ERIC Identifier: ED460129
Publication Date: 2001-12-00
Author: Marshall, Patricia L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Multicultural Education and Technology: Perfect Pair or Odd
Couple? ERIC Digest.
In recent years multicultural education and technology have emerged as key
issues in teaching and teacher education. But whether they represent pedagogy's
perfect pair or its odd couple is still being determined as teachers at all
levels seek ways to integrate the two. This digest looks at how technology can
support multicultural education efforts.
AN OVERVIEW OF MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
specializing in multicultural education agree that at its most fundamental
level, multicultural education represents an orientation to schooling and the
teaching-learning process that is grounded in the democratic ideals of justice
and equality (Banks, 1995; Gay, 1994; Sleeter, 1995). Some would argue that
justice and equality have always been the focus of schools in America, but there
is a substantial body of historical and contemporary evidence which demonstrates
that the schooling experiences of most students of color, as well as many white
students from economically poor and politically disempowered backgrounds, are
inferior to those provided to white students from middle class, politically
dominant backgrounds. Due to this disparity, proponents of multicultural
education call for a studied restructuring of many of the long-standing policies
and conventions of public schooling. James A. Banks, professor of education and
director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of
Washington in Seattle, is recognized as a leading scholar in the field of
multicultural education. He has detailed five critical dimensions of
multicultural education: content integration, knowledge construction, prejudice
reduction, equity pedagogy, and empowering school culture and social structure.
TECHNOLOGY, TEACHING, AND CONTENT INTEGRATION
The goal of
content integration is to expand the curriculum by incorporating contributions
of diverse cultures into traditional disciplines of study. Arguably, this
dimension is easily realized through technology. For instance, teachers at all
levels have used the World Wide Web to extend the available learning resources.
Electronic mail and multimedia technologies promote communication and
interactions between diverse groups with the purpose of helping students learn
more about content they study in subject areas as social studies, science,
psychology, and even foreign language (Anderson, 1998; Baugh & Baugh, 1997;
Cifuentes & Murphy, 2000; Cifuentes, Murphy, & Davis, 1998; Freedman
& Liu, 1996; Roach, 1998; Sernak & Wolfe, 1998).
Many educators who acknowledge potential benefits of a merger between
technology and multicultural education call for updating the physical
infrastructures of schools. In schools where such updates (i.e., re-wiring) have
occurred, teachers are making widespread use of the internet and other
computer-based technology. And the knowledge and skills students acquire in
these schools typically are being reinforced by computer availability and
internet access in their homes. This reality contrasts sharply with that of
students from poor/working class backgrounds who attend schools where the notion
of re-wiring for internet access may seem superfluous in light of the absence of
basic resources. Nor are these students likely to have internet access at home.
Citing a 1999 report of the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration, Gorski (2001) reports that "African American and Latino
households are only about one-third as likely to have access to the Internet
from home as Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander households. The same
group is only two-fifths as likely to have access as White households" (pp.
14-15). This situation is reflective of the "digital divide" phenomenon. Thus,
while technology can facilitate the content integration in the teaching-learning
process, educators must be aware that in some circumstances this dimension of
multicultural education will need to be addressed by other means due to lack of
access to technology.
KNOWLEDGE CONSTRUCTION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
construction dimension promotes critical literacy by examining the manners in
which scholars and scientists contribute to their respective fields of study.
Knowledge construction builds upon content integration by making explicit the
worldviews and perspectives that inform knowledge claims. Similarly, it expands
the legitimate sources of knowledge by helping learners recognize that their own
experiences both within and beyond school are viable foundations for acquiring
knowledge and skills. Teacher educators are being called upon to use technology
to promote and reinforce the knowledge construction process (Cummins &
Sayers, 1996; Kellner, 1998). Part of acquiring facility in knowledge
construction is understanding phenomenon from the perspectives of others. To
this end, teacher educators are making use of Internet technology to promote
more critical engagement with subject matter (DeGarcia & McGlynn,a 1999).
For example, Merryfield (2000) discusses advantages of threaded discussions in
an online graduate course. Student-generated threads facilitate a class learning
community that allows those of diverse cultural and national origins to
perspective-take while simultaneously examining their own ideas about cultural
TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL TO REDUCE PREJUDICE
reduction is about eliminating all forms of bigotry. Also, it involves promoting
healthy personal identity devoid of the tendency or need to denigrate those who
differ from self. Multimedia presentations and distance learning technologies
are being used to establish learning exchanges between students of diverse
cultural backgrounds and thereby reduce prejudice and stereotyping (Anderson,
1998; Baugh & Baugh, 1997; DeGarcia & McGlynn, 1999; Roach, 1998).
