Transforming learning through global collaboration
|*Claudia Felske (you) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|*Juliet Evans email@example.com|
|*Kimberly Powell firstname.lastname@example.org|
Where are We Really from: Developing Cultural Awareness in Young Digital Citizens
by Akram Bhatti, Juliet Evans, Claudia Felske, Avylon Magarey, Kim Powell
Cultural awareness in the context of a global project reaches further than using correct ‘netiquette’, inclusive language and knowing what time zone your group members are from. At the core of cultural awareness is respecting and embracing cultural difference and valuing the cultural learning taking place.
Evaluating Prior Awareness
It is crucial to remember that our students do not exist in a bubble and come to school with preconceived perspectives, opinions and prejudices. Students in monocultural environments do not necessarily have the opportunity to interact with children from different cultures in the same way students from a city or international school may. Just like we cannot assume that students understand how to work effectively in a group, we cannot assume that they have a broad understanding of cultures different from their own. Without explicit teaching and discussion, students can make the mistake of assuming a cultural dominance over their other group members. Much of what students are exposed to about different culture is through popular media such as television which tends to offer a limited and superficial view of other cultures.
When beginning a global project it it may be a useful activity to first evaluate the cultural awareness of your students. This could be done through an online forum such as Survey Monkey or a quiz in Edmodo and expanded on in a class discussion. Through the process of evaluating students awareness of different cultures, teachers can then help students to be aware of culturally sensitive topics such as dress code, religion, civil conflict etc. Communication between the facilitating teachers is the key to effectively enabling students to understand the reasons for specific cultural practices.
As educators, we must teach students to understand their social responsibility when working with people, whether in their own classroom or online in the flat classroom. There are four concepts that we must share, review and apply with our students: safety, privacy, copyright, and legal compliance. In order for students to understand and apply these concepts, they must have hands-on learning by doing opportunities to model these social responsibilities.
There are many wonderful resources already available for educators to share and discuss with students. You Tube and Digital Citizenship and Common Sense Media are just two of the many resources available to use in the classroom. There are also a variety of projects that students can take an active role in learning about social responsibility, which include the Digiteen Project, and the Pikifriends Project. Providing experiences for students to be advocates and models of social responsibility will have a trickling effect in their own classrooms, as well as their interactions with others online.
Language and Cultural Awareness
To state the obvious, language is central to communication. It’s how we understand each other, connect with each other, learn from each other.
How can we raise student awareness of differences among and within languages?
1) Have students use The Very Best of British website to examine the differences in word meanings. If your students use American English, ask them to create a dialogue using British English. If your students use British English, have them create a dialogue using American English. Have groups within your class trade dialogues, read them aloud, and try to decipher the meaning of each.
2) Have students use the Oxford Dictionaries website to create oral “spelling tests” for their non-dominant dialect of English. After they create a spelling test list of ten words, allow students to “study” the website and then have pairs give oral spelling exams to each other. After tests are “corrected,” discuss spelling differences and what challenges they might pose for global communication.
How can we help students make language choices that contribute to successful communication? Several websites provide helpful strategies in this area: Cross Cultural Communication Strategies (International Online Training Program) and Cross Cultural Communication Tips (HCareers). As a class, brainstorm strategies for effective cross-cultural communication. Afterward, popcorn read the strategies from these websites aloud in class, discussing the value of each.
How can we make the “thumb generation” understand that “text speak” can negatively impact cross-cultural communication? Kristin Hawley Turner’s English Journal article Flipping the Switch: Code-Switching from Text Speak to Standard Eng... discusses the impact of text speak and offers a practical activity helping students discern formal and informal settings and appropriate language use in each.
photo by Superkimbo
Promoting Cultural Awareness
Building cultural awareness involves getting to know more about the target culture in order to appreciate and value it. Promoting cultural awareness is important for challenging any misconceptions. It can spark interest in learning more about the target culture and reduce the likelihood of causing offence unintentionally during collaboration.
Important aspects of culture to be aware of:
The idea of more effective cross-cultural capabilities is captured in many terms similar to cultural competence. Cultural knowledge, cultural awareness, and cultural sensitivity all convey the idea of improving cross-cultural capacity. It’s about knowing that cultural differences as well as similarities exist, without assigning values (better or worse, right or wrong) to those cultural differences.
While there are different customs and habits, there is more to the idea of cultural sensitivity than when to shake someone’s hand and when not to. Placing yourself in someone’s else skin and having empathy for others who do not look or sound the same as yourself is one of the most difficult concepts to teach.
Students need to understand that cultural sensitivity begins where they are, in their own local school and neighborhood. A globalized economy has brought people together from all parts of the world. Some peoples have been here since time began (we came here because you were there). Understanding colonial and post-colonial history is critical as is the act of asking oneself “Where am I really from?”
Examples & Project Suggestions
The Flat Classroom project ‘A Day in the Life’ is an excellent model to build cultural understanding among students as it focuses on students building connections through the similarities in their lives and being genuinely interested about the differences.
The Case for Cultivating Cultural Awareness by Lyn Hilt offers an excellent argument about using online connection between students to break down cultural barriers.
The American school Foundation of Guadalajara in Mexico has a growing number of students from Korea and Japan arriving each year. Faculty has worked to increase the school community’s cultural awareness through activities such as Asian Awareness Week and International Family Day.
Additional Online Resources
|Celebrations in different countries|
|school holidays around the world|
Image credits (Creative Commons):
Hand art & laptop: http://www.flickr.com/photos/superkimbo/6781404098/
World Flags: http://pixabay.com/en/atlas-earth-flags-flag-global-62742/