In the current module of our class Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 2, we are focusing on ISTE Educator Standards 5, “Designer” and 7, “Analyst.” I wanted to investigate how technology can support culturally responsive teaching by giving students alternative ways to share their backgrounds and learning, and by providing access to information and viewpoints that are outside those contained in textbooks and other traditional academic resources.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
The cultural background of a teacher in the U.S. is likely to be different than many of their students. Figure 1 shows the racial/ethnic makeup of primary and secondary public school teachers and students as of 2015. Eighty percent of teachers are white, while non-white students comprise over half (51%) of the student population.
In her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond describes how culture deeply affects how we learn. Educators need to recognize how the culture they grew up influences their teaching practices and understand what is required to address the needs of students who may come from different backgrounds than their own.
Three Levels of Culture
Hammond describes three levels of culture: surface, shallow, and deep. Surface culture is comprised of “less emotionally charged” elements such as holidays, food and dress. Shallow culture is made up of “…unspoken rules around everyday social interactions and norms,” and contains a strong emotional charge. Deep culture has the strongest emotional pull and effects how we learn. It defines our world view, including our ethical framework and our beliefs about competition and cooperation (pp. 22-23).
It can be overwhelming in today’s diverse classrooms to think about personalizing learning for each child’s cultural background. Hammond, however, describes several key cultural archetypes, Individualism and Collectivism and Written vs. Oral traditions that underlie many different cultures.
Individualism and Collectivism
Individualist societies put a high value on individual achievement and independence; collectivist societies value relationships, community, and cooperative learning (p. 25). Hammond references Geert Hofstede who developed a rating system for countries based on their individualist vs. collectivist tendencies and estimates that 20% of the world has an individualist culture while the remaining 80% is collectivist. Figure 2 shows a sampling of ratings.
Though the United States has a very high Individualist rating of 91, many of the students in U.S. classrooms are from families whose cultures tend more toward collectivism.
Oral and Written Traditions
Backgrounds in Oral vs. Written traditions can also influence how students learn. Oral tradition relies on the relationship of the speaker and the listener in a “communal experience” (Hammond, 2015, p. 28). Written tradition uses text rather than direct person to person dialogue. Both Individualist and Collectivist cultures employ written and oral methods to pass on knowledge, but Collectivist cultures may rely more on oral tradition in informal settings and tie into a student’s deepest level of cultural identity. This reinforces “… the brain’s preference for processing information through traditional oral methods” such as “…story, song, movement, repetitious chants, rituals, and dialogic talk” (Hammond, 2015, pp. 28; 127).
Culturally Relevant Teaching
In addition to the deep cultural archetypes described above, teachers should also consider how relevant subject matter and teaching resources are to their students’ lives. In their survey of research on Culturally Relevant Education (CRE), Anonson and Laughter (2016) reference Dover’s (2013) four markers of Culturally Relevant Education (p. 167):
- Connecting student’s cultural references to academic skills and concepts
- Engaging students in critical reflection about their own lives and societies
- Facilitating cultural competence. Students learn about their own and other cultures.
- Unmasking and critiquing the discourses of power
Using Technology to Support Culturally Responsive & Relevant Teaching
Technology provides many ways to support classrooms of diverse students, from digital storytelling, to internet search, to classroom management systems that include language translation features for better communication with parents.
Searching Beyond the TextBook
Marra (2005) studied how a U.S. History teacher in a diverse and under-resourced public high school used online information to build lessons on the civil rights movement. He wanted to provide a more balanced and relevant view of significant events compared to the material presented in the school’s textbook. Using video, text, audio recordings, music and film clips, the teacher showed his students multiple perspectives of the same events (p. 404). He also had them study desegregation in the context of their own community by researching and analyzing their city’s housing statistics. This approach is not only an example of a culturally responsive and relevant classroom, it is also a model for teaching 21st century skills of critical thinking and the use of technology.
The National Park Service’s “Telling All Americans’ Stories, Publications on Diverse and Inclusive History” and its Heritage Travel Itineraries are good resources for better understanding U.S. history through the eyes of Americans with different cultural backgrounds, including Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans and the LGBTQ communities. It also has a Teacher’s Portal with additional resources.
Hammond (2015) notes that our brains are wired for stories because the neurons turn on “…not only in the language processing parts of the brain but in other regions just as we were performing the action ourselves” (p. 135). Cultures steeped in oral tradition such as African American, Latino, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian communities have “…long oral traditions rich with stories” (p. 135).
