A culturally-responsive classroom is one that utilizes the beauty in diversity!
The increased rate of international migration in the world has contributed to the diverse populace seen in our classrooms. Student populations across schools now consist of different races, cultural identities, backgrounds, social statuses, etc. Hence, classroom practices must embrace, reflect, uphold these differences, and groom students to remain in touch with their roots.
Expecting students to automatically abandon their cultural beliefs and all they are when they enter the classroom is not just impossible; it is unfair. Sadly, that is what most contemporary schools expect of students: to show up and accept what we offer. They make students undergo archaic teaching methods, forgetting that culture is an integral part of every individual’s identity, not susceptible to change because of the educational institution.
However, technology has provided a means to create a culturally-responsive classroom, and we will briefly explore those strategies in this article.
What is a Culturally-responsive Classroom?
A culturally-responsive classroom recognizes the need to include students’ cultural and linguistic preferences in all aspects of learning, encouraging students to communicate with diverse audiences within the state, country, and internationally.
A culturally-responsive classroom also aims to keep students in touch with their ancestral cultures, which are not necessarily detrimental to their growth and development. And creating such a classroom requires extra work and commitment on the part of educators.
Note that the one-size-fits-all teaching pattern is not applicable in this context. But developing a strategy to create culturally-responsive lessons will undoubtedly appeal to different learners with distinct backgrounds. To make the job easier, below are various ways of using technology to create a culturally-responsive classroom.
How to Use Technology to Create a Culturally-responsive classroom
1. Learn about your students
- Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other video conferencing apps.
If you’re going to meet the needs of your students, you have to know who they are. Adopting open communication to learn about your students is a good teaching style to help your students feel valued. Open communication also helps to reveal their learning needs and preferences.
At the start of the school year—using Zoom or Google Meet— ask students to talk about their background: the place of origin, languages they understand, etc., and pay attention to every detail. Alternatively, this will help you find a group of students with similar cultural backgrounds and how best to pair them up for effective learning.
They could also talk about some cultural practices they are familiar with and their experiences interacting with people from different backgrounds. Asides from creating a culturally-responsive classroom, this will help build students’ emotional intelligence.
Furthermore, you can host guest speakers in your Zoom meetings. These guest speakers can talk about the history, geography, and social studies lessons that resonate with students’ interests.
According to Economics of Education Review, students are often motivated when they share a similar background with educators. So, inviting guest speakers from different ethnic groups recognized in the country to interact with students and answer questions may help students who share the same culture to build intrinsic motivation.
- Use Google Form or Gmail
You can also use Google Forms to create and distribute questionnaires or surveys and gather information about your students. They could fill these forms with the assistance of their parents at home or under your supervision in school. However, be careful not to come off as tribalistic or a racist in your choice of questions.
Before or after gathering enough information, tell recipients (parents and students) the reason behind the survey/questionnaire: To help you adjust your teaching approach to ensure effective teaching. This will help them quickly warm up to you. You can also send newsletters on different cultures weekly to parents/guardians using Gmail.
2. Celebrate Diversity
- Use apps like Google Translate, MagicBox, Reverso, or iTranslate
Mobile applications like MagicBox allow students to set their language preferences and navigate the entire interface in their preferred language. As an educator, you can also consider publishing content in multiple languages not just for inclusion but to help students gain proficiency in other languages for effective communication. On the other hand, apps like Google Translate, Reverso, and iTranslate help you communicate with people that don’t speak English. You can also integrate these tools into the school’s website.
- Use YouTube Live or YouNow
These EdTech tools will help you virtually bring parents, friends, and well-wishers from different regions for special events or showcasing learning activities within the school.
3. Promote collaboration
- Use Google Hangouts, Skype, or ePals
Promoting collaboration is the easiest way to encourage peer learning and groom students that are not discriminatory due to cultural differences. Google Hangouts, ePals, Skype, and even Empatico allow real-time and asynchronous collaboration and support among teachers and students from different regions in the world.
- Teach with online resources
Online resources are lucrative sources for building a multicultural classroom. Some of these online resources include:
b. Teaching Tolerance
c. Global Oneness Project
4. Create a classroom library
Creating a comprehensive classroom library helps teachers to develop a culturally-responsive classroom. It could be an e-library or physical library with books, research works, and stories detailing the history and culture of different regions across the globe. Google search features also allow students to find resources peculiar to other cultures, narrowing searches by language or region/country.
There are many educational benefits of a multicultural classroom. It is time to include students’ cultures, interests, and backgrounds into all facets of learning. Technology has made this easy for us. It is now finally left for us to utilize this alternative and build a culturally-responsive classroom.