Technology: Panacea or Obstacle in the Education of Diverse Student Populations?

By DeCastro-Ambrosetti, Debra; Cho, Grace | Multicultural Education, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Technology: Panacea or Obstacle in the Education of Diverse Student Populations?


DeCastro-Ambrosetti, Debra, Cho, Grace, Multicultural Education


Is technology the panacea for the future of education? The use of technology in today's world is commonplace. In order to keep pace with this global trend, the use of technology within schools is increasing. This is evidenced by the escalating presence of computers in the classroom. Both state education offices and institutions of higher education now mandate the incorporation of technology into the school curriculum. According to Angulo (2001), 96 percent of the schools in this country have Internet access. Teachers are being instructed in the technical use of computers; however, to a large extent, the infusion of computers into the existing curriculum is left to the individual classroom teacher. Specific issues , such as integrating and infusing technology into the teaching of academic subject matter, are addressed through workshops.

However, training is lacking in the utilization of technology in order to address broader issues relating to the education of diverse student populations. For instance, how are we addressing the needs of teachers who are struggling with appropriate methods to instruct students of diverse backgrounds (e.g., language, cultural, gender, socio-economic status, etc.)? As the use of technology increases in schools, how are multicultural issues being attended to or incorporated into this new culture of education? Apple (1989) states, "However, by focusing on what is changing and being changed, we may neglect to ask what relationships are remaining the same" (p.228). Are we adequately addressing language, gender, and race, etc. issues in the classroom by infusing technology into the curriculum? Is the playing field being leveled by the use of computers?

Educationally, are we empowering the "haves" and disempowering the "havenots?" Who benefits? What are the social implications of the infusion of technology into curriculum? Banks and Banks (1997) note, "The challenge to multicultural educators, in both theory and practice, is how to increase equity for a particular victimized group without further limiting the opportunities of another" (p. 7). Are we meeting this challenge or are we perpetuating inequities? Technology has been touted in the media as the panacea for educational reform. However, as demonstrated by one study of computer usage in schools, inequities were being perpetuated, based on the lines of gender, race, tracking, subject areas, and urban versus rural settings (Becker, 1991).

To better address these questions and concerns, we randomly selected three teachers at different points in their career, to participate in an anonymous discussion on issues relating to the education of diverse student populations and technology. To ensure confidentiality, we used pseudonyms. By opting for a pre-service teacher, a teacher in the early stages of her career, and an experienced teacher, we hoped to gain access into their unique personal perspectives and insights developed over the time spent in their profession.

The teachers were asked to participate in an online discussion. A series of open-ended questions were used as a starting point for discussion. This format was chosen to allow the voices of the teachers to emerge. We chose the role of guides or moderators, not leaders of the ensuing discussion. Because of the openness of the interview, the participants were free to explore issues that they believed to be the most pressing and salient. The interview questions focused on issues pertaining to the function and responsibility of the use of technology in the education of a diverse student body.

Throughout the dialogue it became evident that the participants directed the conversation to topics that, indeed, were the most relevant issues relating to technology and education of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. Their responses to the questions were highly reflective. The teachers were asked to define technology and its role in an educational setting. …

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