Magazine article Multicultural Education

Learning Multiculturalism from Yesterday Today & Tomorrow

Magazine article Multicultural Education

Learning Multiculturalism from Yesterday Today & Tomorrow

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the age of globalization or internationally-oriented society, it is of vital importance to consider a multicultural perspective in education regardless of the disciplines involved or subject matters taught at any level of school. In a fourth-grade class in a Japanese school, where an environmental issue is the topic for learning, the pupils may be encouraged to share their experiences and solutions with their foreign counterparts. College students in a foreign language writing class can take advantage of the opportunity in playing a role of resource person to answer questions from their e-mail pals who are interested in their target cultures. Such learning experiences bring the students a broader perspective of the world and integrated knowledge in respective fields of learning.

Computer and related communications technology has, in theory, made it possible to bring the learners and teachers from all over the world into a conceptual space of classroom, where classes are conducted through distance communication online. The following is a small attempt to verify the possibility of "class without walls," where a Japanese college teacher and an American educator conducted an online class with a view to teaching communication skills and developing multicultural attitudes in Japanese college students.

I. Outline of the Class

According to the students' needs to learn foreign cultures and improve their communication skills in English, we established a seminar class called "Telecommunication Seminar," a mixture of cultural studies and the practice of communication skills through the Internet. We designed the course based on our experiences of teaching college students cross-cultural communications in regular English classes such as reading and writing in English. For the past several years, I have tried to expand the Internet-related experiences for my junior college seminar classes, getting them involved in active cultural exchanges as well as learning English by the use of the Internet.

In the early stage of the activities, the students began with common personal correspondence, nothing more than exchanging personal information and sharing bizarre experiences of sending electric mail. Then I set up a cultural exchange project in my English classes, in which they were to study foreign cultures and exchange their cultural knowledge of their own country with foreign students.

The questions from their foreign pals required them to do some research into their own culture, and inspired them to study their own culture to a depth which they would otherwise have neglected. In 1995, for example, a group of my students in a writing class experienced several cultural exchanges with high school students in Cape Town, South Africa, and another group with elementary school children in the United States. My students played the role of cultural informants as they cooperated with American children in their class project of studying Japanese culture.

A landmark of a "class without walls" came when we encountered Michelle Young, one of the co-authors of Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: Meeting the Challenge of Our Multicultural America & Beyond. The following is a summary report of teaching/learning online through the collaborative class conducted based on interaction between the author and the students.

2. Activities and Procedures

Selecting the Textbook

Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow was adopted as the text because of its ability to provide knowledge and perspectives which facilitate the multicultural understandings of society and people. Exploring the multicultural issues facing a variety of cultures in American society, the book allows the reader to grasp the universal relationship between all cultures and the rest of humanity.

The book is resourceful enough to provide vicarious cultural experiences, through the articles on people of different cultural backgrounds, that help the reader share and learn insights into cultural issues. …

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