Archive for the ‘learning’ Tag

Creating a Multicultural Learning Environment

Educators teaching in a multicultural setting may be unsure of how to create a classroom environment that will ensure that each student will reach their full potential.  Perhaps some of these educators have had little contact with people outside of their culture.  Another possibility is that they are just not confident that they can effectively reach all students because of cultural barriers.  Educators, however, do not have anything to fear because they are most likely incorporating the necessary characteristics on a daily basis.  The first characteristic of a successful multicultural classroom is a safe and inclusive learning environment.  Also, teachers with a focus on democratic ideologies will instill dignity and respect for all students.  Finally, incorporating a student-centered, collaborative, project-based curriculum gives all students the opportunity to succeed.  In short, a safe and inclusive classroom that focuses on democratic ideologies while incorporating student-centered, collaborative, and project-based curriculum will successfully foster a successful multicultural learning environment.

One of the first steps to creating a successful multicultural classroom is fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment.  A safe classroom is one where the students and teacher have respect for one another.  Respect for each others differences and respect for each others learning.  Not only do students and teachers need to respect the diversity of the classroom, but everyone must respect that all learners are unique in their abilities and that learning, especially when mistakes are made, is a process free from ridicule.  Students who feel safe in the classroom are more likely to be academic risk takers, which will encourage a greater understanding for the curriculum.  Along with creating a safe environment, a classroom must also be inclusive.  It is not enough that all students participate in the class assignments. Educational materials should be inclusive of diverse voices and perspectives.  Including a multitude of perspectives shows the students that all voices are heard in the class, not just the dominate, mainstream culture. Students who are able to think critically about a wide range of resources and feel safe in doing so will be successful in a multicultural setting.

In addition to creating a safe, inclusive classroom, a multicultural classroom must focus on the democratic ideologies on which United States was founded.  Schools should not promote the ideologies and political goals of any specific group, but should promote democratic ideologies to facilitate societal change that enhances human dignity.  As suggested by the National Council for the Social Studies, “students should be encouraged to examine the democratic values that emerged in the United States, why they emerged, how they were defined in various periods, and to whom they referred in various eras.  It is also important to look at how those values have not been fulfilled and the conflicts that ensued surrounding competing values and interests.  Students who recognize that all Americans had to fight for their freedoms at various points through our nation’s history will understand why it is vital that all cultures work together in support of our democratic society.

In addition to the classroom climate, or the hidden curricula, students in a multicultural setting thrive under a student-centered pedagogy where learners work collaboratively to meet learning goals.  According to Harry and Rosemary Wong in their book The First Days of School, research shows that collaborative learning is the most successful means for fostering student achievement.  In an ideal multicultural setting, student’s voices and experiences are brought to the forefront of the classroom  Students who work together bring a host of experiences and ideas to the table.  Working in a safe and inclusive environment gives students the opportunity while working in groups to hypothesize, test, and implement solutions to problems posed in the classroom.  Collaborative work is also important in a multicultural classroom because after graduation students will enter an increasingly multicultural workforce.  A successful multicultural setting must provide an opportunity for students to showcase their strengths while working to solve a common problem just as many Americans do in the workplace.

In conclusion, a safe and inclusive classroom that focuses on democratic ideologies while incorporating student-centered, collaborative, and project-based curriculum will successfully foster a multicultural learning environment.  The foundation of any successful classroom, especially a multicultural one, is a safe and inclusive learning environment.  Teachers and students in a safe and inclusive multicultural setting are then able to honestly and openly analyze society through the lens of our nation’s democratic ideologies, giving students a common sense of ideals such as liberty and equality.  Finally, much of the research on student learning, in or out of a multicultural setting, indicates that students are most successful when they work collaboratively to meet common goals.  This is important because according to the late president John F. Kennedy, “in America there must be only citizens, not divided by grade, first and second, but citizens, east, west, north, and south.”  It is up to educators to facilitate this type of learning environment to effect positive social change in the years to come.

