This article seeks to examine and define aspects of the multicultural classroom and subsequent implications for classroom experiences with new technologies. It investigates standards and guidelines for working with diverse students in this area. It also discusses the "digital divide", identifying it as the "gap between those in society who have access to computer technology and those who do not".
In seeking to define the multicultural classroom, this article looks firstly at ethnic groups and cultures, as well as both the strengths and challenges presented by a heterogeneous society. Gender is also discussed, especially in relation to educational success and where both males and females fit culturally, in our learning environments. Traditional and historical roles are examined, specifically with regard to the use of computers and other ICTs. This article also looks at other aspects of the multicultural classroom, in terms of diverse learners such as the "exceptional" i.e. disadvantaged, disabled, impaired or gifted and talented. These may include students with emotional or psychological disturbances and cognitive impairments. Technology is noted as being "quite effective in reducing or removing restrictions that hinder the performance of normal human activities" (p. 9). With regard to standards and guidelines intended to promote best practices in ICT, this paper seeks to support national standards.
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This article will support my research by helping to define what the multicultural classroom looks like in relation to the use of ICT and online learning environments. It has helped to direct my thinking about the implications for the design of learning tasks and also the potential barriers students could face, culturally, in achieving educational success.
Bull, G., Thompon, A., Searson, M., Garofalo, J., Park, J., Young, C., & Lee, J. (2008). Connecting informal and formal learning: Experiences in the age of participatory media. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8.
This multimedia presentation looks primarily at Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs, instant messaging, text messaging, pod-casts and shared video such as You Tube. It includes video and audio pieces, which support the development of the use of online learning environments. It discusses the move from television based activities amongst youth, towards social networking and more creative pursuits, both individual and collaborative. It also looks to how educators may explore the use of such online technologies in developing meaningful learning for students.
The idea is presented that informal learning through the use of multimedia "read and write" tools may help to bridge the gap between school and the outside world. The authors discuss the transition from informal learning to formal learning which may occur through the use of social media: students using familiar social media to become engaged in their own learning. The article describes the collaboration which may occur between student and teacher, where the teacher has the knowledge and expertise in the content and pedagogy, and the student has the knowledge of the social media being used.
The effect of social networking, from this study, appears to be one of rapid change in many ways.
The development of potential in students to speak their minds, argue, debate, critique, feed back to each other, comment, agree, collaborate and possibly initiate positive change through the use of their own creativity and social media is an idea which excites and inspires me.
Caruana-Dingli, M. (2005). Integrating ICT and multicultural aspects within a classroom: the SAIL project. Intercultural Education, 16, 4, 395-404
This research paper discusses the SAIL project - an initiative which provided opportunities for educators to develop their understanding the value and potential of ICTs in multicultural classrooms in Europe. The development of "quality education" through multimedia and internet technology was identified as a priority by the Eurdyice report and the European Commissioner for Education and Culture in 2004. (Viviane Reading, European Commissioner for Education and Culture, 2004, p.1). The Special Animated Interactive Learning (SAIL) project set out to form a community of educators, with the common goal of successful integration of ICT practice in their classrooms. These teachers would also investigate materials on European minority groups and look for ways to make connections and develop meaningful learning. It was hoped that specific software might be used to support learning and the attainment of pedagogical objectives, including co-operative learning. This would also be used to help teachers attain new skills and teaching methods to assist diverse learners.
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The SAIL project used a case study methodology to collect data. Information was collected initially from the participants through a baseline questionnaire and a free writing sample. Later, information was collected though video-taped teaching sessions and reflective logs - completed by both students and teachers. Finally, interviews were conducted with the participants and the logs analyzed. The researcher also kept detailed field notes, especially regarding the processes occurring for the participants during the study.
I believe that this article will be useful for me in my research because it explores similar areas of education - ICT and the multicultural classroom - even if it has taken place in another area of the world. It may support what occurs during my study, or may serve as a comparison. Findings from the SAIL project could also be used to support my investigation of the use of online learning environments and their impact for multicultural learners.
Chisholm, I.M. (1998). Six Elements for Technology Integration in Multi-Cultural Classrooms. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 247-264.
This article looks at the integration of ICT in multicultural classrooms and the implications for both teachers and students. It discusses and defines aspects of the multicultural classroom and the importance of inclusion for students who lack experiential opportunities in this area, including those with socio-economic disadvantages, physical disabilities, ESOL students, those with linguistic difficulties and cultural inequalities related to gender. It points specifically to the application of effective pedagogies and strategies designed for inclusion to occur for all students, such as developing awareness of differing points of view, providing opportunities for individual creativity and making allowances for personal differences. The strategies must be broad enough for inclusion to occur, but specific enough for teachers to be able to successfully apply them.
Six elements for successful ICT integration in multicultural classrooms were identified through Chisholm's research: cultural awareness, cultural relevance, culturally supportive environments, equitable access, instructional flexibility and instructional integration.
Further exploration is suggested, in relation to teachers' undertakings and their application of instructional compatibility strategies in working with diverse learners.
An inspiring part of this research is that Chisholm acknowledges the need for more investigation in this area. Because it looks so specifically at the multicultural classroom in relation to technology, this will be important for my future study, as I would like to investigate the impact and effectiveness of online learning environments for diverse learners.
Kennedy, S. and Dewar, S. (1997). Non-English Speaking Background Students: A study of programmes and support in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 03/03/11
This small scale, exploratory study was conducted in 1995, in a variety of schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It concentrated on a range of schools with high levels of students from non-English speaking backgrounds, with a varying socio-economic levels and communities. School communities, teachers, Principals, students, Boards of Trustees and support staff were interviewed and the findings analysed and reported in this article.
It looked at the effectiveness of programmes and practices within these schools and produced a summary of key findings. These findings included the importance of an overall policy of inclusiveness and ongoing commitment to providing a culturally supportive environment. It also commented on the availability and quality of materials to support learning and help promote equity in this area.
It examines equity policies and mission statements from different schools and briefly discusses the role school governance has to play in ensuring these policies can be met.
It could be interesting to investigate whether the findings of this study apply successfully to multicultural students and their participation in learning online.
Mellar, H., Kambouri, K., Logan, K. Betts, S., Nance, B. & Moriarty, V. (2007). Effective teaching and learning using ICT. National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and Numeracy.
This article deals with a case study in which nine educators in the United Kingdom were assisted by developmental officers to support the growth ICT within their schools. The two questions to be investigated during the study were centred around how teaching, learning and the assessment of the areas of literacy, numeracy, ICT and English as a second language could be improved, and which factors contribute to success in learning. The research included teaching and learning experiences, the effect of digital technologies on the content of learning and appropriate pedagogical strategies to support learning with regard to these. The research took place over two years and nine months. Information was collected through meetings, diaries and the observation of each classroom four times during the study. Selected students were also given specific tasks and observed for levels of confidence. The results of this study were compared with other similar research projects, producing some interesting results, specifically in regard to collaborative learning, stating that working in groups appeared to be less effective than working alone, particularly when computers had to be shared. This will have an impact for my own research, as I intend to investigate the use of online learning environments in promoting collaboration for multicultural students. This study also provided some teaching strategies which could be effective for the development of learning skills when applied to OLEs, such as modelling and discussion.
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