Expecting students to leave behind all that they are when they enter the classroom isn’t just unrealistic, it’s unfair. But that’s often what's expected of students: Show up and be prepared to take what we offer. Technology, however, has delivered the means to provide more culturally relevant instruction.
“When a lesson is relevant, the student becomes a learner, their interests are sparked and their brains ignite, and that is how we close the achievement gap,” says Alicia Discepola, a digital literacy and learning specialist for Millville Public Schools in New Jersey.
“Culturally responsive teaching focuses on students’ cultural knowledge and frames of reference. So, if we’re going to meet the needs of our students and communities, we have to know who they are.”
Technology provides ways to do that every step of the way, Discepola says. Here are four ways to make your classroom more culturally responsive with technology.
Use apps like Google Translate, iTranslate or Reverso to communicate with families who don’t speak English.
Use sites like YouTube Live, YouNow or Live to virtually bring families into the school for special events or to showcase learning.
3. Web accessibility
On websites, include text-to-speech and translation tools, and provide accessible information through multiple means, like interactive images with ThingLink.
Promote student voice and choice by allowing kids to decide how to show what they’re learning. Google Hangouts, ePals and Skype let students collaborate and communicate with people around the world. Teachers can provide meaningful feedback through personalized videos and screencasting, comment threads and G Suite.
Finally, Discepola says, look within and examine your own biases and judgment. Have tough conversations with yourself and see where there’s room to learn.
“Our students’ cultures, interests and backgrounds, can no longer be left out of learning. When we know better, we do better, and we have the power and the potential to involve and empower all learners. So, let’s do it.”
You can learn more by watching Alicia Discepola's ISTE19 presentation below on creating a culturally responsive classroom.
Jerry Fingal is a freelance writer and editor who covers education, finance, business and agriculture. This is an updated version of a post that originally published Oct. 6, 2019.