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This post originally appeared on edReformer, a community of advocates, entrepreneurs, educators, policy makers, philanthropists and investors seeking to promote excellence and equity in education through innovatation.  edRefomer serves as a catalyst for innovation in education by encouraging and  promoting public and private investment in new learning tools, schools, and platforms. View Original >

 

Online education can help solve the issues of equity and access for students across the United States. We have heard fantastic stories of student success in graduating from high school due to access to online courses.

Last year, Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USAToday showcasing how some students are using online courses to graduate on time. It’s a great window into the potential and echoes many stories we hear from students, families, and community members who are experiencing online education. A diverse population of students was able to take classes to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past.

 

Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain “physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.”

—Sedef Uzuner in Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review

Geneva Gay recently printed a new edition of her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Research, Theory and Practice, and it explains the many of the dispositions and practices teachers need to have. The next step is to ensure this sort of practice occurs consistent in online course instruction. We need to remember that simply having access to great online courses does not mean they will be culturally responsive, nor does it mean the teachers themselves will be. We need to ensure we train our online educators with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations, especially as more students begin taking more courses online. Culture of course includes a variety of identifies and aspects, from race, ethnicity and gender; to religion, socio-economic status and place. I would also propose that teachers need to utilize the online culture that we know exists with these students. All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learning.

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This post originally appeared on Dropout Nation, a site focusing on America’s dropout crisis and education reform. This is an expansion of a commentary on education that began four years ago for the Indianapolis Star with Left Behind, a series of editorials editorialist RiShawn Biddle co-wrote detailing Indiana’s — and the nation’s — dropout crisis. View Original >

 

When Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USA Today showcasing how some students are using online course to graduate on time and avoid dropping out, it highlighted one of the important benefits of online education: Providing equity in and access to high quality education.  A diverse population of students can take classes in order to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past without dealing with the barriers that led them astray in the first place.

At the same time, there are potential pitfalls. As Sedef Uzuner wrote recently, online and distance  learning environments as as prone to aggravating cultural differences as traditional classrooms because students are removed from native cultures and interacting with students from different ones. So teachers in the online space need to be as thoughtful about race, ethnicity, gender, religion and even socioeconomic status and land of birth as those in their counterparts in old-school classrooms.

So we need teachers in the online space to be culturally responsive in their instruction. What do I mean by that? Culturally Responsive Online Teachers identify and utilize cultural strengths and resiliencies through aligned online teaching best practices, while utilizing diverse discourse structures and curriculum. These resiliencies vary across culture and experience.

As an example, many of our students have the resiliency to be highly adaptive and agile. They can look at a subway system many and easily navigate from place to place in a variety of ways. Many of our students have the resiliency to communicate across cultures. The common language at school might be English, while Tagalog is spoken at home. Even online students have a culture that they live in. They access a different language. They navigate and evaluate data constantly. Why shouldn’t we utilize these resiliencies?

Geneva Gay recently printed a new edition of her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Research, Theory and Practice, and it explains the many of the dispositions and practices teachers need to have. The next step is to ensure this sort of practice occurs consistent in online course instruction. Learning Management systems and the online structures need to be just as diverse as the cultures they serve. The typical paradigm of “reading and doing” that many online courses have needs to change. We are in danger of replicating a system for the online world that has not served all students in the brick and mortar world. Structures need to be examined and built to allow for diverse discourses that align with online teaching best practices.

We need to ensure we train our online educators with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations, especially as more students begin taking more courses online. All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learners.

 

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I have been blogging for Edreformer for quite some time now in a variety of topics from online learning, to standards based grade books, to project based learning. Edreformer describes itself as:

“A community of advocates, entrepreneurs, educators, policy makers, philanthropists and investors seeking to promote excellence and equity in education through innovation. EdRefomer serves as a catalyst for innovation in education by encouraging and promoting public and private investment in new learning tools, schools, and platforms.”

Here is a link all the my blogs, as well as the topics.

  1. Culturally Responsive Online Teaching: A Call to Action
  2. Supporting Student Voice and Choice Leads to Equity
  3. From Drop Out to Push Out in Online Learning
  4. Rethinking Time in Online Learning
  5. Why Standards-Based Gradebooks & What Next?
  6. Project-Based Online Learning-Natural Fit and Next Step

 

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