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Integration of Cultural Diversity and Technology: Learning by Design

Judy Lambert and Tony Sanchez

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This project illustrates how the Learning Technology by Design approach can provide teachers with an authentic and personal context for learning to integrate technology. By using a framework for connecting technology to cultural diversity (i.e., content) and by having an integral role in the planning process, teachers increased their confidence and technological and pedagogical content knowledge. The anchor for this learning was the instructional problem, “How can we help students internalize the concept of cultural diversity” and not technology skills instruction. newspaper clipping

In other words, teachers learned the technology as it was needed to solve the instructional problem. Curriculum and student learning became the motivation for teachers to use email and videoconferencing because these were the best media to achieve behavioral and affective outcomes in students. While students may gain a conceptual understanding of cultural diversity through textbook readings, only through using technology did they have practical experiences in behaving in a culturally sensitive manner. A connection between technology, pedagogy, and content are critical if teachers are to be motivated to use technology in the classroom. By the explicit act of design, technology experts can assist teachers in learning through experience that technology can efficiently provide the means for making learning more engaging, authentic, and exciting.

Just as content, pedagogy, and technology need to be connected to make sense of using technology, teachers will want to understand that the process of integration, whether of technology or cultural diversity, is not a matter of delivering or constructing content, but rather it is who we are and how we participate in the process of learning. Cultural diversity becomes meaningless if only bits and pieces of a culture are added to curriculum rather than integrated throughout, and teachers must be convinced that this behavior should be modeled in their classroom pedagogy (Sanchez, 2006). Teachers need to be culturally competent to help prepare students to become culturally competent (Ladson-Billings, 2001). Likewise, when technology activities are isolated from classroom curriculum, they become meaningless sets of technical skills unrelated to anything else teachers or students learn (Lambert, 2005). Teachers must believe that integrating technology is sometimes the most effective means of helping students achieve particular instructional goals and model the use of technology for this higher purpose. The belief that cultural diversity and technology are important will become evident when such integration simply becomes the way that teachers think and act in the classroom. Hence, concepts become fundamentally a part of one’s philosophy, not just extras added into an already overflowing curriculum.


Byars, B. (1993). The pinballs. New York: HarperTrophy.

Chisholm, I. M. (1998). Six elements for technology integration in multicultural classrooms. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 7, 247-264.

Dwyer, D. C., Ringstaff, C., & Sandholtz, J. H. (1991). Changes in teachers’ beliefs and practices in technology-rich classrooms. Educational Leadership, 48, 45-52.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32, 131-152.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2001, Summer). What does it take to be a successful teacher in a diverse classroom? Rethinking Schools Online, 15. Retrieved November 27, 2006, from

Lambert, J. (2005). Technology integration expertise in middle school social studies teachers. Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning, 2, 261-289.

Mehlinger, M., & Powers, S. (2002). Technology and teacher education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 1017-1054.

National Council for the Social Studies. (2001). Curriculum standards for social studies. Silver Spring, MD: Author. Retrieved October 18, 2005, from

National Middle School Association. (2006). Success in the middle: A policymaker's guide to achieving quality middle level education. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved January 20, 2007, from

Sanchez, T. (2006). Revisiting the challenges of multicultural education: Understanding how far we have come, what we are dealing with, and where we are going. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Silvan-Kachala, J. & Bialo, E. (2000). 2000 research report on the effectiveness of technology in schools. (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Software and Information Industry Association. Retrieved January 20, 2007, from

Collaborative Videoconferencing Project Design

These guidelines describe how videoconferencing can be used as a culmination of a complete project in which several activities are shared over time. Use these notes along with the Videoconferencing Checklist for designing your project.


Computer Teachers and Media Specialists

Find one teacher who likes to use technology. Choose team members whom you know are interested and will stick with the project until completion.

  • Brainstorm ideas. What standards do you teach that can be more effectively learned from some real-world contact?
  • Find other teachers who might be interested in the same ideas.
  • Explore the Internet and join some listservs to get ideas and projects to show teachers.
  • Find a simple project for starters and talk to a few teachers who might be interested. Select only one or two classes.
  • Choose a team leader who will organize the project, materials, and correspondence to partner class.
  • Write down all ideas that come to mind to share at the first meeting.  

Teachers who design and plan their own experiences

  • Talk to another teacher who might be interested. Remember it is easier to plan and more fun for two to undertake a project! Choose team members whom you know are interested and will stick with the project until completion. These teachers could be in the same grade level or across grade levels.

  • Review broad competencies in curriculum guides to get an overview of topics.

