Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Overcoming the Challenges of Stand-Alone Multicultural Courses: The Possibilities of Technology Integration

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Overcoming the Challenges of Stand-Alone Multicultural Courses: The Possibilities of Technology Integration

Article excerpt

The goals of stand-alone cultural-diversity courses, in teacher education programs, are to raise the cross-cultural cognizance and sensitivity of future teachers so they can incorporate multicultural scholarship into their classrooms, careers, and personal lives; and to provide them with the skills to become transformation agents who instill social justice consciousness in K-12 students. However, time constraints and isolation (lack of connection to foundations and/or subject area instruction) often impede these goals.

This study examines a successful stand-alone multicultural course that added technology to address course challenges by: extending student/student and student/instructor interaction, sustaining postclass peer support, augmenting student/expert dialogue, and linking content and foundations curricula with multicultural pedagogy. The infusion of technology also created: A virtually paperless data storage/retrieval system, a productive tool to monitor student preclass preparation and comprehension, a vehicle for individual and small group debriefings, and an efficient method to evaluate, modify, and manage instruction.

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THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The demographic projections of Haberman (1989) and Hodgkinson (1992; 2002) indicated an increasing divergence between the cultures and life experiences of K-12 students and those of their classroom teachers. By 2020 the homogeneity (white, middle class, female) of classroom teachers will reach 95% while the economic, ethnic, racial, religious, and social class diversity of the student population will increase nationally, to over 50% (Hodgkinson, 2002; Sadker & Sadker, 2000). This cultural incongruity is further exacerbated by the limited authentic cross-cultural knowledge and interaction experiences of both classroom teachers and their students.

Teacher education authorities such as Bennett (2003), Brown (2004), Gay (2000), and Pang (2001) indicated that, to be effective, classroom teachers must possess the multicultural knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that appropriately respond to issues of student diversity, political influences, and cross-cultural acceptance and validation. Additionally, Banks (1995), Pai (1990) and other multicultural theorists espoused that classroom teachers must be prepared to recognize biases and advocate for equitable access to educational opportunity for all students. Howard (2002), and Zeichner (1993) stated that an equally important imperative is to enable future teachers to transfer equity cognizance to their K-12 students and facilitate the incorporation of social justice tenets from a global perspective, into the cognitive structures of their students' current and future selves.

To foster social justice from an international perspective, teacher educators must begin to view cultural diversity training in a global perspective (Banks, J., 2001; Hilliard, 2001; Zong, 2002). With our growing global interdependence and the move toward a global consciousness, K-12 students must be morally cognizant of, genuinely respectful toward, and effectively prepared to appropriately interact with the many cultures they will encounter as adults in America and around the world. Understanding the continued opposition to multicultural tenets exhibited by students, instructors must develop new strategies to lower resistance and address the issue of providing future teachers with the skills to affect the transfer of global social justice precepts to the current and future lives of their K-12 students (Harrington, 2002; Howard, 2002).

Teacher educators such as Ahlquist (1991), Allport (1979), Brown (in press), Irvine (1992), Lehman (1993), and Sleeter (1995a) found that many teacher education students, enrolled in stand alone cultural diversity courses, attempt to resist multicultural precepts and seek to further reinforce their preconceived cultural biases. Brown (2002) found that undergraduate students exhibit their resistance through inadequate class preparation, participation, and discussion; opposition to required cross-cultural field experiences; and the submission of incomplete and/or mediocre research projects. …

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