Digital Storytelling apps such as those covered in my previous blog post can be used by educators to teach a subject and as a way for students to build and display their knowledge. Other apps include: Little Bird Tales for younger children, Adobe Spark, Windows Movie Maker (free from the Windows store), Shotcut, a cross-platform free video editing software (Shotcut Teacher’s Tech how to video) and DoInk, an IOS app for creating animations and green screen videos.
The Global Read Aloud is another way to incorporate storytelling in culturally relevant ways. I loved how the author of of Amal Unbound describes how being part of the Global Read Aloud affected her as a former immigrant student in a U.S. classroom.
Talking to Learn
Hammond (2015) describes dialogic talk, or talking to learn, as being deeply rooted in oral culture traditions (p. 134). In a teacher-led initiative exploring technology use among K-12 students of color in lower income schools in San Diego, several teachers let their students explain science concepts verbally prior to taking an exam. One teacher used the Explain Everything app to record a voice-over in English and later had the student transcribe the voice-over into written English. Another teacher used iMovie to record her students’ understanding in both English and Spanish. According to Pollack (2016): “Both educators were ‘blown away’ by how well students understood concepts they hadn’t been able to describe previously in classroom dialogue, traditional lab notebooks or on tests. In both classrooms, technology helped the students start to share their voices.”
Music, rhythmic mnemonics in song or spoken word poetry are also referenced by Hammond (2015) as supporting students from strong oral culture traditions. She suggests having students write their own songs, raps, or spoken word poems and take part in poetry slams. Figure 3 below is an example of a poetry slam video created by a teacher as an example for his class assignment. He also recommended using FlipGrid and Soundtrap for the background soundtrack. The Poetry Foundation offers a free app for IOS and Android that gives access to a rich library of written and recorded poetry.
Flocabulary is a collection of paid hip hop-based video lessons and resources for K – 12. They cover an impressive array of subjects in a fun and unique way. Figure 4 includes a video describing the service.
Particularly for English Language Learners, what Hammond (2015) refers to as non-linguistic representations such as infographics and graphic organizer applications can help culturally diverse learners make deeper connections. Hammond recommends using infographics to “…process conceptual information or represent their understandings of similarities and differences, relationships between events, concepts, or objects” (p. 135). Apps such as Piktochart, Canva, or mind mapping software that can incorporate graphics and video can be used for this purpose.
Applications that build community in the classroom or enable collaborative learning can support students and their families who come from more collaborative-based cultures. Software that allow teachers to communicate with parents about classroom activities and student progress in their native languages include Talking Points, Classroom Dojo, and Remind. Collaborative platforms such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and smaller apps like Padlet allow students to share their work and ideas with their classmates in a variety of ways that are social but perhaps with less pressure than face-to-face interaction.
Aronson, B. & Laughter, J. (2016). The theory and practice of culturally relevant education: A synthesis of research across content areas. Review of Educational Research 86(1), pp. 163–206 Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/2ZYoEoN
Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and level of education: Fall 1999 through fall 2027. National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_203.60.asp
Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Marri, A. R. (2005). Educational technology as a tool for multicultural democratic education: The case of one US history teacher in an under resourced high school. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 4(4). Retrieved from https://www.citejournal.org/volume-4/issue-4-04/social-studies/educational-technology-as-a-tool-for-multicultural-democratic-education-the-case-of-one-us-history-teacher-in-an-underresourced-high-school
Number and percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and selected teacher and school characteristics: 2015-16. National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_209.23.asp
Pollack, M. (2016). Smart tech use for equity. Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from: https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/spring-2016/smart-tech-use-for-equity
With advances in brain imaging, neuroscientists can now observe what happens in students’ brains while they are learning in real time. As a result, neuroscience and education researchers are collaborating in ways that benefits both disciplines and may have far reaching effects in how students are taught.
In this Module in our class Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 2, we are focusing on ISTE Educator Standards 1, Learner, and Standard 2, Leader. I chose to focus on standard 1c, “Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.” This topic interested me because I am taking an elective on Neuroscience and Pedagogy, and one of the first topics covered was the perpetuation of “neuromyths” about student learning. It has made me want be more cautious in assessing sources of information on brain-based learning research, but at the same time I am excited to understand more about how neuroscience is giving us better information on how we learn.
Neuromyths are incorrect claims of how the brain works, purportedly based on scientific research. Willis (2015) states “These claims (usually with interventions for sale) are based on research that is either not scientifically valid or not supportive of the specific intervention being promoted.” Figure 1 links to a brief Prezi presentation on several common neuromyths.
