Smith & Ayers (2006) and Hannon & D’Netto (2007) both write about the propensity of online learning to amplify epistimologies of Western culture. If that is the case, it mitigates the potential promise of using technology to reach new audiences of adult learners and using the Internet as a tool for equity. We know that our adult basic education programs in the U.S. only serve about 10% of adults with basic skill needs. According to Smith & Ayers (2006), most of these previously unreached adults do not share a cultural affinity with the creators’ web content, so the Internet and online learning can be perceived as another place represented by a discourse that excludes them.
Because students of different cultures learn in different ways, instructional designers and teachers must strive to understand cultures of diverse/potential student bodies to provide culturally responsive learning opportunities. Online content could do this by using a “multiple-cultures” paradigm that is constructivist/cooperative, relevant for minority students AND helps them navigate dominant culture. McLoughlin (2000), as described by Smith & Ayers (2006) provides suggestions to ensure this type of opportunity:
- Learning is contextualized in action and played out in everyday situations.
- True knowledge is acquired through active participation.
- Learning is a process of social action and engagement rooted in distinctive ways of thinking, acting, and communicating.
- Learning can be assisted by experts and solidified through apprenticeship.
- Learning is an important means of participating in a social environment. (p. 409)
I’m going to keep this list in my back packet. It’s a reminder of the strengths of constructivist-modeled learning opportunities and reminds me that learning in online communities happens beyond transmission of pre-defined content.
Hannon, J., & D’Netto, B. (2007). Cultural diversity online: student engagement with learning technologies. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(5), 418–432.
Shaffer, B. (2012). Overview of Adult Basic Education in Minnesota – FY 2012. St. Paul.
Smith, D. R., & Ayers, D. F. (2006). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Online Learning: Implications for the Globalized Community College. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 30(5-6), 401–415.