when you effectively teach in a culturally responsive way, you want this home to school differnce to be slim. For example, Julia G.Thompson (2013) states in How to be a Culturally Responsive Teacher, “…some cultures stress the importance of cooperative learning while others do not.” This means students from some cultural groups prefer to learn in cooperation with others, while the learning style of others is to work independently. To maximize learning opportunities, teachers should gain knowledge of the cultures represented in their classrooms and adapt lessons so that they reflect ways of communicating and learning that are familiar to the students.

Now that we know why culturally responsive teaching is important, we have to think about what can happen if culturally responsive teaching is ignored. Well, educators understand that children learn about themselves and the world around them within the context of culture. Brown University sates, “If ignored, students from minority cultures may feel pressured to disavow themselves of their cultural beliefs and norms in order to assimilate into the majority culture. This, however, can interfere with their emotional and cognitive development and result in school failure.” So as you can see, ignoring culturally responsive teaching can cause a lot of damage to the student in the long run. This is why teachers should not avoid culturally responsive teaching and should aim to expose differences through effective communication. Brown University suggests:

    • Teach and talk to students about differences between individuals
    • Show how differences among the students make for better learning
    • Attend community events of the students and discuss the events with the students

So, what kind of diversity are we seeing in the classrooms? According to FangFang Wen (n.d.) it is stated, “With the establishment of education acts for students with special needs, more and more students with exceptionalities have opportunities to be involved in a regular classroom. In addition, there is an increasing trend of English Language Learning students to account for a larger percentage of the student population in the classroom.” With this statement in mind, diversity goes beyond ethnicity, but also physical and mental ability, and language offerings.

FangFang Wen continues to say, “These students, both male and female, have diverse physical abilities, diverse intellectual abilities, and diverse cultural backgrounds. Under such conditions, it is very difficult for one teacher to meet all of the students’ diverse needs in classroom. Learning technology is an effective way to enhance excellence in education, to support curriculum requirements, to meet various needs, to help students learn to love learning, and to ensure quality of education.” This is where my research of new technologies comes in.

There are plenty of easy-to-use online resources available to help teachers who want to include learning projects which will appeal to students’ interests while exposing them to a variety of different cultures. Learning technology can be a useful tool to help teachers meet diverse students’ needs.

The first source being the simple use of the speech-to-text tool many computers now offer. This would allow communication options for students who are not comfortable speaking the dominant language that they wouldn’t have in a non-technology based classroom.

One resource that I found that I instantly fell in love with was Skype in the Classroom. This is a community where teachers collaborate to create lessons and connect K12 classrooms globally through free Skype video, audio and texting. If you have not checked out Skype in the classroom, I suggest you do so. It’s a very exciting way to expose students to different cultures through lessons, virtual field trips, and guest speakers!

Another really cool online resource that teachers can use to create a diverse and accepting environment is the Global Read Aloud program. It was founded in 2010 with the goal of connecting the world with a book. When a teacher signs up their classroom, they participate in a reading of a book that classrooms around the world are reading as well. Then, they can connect with one or multiple classrooms around the world to discuss the reading.

Next, at the easy-to-navigate ePals site, teachers and students can collaborate with other teachers and students from over two hundred countries in authentic learning projects. You can join other classrooms in projects that are already in progress or you can design your own project and ask other classrooms to join in. This allows students to collaborate with other students who are different from them, but allows them to work at the same goal.

Teacher Vision has an article that has multiple ready-to-use tips for welcoming and engaging diverse students. It has strategies, special needs resources, English language learner resources, holiday resources, and so much more! I believe this site is a good place to start if you are wondering where to start with culturally responsive teaching.

Additionally, Ginger offers several features that can help students with dyslexia and other learning disorders with writing. It is also designed for speakers of languages other than English. Some of the features include: Grammar checker that analyzes context to determine any errors or misspellings. Word prediction and sentence rephrasing tools that can be helpful for students learning how to construct sentences properly. And TTS functionality so students can hear what they’ve written.

In conclusion, technology can aide in the culturally diverse classroom. It can expand options and enhance assignments—for example through text to speech capabilities for students with language barriers and students with special needs. It is also a very useful tool when it comes to exposure to different cultures through different online sources that allow collaboration with other classrooms around the world.

References

Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved from Learning Within the Context of Culture: https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/teaching-diverse-learners/learning-within-context-culture

Kozleski, E. B. (n.d.). Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved from Equity Alliance : http://www.equityallianceatasu.org/sites/default/files/Website_files/CulturallyResponsiveTeaching-Matters.pdf

Thompson, J. G. (2013). How to Be a Culturally Responsive Teacher. Retrieved from Middle Web: https://www.middleweb.com/9471/culturally-responsive-classrooms/

Wen, F. (n.d.). Learning Technology and Diverse Students: A Classroom Resource Guide for School Teachers. Retrieved from http://sicw.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/GRST-09FinalWFF.pdf

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Cuturally Responsive Teaching using Technology