Figure 1: Neuromyths (If too small to view here, click on this link: http://bit.ly/2Gy4aMa)
Educators & Neuromyths
In research conducted by the Wellcome Trust in the UK with over a thousand educators, more than 90% of teachers were interested in applying neuroscience research to their teaching, but only a very small percentage used science or academic journals as their source of information. Instead, the majority depended on their organization, other teachers, or an external training provider (Simmonds, 2014). This is understandable, but also somewhat alarming because it means that misinformation is potentially coming from sources like professional development training that should be based on sound research. Zadina (2015) says “’Brain’ presenters are hired for keynotes and professional development with no experience or credentials in neuroscience” (p. 72). Figure 2 shows where teachers said they learned of four supposed brain-based approaches for improving student’s academic performance: Learning Styles, Brain Gym, Left/Right Brain, and Biofeedback.
How Neuroscience and Education Work Together
There is reason to be hopeful however that teaching practices can incorporate sound, neuroscience-based methods and techniques. Master’s and PhD programs are being offered in educational neuroscience, and both disciplines are attempting to work more closely together: educators realize they need to consult with researchers and researchers are trying to share their data with the education community in ways that is understandable and applicable (see Resources below). As Zadina (2015) states: “We cannot underestimate the ability of good teachers to take this information and use it wisely as part of their background knowledge and their strategy toolbox for reaching diverse and struggling learners” (p. 72).
Research Methods Better Suited for Children
Neuroresearch has traditionally involved testing animals in labs, making it difficult to apply findings to humans in the classroom. Even more recent imaging techniques used primarily on humans such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are not necessarily practical for testing children. PET uses a radioactive substance and fMRI requires sitting perfectly still in a small enclosure (Churches, Dommett & Devonshire, 2017).
Non-invasive and less restrictive neuroimaging techniques such as EEGs (shown in Figure 3) or MEGs can be used on children to measure communication between neurons while doing an activity such as learning to read (Churches, Dommett & Devonshire, 2017).
The Reading Brain
Research conducted at Stanford University led by Bruce McCandliss is an example of how neuroscience findings might lead to effective teaching practices. The study, published in 2015, describes how 16 adults were connected to EEGs to see how the brain responds to different types of reading instruction. Participants were taught a new written language and their brainwaves were observed while they applied either a letter-to-sound instruction method or a whole-word association method. Researchers discovered that the phonics-based approach increased activity in the area of their brains which is optimal for reading and is more developed in expert readers. This research “…provides some of the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact” (Wong, 2015). Figure 4 below includes a link to a talk by Bruce McCandliss describing this research as well as how scientists and educators can work together to apply brain research to education.
Software and Imaging Allows for Rapid Iteration
The findings from the Stanford study described above were then applied to a study that McCandliss ran in New York City schools. Participants used researcher-designed software that selectively directed the learner’s attention to the sound of words. After twenty sessions, student’s basic reading abilities jumped an entire grade level (Harris & McCandliss, ND). The combination of software and imaging allows researchers to quickly prototype and test different learning strategies in the field, leading to rapid cycles of iteration (Harris & McCandliss – ND).
The stars appear to be aligned for neuroscience research to begin to affect change in education in practical ways. However there will still be neuromyths that arise from oversimplification of research or spin from organizations who might benefit from the adoption of certain practices or products. Fortunately there are resources that are available to educators to help them navigate this extremely interesting but challenging area of science.
“That’s why I think we should start to see cognitive neuroscientists as collaborators on real-world challenges around human learning. That collaborative space—the emerging field of educational neuroscience—is so exciting. Teachers have powerful tools that can change the activity patterns in their students’ minds in the moment. And by applying those tools over time, they can reshape the brain circuits that support fluent literacy. That’s how neuroscientists and educators can come together to empower students in ways we never could before.”Harris & McCandliss (ND)
Resources for Educators on Neuroscience Research
Nature Partner Journal: Science of Learning: “npj Science of Learning is an online open access peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing papers on all research areas related to how the brain learns; from the molecular level of understanding how the cells in the brain work to understanding how children and adults learn through experience and formal educational practices” (From their “About” page). The site has a channel with articles targeted toward teachers.
What Works Clearing House: “The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the existing research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education. Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions. We focus on the results from high-quality research to answer the question ‘What works in education?’” (From their website). This video that shows how the site works. You can even sort research based on various characteristics to match that of your school (see Figure 5).