Further Readings:

Larri Fish. “Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom.” http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/buildingblocks.html

David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson “Making Diversity a Strength” http://www.co-operation.org/pages/CLandD.html#strength

Lee Knefelkamp. “Effective Teaching for the Multicultural Classroom” http://www.diversityweb.org/digest/f97/curriculum.html

“Creating a Multicultural Classroom Environment” Teacher Enrichment Training Solutions Newsletter, vol. 3, issue 12. http://www.cceionline.com/newsletters/December_08.html

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Digital Champion

This past week I have been engulfed in trying to design a class website for my social studies classes.  I figured this would be easy enough since I have been studying digital history for the past semester.  Of course, it was not as easy as I expected.  I thought I could jump on to Google sites and wham, bam it would be done.  That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Although the site editor for Google is pretty straight forward, learning how to use it was like learning another language.  It was full of trial, error (mostly error) and frustration.  The first major headache after I chose which template I wanted was figuring out how to organize information on the site.  I knew that I wanted an area where announcements for each class could be viewed quickly and easily, but I definitely didn’t know how to do that.  Luckily, I was able to contact another teacher who instructed me on how to tweak the site so the information fit together nicely.

The next major problem, which I have yet to conquer, is figuring out what I want to put on the site for text.  I don’t want all text in your face because that is boring.  Essentially, I want to explain each of the classes on their own subpage.  But really, who is this explanation for?  I am willing to bet that most students who visit the site are not interested in my definition of Sociology or Civics or US History.  In actuality, this information is for the parents.  I have some parents ask me when and if I was going to post a website.  I bet that any parent actually interested enough to visit the site will probably read this information.

Overall, this has been a great learning experience.  I am now at least semi-proficient in creating a website on Google.  The great thing about this site is that if I go to another school, the site comes with me.  I am also able to put the address for this site on my resume, which I am sure many administrators will find impressive for job interviews.  So far, my work in Hist 511: Digital History has transformed me from a digital idiot to a Digital Champion.

It’s Not Bad, It’s Different

I am one of the many that believes that the migration towards over-dependence on computers is terrible for society.  I further believe that the idea that humans are uploading their brains to the internet so that we are not burdened with unnecessary trivial knowledge is absurd.  However so much I believe that living a wholly digital existence is unpalatable for me, there are many advantages to the evolving digital scholarship.

In her blog post “Doing Digital Scholarship” Lisa Spiro examines several questions discussing digital scholarship.  A few of these questions look into what digital scholarship is, what it takes to produce digital scholarship, and the types of resources and tools included.  This article also discusses the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)  Commission on Cyberinfrastructure’s report discussing five manifestations of digital scholarship including collection building, the tools necessary to collect analyze and produce intellectual products, as well as authoring tools.

As more and more digital resources become available, the necessity for a sound, encompassing, and open Cyberinfrastructure is increasingly necessary.   Many historians may scoff at this idea, but the truth is that most sources in the US today are “born digital.”  Although historians may have to utilize many different types of resources when constructing a display (digital or otherwise) or writing, we must realize that digital scholarship is not bad, it’s different.

Of course, with the new many new types of materials available (e.g. videos, websites, and emails), there is also a need for collecting and organizing this new data at an ever-increasing rate. Dan Cohen’s piece From Babel to Knowledge describes this necessity, laying out initial lessons in the realm of digital collections.  Basically Cohen is advocating for creating means of digital collection, relying on keeping many of these collections free and open, as well as collecting as much as possible, focusing on quantity over quality.

Of all the readings from this week, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, was the most interesting.  This was probably due to the fact that this author had a much different approach to discussing digital media.  It was interesting to read about the freedom that the internet provides for finding a niche market.  Although the article discussed mostly entertainment media, the principles are obviously applicable to digital scholarship.

Anderson remarkably points out that aside from freedom of space restrictions overhead is greatly reduced.  So we can take scholarship that we are already doing in public history, make it more dynamic with integration of different and exciting types of data, occupy space for a fraction of the cost, tailor our product to a niche market, and reach more people.  Digital scholarship is not bad; it is just different from what people are used to. Just because historians engage in digital scholarship, does that mean that the essential core of history is changed?  I believe not.