Multicultural Lessons Learned from a Chinese Bilingual After-School Program: Using Technology to Support Ethnolinguistic Children's Cultural Production

By Chang, Sharon; Martínez-Roldán, Carmen M. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Multicultural Lessons Learned from a Chinese Bilingual After-School Program: Using Technology to Support Ethnolinguistic Children's Cultural Production


Chang, Sharon, Martínez-Roldán, Carmen M., Multicultural Education


Introduction

In multicultural classroom practices, technology is a power-amplifier tool that teachers can use to "provide multiple approaches to learning for each student" to increase the power of digital artifacts in the learning of science and literacy (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2013, p. 4). Increasingly, both preservice and inservice teachers are expected to transform their instructional activities to engage students in diverse classrooms for a mobile/tablet generation.

Studies exploring some of the ways teachers are using or can use technology in the linguistically diverse classroom document not only the power of technology to engage students in literacy learning but also to support students' cultural production of science (Carlone & Johnson, 2012; Machado-Casas, 2014; Martínez-Roldán & Smagorinsky, 2011; Sánchez, et al., 2014).

This article focuses on how technology can be used to support students' cultural production emerged from the science and literacy learning experience of Chinese bilinguals in an afters-chool program.

New Expansions in Culturally Responsive Teaching

The concept of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) has shaped the education of minoritized students in many classrooms (Ladson-Billings, 1995); however, as Ladson-Billings (2014) acknowledges, this pedagogical perspective has also been misused, leading sometimes to fixed notions of "culture." Such fixed notions are very removed from the fluid understanding of culture she originally proposed. Moreover, Leonardo (2013) and Gay (2015) argue that CRP has been appropriated by the language and pedagogy of the right wing (e.g., conservatives) in order to devoid it.

In Gay's (2010) vision of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), responsiveness in classrooms calls for taking social actions (Lew & Nelson, 2016). To employ CRT, it is imperative to reconstruct each of Banks' (2013) five dimensions of Multicultural Education (i.e., content integration, knowledge construction, an equity pedagogy, an empowering school culture, and prejudice reduction), which serve as a foundational pillar for adopting culturally and socially just practices.

There is a dire need for teachers to employ and adopt more CRT approaches. Furthermore, teachers urgently need to realize that the role of CRT is to ground our ethnic minority (and majority) students in understanding the power of knowledge construction (Banks, 2013), and for ethnolinguistic minority students to take ownership in their cultural production. To fully embrace CRT, one needs to ask not only what culture is, but how we are cultured.

For example, Banks (2013) makes the distinction between cultural artifacts and the lens through which we view them. The stand-alone artifacts mean nothing but the lens makes all the difference. Once multicultural educators fully understand this aspect of cultural production, they are less likely to fall into the cultural essentialism paradox. This is somewhat a blend between Nieto's (2009) and Goodenough's (1981) perspectives.

Goodenough (1981) viewed culture as a set of values, rules, and beliefs through which we interpret the world. He made a distinction between public and private beliefs. Nieto (1999; 2009) however viewed culture as ever-changing and dynamic. Nieto states that, at any given time, a person will identify more with one aspect of their culture over another. She also proposes a notion of culture that is learned while at the same time created and socially constructed, embedded in social contexts, and mediated by social, economic, and political factors.

These scholars start off with recognizing the individual, and move on to how that identity makes sense of the world. This movement from individual actions to collective group sharing of meaning helps us to regard cultural production as a plausible new expansion in CRT, to be used to further understand the intangible role of culture in cultural production of science education (Carlone & Johnson, 2012). …

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