Brainfacts.org “Powered by the global neuroscience community and overseen by an editorial board of leading neuroscientists from around the world, BrainFacts.org shares the stories of scientific discovery and the knowledge they reveal. Unraveling the mysteries of the brain has the potential to impact every aspect of human experience and civilization.” (Souce:http://www.brainfacts.org/about). A special section of the website is devoted to teaching techniques based on brain research.
The Dana Foundation “The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants, publications, and educational programs.” (Source: http://www.dana.org/About/Overview/). Like Brainfacts.org, they have a dedicated part of their website for educators.
McQuinnable.com Resources Thanks to one of our instructors I found this helpful resource on Neuroscience and Learning, along with Conn McQuinn’s Neuroscience and Learning Pinterest Page. I also really liked this article he wrote on “The Brain Science of Making” in the School Library Journal.
Resources on Learning and the Brain from Edutopia. Written in 2011 but updated in 2016 – a list of articles, videos, and other links for exploring education and neuroscience.
Churches, R., Dommett, E., & Devonshire, I. (2017). Neuroscience in the classroom – principles and practices. Neuroscience for Teachers. Carmarthen, Wales, UK: Crown House Publishing.
Harris, L. & McCandliss, B. (ND). Rewiring the brain for reading. Amplify Blog. Retrieved from: http://blog.amplify.com/rewiring-the-brain-for-reading
ISTE Standards for Educators (2017). ISTE.org. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
Khazan, O. (2018). The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’. The Atlantic, April 11, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/the-myth-of-learning-styles/557687/
McCandliss, B. (2015).The neuroscience of learning. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/5_6fezBz9IA
McCandliss, B. (2010). Educational neuroscience: The early years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America. Retrieved from: https://www.pnas.org/content/107/18/8049
Resources on Learning and the Brain. (2011; 2016). Edutopia. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-based-learning-resources
Simmonds, A. (2014). How neuroscience is affecting education: Report of teacher and parent surveys. Wellcome Trust. Retrieved from: https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wtp055240.pdf
What works clearinghouse. Institute of Education Sciences. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/FWW
What We Do– Learn about the What Works Clearinghouse (2018). Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7MHz6swwi4
Wong, M. (2015). Brain wave study shows how different teaching methods affect reading development. Research Stories, Stanford School of Education. Retrieved from: https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-brain-wave-study-shows-how-different-teaching-methods-affect-reading-development
Two memories stand out from my early elementary years: checking out my first public library book, which was about a day in the life of children in Japan who were “getting up as I was going to bed,” and writing a report on Australia and learning the song Waltzing Matilda. By today’s standards, these are hardly examples of “global collaborative learning,” but they remind me how exploring different cultures during childhood can leave a lasting impression and shape our identities as global citizens.
In our current module in Learning, Teaching, and Assessment 2, we are focusing on the ISTE Standard 4 for Educators: Collaborator. I was interested in learning more about standard 4c: “Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally” (ISTE 2017).
Benefits of Global Collaboration in the Classroom
Instead of passively reading or watching an artifact created by others, video conferencing and real-time collaboration tools like Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts allow students to interact with experts, adults and other students anywhere in the world. In doing so they develop key skills that will help them navigate an increasingly global society.
Figure 1.1 shows the many ways that global collaboration helps students grow into world citizens.
What’s Stopping Every Classroom from Going Global?
Tools such as Skype in the Classroom and global education collaboration websites such as Globaledguide.org, iEarn.org, orEmpatico.org make it increasingly easy to set up a variety of interactions with experts, teachers, and students around the globe. Skype in the Classroom for example allows teachers to search by topic and interaction type and input availability. The only technology required is a high speed internet connection, a PC with a web camera and a microphone, and access to video conferencing software. In spite of this, however, interacting remotely with experts or classrooms is rare in K-5 learning.
Barriers & Enablers
Lindsay and Redmond (2017) conducted interviews with a group of educators whose classrooms participate in global collaborative learning to understand what types of things hinder and enable teachers in these activities. They found that typical barriers include a lack of time, autonomy, and importance placed on global collaboration within their organization, as well as not having the necessary hardware and software or technological expertise.
Conversely, teachers who had the support of administrators and other community members for both a global teaching focus and “educator risk taking” (Lindsay and Redmond, 2017, p. 6) were more likely to incorporate global collaboration in their classrooms. A “small and trusting” (p. 6) global professional learning network (PLN) also helped educators learn how to overcome attitude and technology barriers within their schools and share ideas, best practices and tools.
