Cultural responsiveness in Digital Learning

I took in a session this week at the TIES regional conference regarding culturally responsive digital integration expecting to see a lot of global collaboration and methods that were based in diversity awareness. The presentation was really just an exploration of common web 2.0 tools that were used in a way that advanced cultural responsiveness. A lot of it should have been pretty straightforward for an experienced teacher. It was solid.

The turning point for me was when the presenter displayed a comic stip creator called makebeliefscomix.com. It was a slick, easy way for people to create colored comic strips to show human interactions. On presenting the tool, the presenter pointed out the features and most of us we at least mildly impressed. Then he showed us the choices of people that can be placed in the strip. There were few people of color, and of those available, they were either black and white, rather than colored like the rest of the characters, or was toothless and disheveled. It was clear that many people would have a hard time finding characters that looked like themselves. We discussed that this was obviously problematic.

It occurs to me that web tools, apps, and digital learning methods are rarely vetted to assure an inclusive and culturally responsible environment. It’s easy to see why. Go to any big tech conference or EdCamp. In most areas, you will see very little diversity–certainly not diversity that represents the districts in which we serve. Truly, my current district is not as diverse as many others, and still the representation of teachers, much less teachers involved with digital learning, is not representative of the whole. Whatever the causes or situations, we as educators need to use a deliberate eye toward diversity when checking out digital resources for our diverse learners, or we may be doing more harm than good.

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