Constructing an online component within multicultural education has become a conflict between satisfying the needs of the classroom community, answering critics of distance education, and answering purists in multicultural education whom believe that all classroom work within multicultural education needs to be conducted within the classroom. This said, after constructing a web-enhanced online course that offered 4-5 online sessions, many student and personal reflections came to the forefront regarding distance education and multicultural education.
I have had the opportunity to teach multicultural education as a high school teacher and as a teacher educator. Although not an expert in instructional technology, I felt compelled to institute a form of distance education for students. The first reason was simple enough: I needed something more creative to stimulate my educational juices and technology seemed like the perfect change agent (Girod & Cavanaugh, 2002). Therefore I enrolled in two courses to learn about web-enhanced software for my course offerings.
When I began to comment on using a form of distance education for the multicultural courses with others in the field, I was met with some resistance and questions. There were those that preferred that all distance education be eliminated from multicultural education courses, others had no comment on the discussion, while others had a milieu of questions on software, ethnicity of the students (I questioned why this was relevant), number of course sessions that would be delivered online, and my comfort level working with technology.
The second reason I wished to include an online component to my course was trying to give voice to students that may not normally feel comfortable speaking in class. Thus far I have conducted four multicultural education courses using web-enhanced learning.
This article will provide some detail regarding my secondary education multicultural course. It will detail what were my students' responses, my response, and suggestions for further use.
My multicultural education course is dedicated to knowing the "self" through role-playing, simulations, interviews, and some research. This has been a major concern of what I call traditional multiculturalists, for often these people are engrained in theory building without thinking about the students as individuals and the issues those students bring into the classroom, as well as the issues they may have teaching in a school that may be different from what they were used to as a student (Ramirez, Autry, & Morton, 2000).
Therefore, I felt I needed to introduce the issue of technology slowly due to the number of students that may be limited, like myself, in technological knowledge. When the students were introduced to the web page, there were some that stated that "they didn't know anything" about technology and some felt uncomfortable. Therefore, we went step-by-step, outlining how to create and account for the course and log into the course, and we then navigated the web page together.
This exercise greatly assisted those with little or no knowledge in working with computers. I showed them the major features that we would be working with; personal web page, discussion board, the group pages, announcement page, and chat room. After we navigated, I let the students roam through the web page to respond to their first discussion board question, and gave them an opportunity to use the chat function. I then directed them to the student web page section, and stated that they would need to download a photo of their desire, give us some personal information, and find Internet links that they wished to share.
Most students were unaware how a photo would be able to be downloaded as a file, so I demonstrated with the use of a digital camera how to take a photo and download it onto their page. The students were then …