  • Ask yourself, what standards do I teach that can be more effectively learned from some real-world contact?

  • Look for projects on the Internet. Join listservs and read postings for ideas.

  • Talk with your Computer Teacher and/or Media Specialist. Let them know that you are interested, explain the ideas you have for a project, and ask if they have some ideas. Sometimes they want to do these types of projects but think no one else is interested. Remember they need help getting started, too.

  • Choose a team leader who will organize the project, materials, and correspondence to partner class.

  • Write down all ideas that come to mind to share at the first meeting.


  • Schedule meeting with team members.

  • Send out a memo asking team members to write down any ideas they have found or considered Schedule the date of the first meeting.

  • At the first meeting:

    • Write down all ideas and topics of interest. View websites of videoconferencing projects:

    • Discuss topics that you are going to be studying in the next few months. Think about ways these topics can be shared with another class.

    • Review and discuss how you can combine topics with activities.

    • Choose your favorite activities and topics and write them down. (For example: We would like to pair students who will email another class to share science experiment outcomes. During our videoconference, students will display their final projects and discuss why their outcomes were similar or different.)

    • Write out a tentative plan.On the plan you should:

      • Identify learning objectives.

      • Identify activities used to achieve objectives.

      • Identify your desired audience.

      • Establish a timeline (set a rain date). REMEMBER: you should give at least four to six weeks to plan and find a participating class before the actual beginning of your project.

      • Include assessment options.

    • Copy tentative plan for all team members.

    • Discuss what you might like to do during the videoconference.


  • Advertise your plan on a listserv or project registry requesting one or more partner classes. When you search for a partner class be sure to post that this plan is tentative and flexible!  

  • Look at the list of schools in a global school network and email someone who is in your grade level.

  • Stay local! Someone you know, maybe a professional in your own district, may be willing to work on a first project with you.

    • Post the project notice on district bulletin board or email mailing list.

    • Send a memo to other computer labs, media centers, or teachers in surrounding schools and ask that the memo be placed in teachers’ boxes.

  • Choose only the number of classes you will need and that you think will keep your project manageable. Type and send a short message for all others who responded: (example below)
    “Thank you for your interest in our project! This is our first attempt at such a venture and as beginners, we are trying to keep the project small and manageable. It was hard to choose from so many willing participants, but we felt that we could only manage our first project with one class. Please feel free to use our ideas in anyway that you wish.”

  • Write to the class you have chosen. (see Initial Correspondence below)


  • Email participating class (see Introductory Email Questions below). Tell them that you have chosen them as your partner class and that you look forward to working with them on this project.

  • Remind them that the plan is flexible and ask if they have any other ideas they would like to incorporate.

  • Restate the timeline and ask if they have any problems with the dates.

  • Send an introductory questionnaire so that you will have information about the teacher, school, area, students, and equipment.

    • After the participating class responds, make any needed changes and correspond about these until specific plans and dates are agreed upon. Remember, concise communication is key to understanding exactly how activities and correspondence will be done by both classes. BE SPECIFIC when asking questions and when responding!

    • When concrete activity dates are agreed upon write these on a calendar and share with team members.

    • Create a calendar or timeline and send to all participants.

    • Send memo reminders before each activity due date to all participants.


  • BE CONCISE – don’t worry about giving or asking for too many details. This is the only way to have mutual understanding.
  • BE PROMPT – don’t make your participating teacher wait too long for responses to questions. Don’t be late with assignments due on certain dates. Have students and their work ready on specified dates.
  • BE COURTEOUS - Be aware that correspondence sounds different to the reader and to the writer. Always be aware of how you word your correspondence.
  • If problems occur, try mutually to find solutions to these. If the partner teacher is not responding, even in the first few weeks of the project, you need to find out if there is a problem that can be worked out within a time limit. After you have tried to work out any problems and still do not feel that you are getting proper participation from the partner class, you may need to gracefully bow out and find another class who will be more considerate of the time limitations and work involved in doing this type of project.
  • Correspond with site facilitator and teachers at each school about the actual video conference.
  • Set agreeable times and dates.
  • Coordinate hardware and software needs and connection specifications between sites.
  • Send any materials to all site facilitators.
  • Agree on agenda and protocol (be specific about who will do what, and when it will be done).
  • Write out an agenda and email to all parties.
  • Arrange for guest speaker if needed at videoconference.
  • Invite other guests for videoconference: principal, newspaper, county officials, visiting teachers, etc.

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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
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Volume 10, Issue 1, 2007
ISSN 1097-9778
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