Likewise, technology is being used to promote positive self-concept and foster
positive relationships between students from diverse backgrounds in
geographically diverse areas. Such efforts have included videoconferences,
computer conferences, interactions on the Web, and e-pals (Cifuentes &
Murphy, 2000; Cifuentes et al., 1998). Technologies used with middle grade
students have included interactive compressed video and use of two-way televised
communication systems via telephone lines (Sembor, 1997). Teacher education
students are using distance learning technology, multimedia, and e-mail to
engage in cross-cultural and diverse regional interactions with other
prospective teachers (Anderson, 1998; Sernak & Wolfe, 1998).
MAKING INSTRUCTION EQUITABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY
pedagogy is about equalizing opportunities to learn. It involves incorporating
various strategies and techniques that attend to learning styles and
intelligence types. Writers interested in the nascent relationship between
technology and multicultural education are discussing the urgency of using
technology to address the various ways in which learners from diverse
backgrounds best acquire school knowledge and skills (Cummins & Sayers,
1996; Damarin, 1998; DeVoogd, 1998). Nevertheless, it is difficult to discern
whether current efforts to merge technology and multicultural education are
addressing this fourth dimension directly. Indeed, some writers are concerned
that technology may inadvertently privilege certain ways of processing
information while it devalues others (Damarin, 1998; Roblyer, Dozier-Henry,
& Burnette, 1996). An important issue for many contemporary educators,
particularly in the university setting, is whether internet technology is in any
way superior to face-to-face instruction. It would appear that one advantage
internet technology holds over face-to-face classroom format is in its ability
to provide educators and students wide access to a cross-cultural professional
and learning community. This can be accommodated through e-mail, bulletin
boards, and chatroom sites (Gorski, 2001).
A ROLE FOR TECHNOLOGY IN EMPOWERING THE CULTURE OF
Multicultural education proponents contend that in order to provide
high quality experiences for all students, many traditional aspects of schools
will need to be reconfigured. This is referred to as empowering school culture
and social structures. Its ultimate purpose is to change the taken-for-granted
policies and practices of schools that, while useful to some students, have
greatly diminished the schooling experience for many others. For example, Arias
(2000) describes how the new California State University, Monterey Bay, is
making extensive use of technology to provide access to higher education to the
burgeoning population of Latinos and other people of color who historically have
been excluded from such opportunities. Throughout the U.S., access to university
courses and degree programs are being made available to students by expanded
distance education opportunities that now routinely include courses offered
online in part or in their entirety.
PERFECT PAIR OR ODD COUPLE?
Various efforts are underway to
merge multicultural education and technology, yet it is too soon to crown the
duo a perfect pair. Concerned observers cite the divergent ideological
underpinnings of multicultural education versus technology as being perhaps
predictive of a turbulent long-term relationship (Damarin, 1998; Roblyer, et
al., 1996). For example, Roblyer et al. (1996) note that multicultural education
emerged from the efforts of people of color and at its most fundamental level is
concerned with justice and equity for all. This contrasts with internet
technology, which they report emerged from the efforts of a white male elite and
remains fraught with problems of access and equity. But this perplexing outlook
notwithstanding, increasing cultural diversity in schools demands that teachers
seek alternative ways to address learner needs effectively. Teachers at all
levels accept that technology has become integral to the teaching-learning
process, and many enthusiastically albeit cautiously hope to make the best use
of it to provide high quality schooling for all students.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (800-443-ERIC).
Anderson, S. E. (1998). Integrating multimedia multicultural methods into an
educational psychology course. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,
Arias, A. A., Jr. (2000). Agile learning, new media, and technological
infusement at a new university: Serving underrepresented students. ED 444 801.
Banks, J. A. (1995). Multicultural education: Historical development,
dimensions, and practice. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.).
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Cifuentes, L. & Murphy, K. L. (2000). Promoting multicultural
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Cummins, J. & Sayers, D. (1996). Multicultural education and technology.
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DeGarcia, B. G. & McGlynn, D. (1999). Beyond the learning tool paradigm:
The computer as a medium in a technology enhanced multicultural education
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Kellner, D. (1998). Multiple literacies and critical pedagogy in a
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Merryfield, M. M. (2000). Using electronic technology to promote equity and
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Roach, R. (1998). Cyber diversity. Black Issues in Higher Education, 15(21),
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multicultural education: The uneasy alliance. Educational Technology, 36(5),
Sembor, E. C. (1997). Citizenship, diversity and distance learning:
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Sernak, K. S. & Wolfe, C. S. (1998). Creating multicultural understanding
and community in preservice education classes via email. Journal of Technology
and Teacher Education, 6(4), 303-329.
Sleeter, C. E. (1995). An analysis of the critiques of multicultural
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