Educator experience and mindset also played a role in successful global learning in their classrooms. Teachers with more pedagogical and technology experience were more likely to try global collaboration. Educator mindset and curiosity also contributed to the interest and perseverance of successful global collaboration projects. One participant in the Lindsay and Redmond (2017) study described it as “Some of it has been a personal interest [in] finding out how technology can transform and enhance learning for students” (p. 6).
Role of Experience with Professional Development and Videoconferencing
Interestingly, several studies referenced by Klenke (2014), show that when educators receive some of their own professional development training through videoconferencing they are more likely to successfully use videoconferencing in their classrooms. In a large-scale project funded by the Canadian government on videoconferencing in education, teachers “…reported that their students had positive student-centered and collaborative learning experiences as a result of their own involvement using videoconferencing” (p. 18).
Types of Collaboration
There are many ways student can collaborate with other students or with experts in the field, but for true collaboration to occur, “Parties [must be] committed to learning something together and cooperating in the achievement of a goal that they cannot achieve individually” (Manso and Garzon, 2011, p. 33). Once learning goals are established, tools should be chosen that best fits those goals (Manso and Garzon, 2011) and may include a combination of real time and asynchronous technology.
For real time collaboration with other classes, virtual field trips or virtual visits with experts or authors, video conferencing software like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts can be used, or collaboration platforms such as Empatico or National Geographic Explorer Classroom.
If time zones or scheduling is an issue, collaboration can occur using tools that don’t require real time interaction such as Padlet, FlipGrid, Google Docs, OneNote, or ePals.
For collaborative project based learning, a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools may be best. For example, students may video conference to meet one and other, discuss ideas for their project, hold review meetings, or present their findings. Documents and other resources could be shared asynchronously on a jointly-owned online space like Google docs or Padlet. A final presentation could be created with input by both classrooms using PowerPoint (online), Google Slides, Adobe Spark, or Prezi.
Preparing for a Collaboration Session
- Teachers from collaborating classrooms should work together to establish learning goals. Manzo and Garzon (2011) recommend selecting a topic relevant to what students are learning or that connect with their everyday lives.
- Students should develop their presentations and practice interaction prior to meeting online. If videoconferencing, it should be decided who is going to speak and in what order. Questions should be prewritten, and if appropriate, provided to the collaborating classroom or expert beforehand. (Empatico Room Setup Guide)
- The space/time for video conferencing should be considered and the hardware and software should be tested before the day of collaboration. (Empatico Room Setup Guide).
- Students should understand their roles & responsibilities and how they will be evaluated (Manso and Garzon, 2011).
- Traditional “talking head” style lectures should be kept to a minimum of 15-25 minutes while video conferencing, beyond which the student interest diminishes (Greenberg, 2004, p. 16).
Here are some examples of products or resources that can be used for global classroom collaboration:
Meet with an Expert
- Digital Human Library
- Skype in the Classroom
- Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration
Virtual Field Trips
- National Geographic Explorer
- Google Expeditions (AR/VR; no human interaction)
- Exploring by the Seat of your Pants
- Skype in the Classroom
- Discovery Education
Collaboration with other Classes
- FligGrid GridPals
- Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration
- Flat Connections
- Teacher’s Guide to International Collaboration on the Internet
- Teacher’s Guide to Global Collaboration
Greenberg, A. 2004. Navigating the sea of research on videoconferencing-based distance education: A platform for understanding research into the technology’s effectiveness and value. Waynehouse Research. Retrieved from: http://wainhouse.com/files/papers/wr-navseadistedu.pdf
ISTE Standards for Educators (2017). ISTE.org. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
Klenke, H. A., 2014. The effects of interactive videoconferencing on elementary literacy : collaborative learning environment. University of Northern Iowa UNI ScholarWorks Graduate Research Papers. Retrieved from: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1193&context=grp
Liebtag, E., Knight, A., Tomlinson, G. Mansori, M. Van Voorhis, M. Oxley, T. & Kennedy, J. (2016). Global education and equitable preparation: An educator’s digest of facts and figures, 2016. Participate.com, Center for International Education, Inc. Retrieved from: https://www.globaledguide.org/resources/global-education-and-equitable-preparation-an-educators-digest
Lindsay, J. & Redmond, P. (2017). Online global collaboration – affordances and inhibitors. In H. Partridge, K. Davis, & J. Thomas. (Eds.), Me, Us, IT! Proceedings ASCILITE2017: 34th International Conference on Innovation, Practice and Research in the Use of Educational Technologies in Tertiary Education (pp. 293-303). Retrieved from: http://2017conference.ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Full-LINDSAY.pdf
Room setup guide (ND). Empatico.org. Retrieved from: