Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Conductors of the Digitized Underground Railroad: Black Teachers Empower Pedagogies with Computer Technology

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Conductors of the Digitized Underground Railroad: Black Teachers Empower Pedagogies with Computer Technology

Article excerpt

Computers and related technologies are becoming ubiquitous to many U.S. schools. However, little is known about the ways Black educators working in inner-urban schools integrate computer technology into their classroom practices in ways that meet their students' personal and cultural needs. This article, using interpretive case study methodology framed by the critical race theory (CRT) and African-centered theory, examined how two Black teachers integrated computer technologies into their teaching in ways that transformed the thinking and lives of their Black students. The findings suggested that the computer technology: assisted teachers in engaging in meaningful instruction about Black experiences; served as an intellectual partner where Black students constructed knowledge; and became a medium for legitimizing Black students' real life experiences in the "official curriculum."

Despite historical and persistent structural inequalities and institutionalized racism that challenges their education and access to knowledge and information, African Americans have continued to place high value on their children's education. Dating back to the "Holocaust of Enslavement," members of the African community living in the South were severely punished and, on occasion, killed for learning to read and write (Anderson, 1988). In spite of this reality, many enslaved Africans viewed education and access to information as a form of liberation.

Throughout the 20th century, when many members of the Black community built their own educational institutions, some White Americans continued to undermine their efforts toward educational freedom going to great lengths to delay or deny the use of promised monetary funds (Anderson, 1988; Littlefield, 1994; Siddle-Walker, 1993). Despite these adversities, African American teachers continued to resist and reject these practices striving to "self educate" through the initiation of their own schools and curriculum (Siddle-Walker, 1993).

In recent years, however, the inequalities and lack of educational opportunities in the form of information and knowledge woven into the fabric of American society remain largely unchanged and are further complicated by a new manifestation-the Internet and computer-related technologies. Access to knowledge has been "upgraded" to a digital mode and includes conversations about access and use of computers and related technologies. These educational technologies, ubiquitous in some educational institutions, are non-existent, non-functional, or substandard in many of the urban schools that serve students of color, particularly Black students. Despite these adversities, many transformative Black teachers continue to surmount these discriminatory practices based on race and location by striving to create classroom spaces to educate their students. Moreover, some of these progressive Black teachers use the Internet and computer-related technologies not only for the purposes of skills acquisition, but also to transform their Black students' lives.

Unfortunately, little is known about the ways in which Black educators who work in lowresourced schools integrate computer technology into their classroom practice. This paucity in research is heightened because even fewer studies highlight Black teachers who use computer technology as a transformative tool. Although studies have been conducted on successful Black urban school teachers and their pedagogical strategies (Irvine, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 1994), few explore excellent Black teachers' use of computer technology to "successfully" enhance teaching practice for their Black students. In response to this absence of Black teachers' voices, this author examined the teaching practices of two exemplary teachers working in an inner-urban public school district located in the Mid-Atlantic, Roosevelt City Schools.


In this research project, an interpretive case study methodology is framed by CRT and Africancentered theory to examine the teaching practices of two transformative Black educators, Kofi Jefferson and Kathy Jones. …

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