teachers of multicultural education, we have often encountered resistance
from white students to the concepts we introduce in our courses. Greenman,
Kimmel, Bannan and Radford-Curry (1992) have perhaps best summarized this
problem by characterizing the road to multicultural education as one marked
by "potholes" of resistance. Too often future teachers hold
views of white superiority that preclude equal opportunity and fairness.
Students' comments regularly reveal their prejudices, even when they consider
themselves to be fairminded.
could we, as educators, do to change these attitudes? Our university,
the University of Wisconsin at Platteville (UW-P) is a small, rural
school in the Midwest. More than 90% of the current UW-P students
are the first in their families to attend college. Many of these students
do not personally know other people whose ethnicity or socio-economic
status is different from their own. We decided that technology could
help our students unlearn some of the prejudices, stereotypes, and
racism that they bring to our classrooms.
In 1998, the University of Wisconsin System funded technology grants
to promote collaboration between PK-12 schools and the university.
Because of this funding, faculty members from the UW-Platteville (UWP)
School of Education were able to work with two Milwaukee middle schools,
Audubon and Milwaukee Education Center. The activities of the grant
have extended beyond the funding.
The first year of
the grant focused on two goals:
white students from Platteville to think about and broaden their cultural
2. Developing technology partners, i.e., sharing and growing in the
use of technology.
White students at
UWP are being encouraged to learn about urban middle schools in a variety
of ways. Most of our technology sessions include teacher education candidates
in the audience. The original observation in the middle school classroom
using compressed video is done primarily for the benefit of the university
students. People-to-people meetings on the university campus to provide
further technology planning also include visits with students to talk
about the Milwaukee middle schools. Separate funding also provided the
opportunity for students to spend a week in the Milwaukee urban schools
as part of a required multicultural field experience. In addition, UWP
faculty members also work with Milwaukee teachers on a course of study
about using technology to improve the links between teacher preparation
institutions and supervising teachers.
Communication between the middle schools and the university, which are
150 miles apart, is enhanced by the use of picture-television (PIC-TEL).
The PIC-TEL is a video-conferencing system that allows the schools and
the university to communicate using compressed video signals at a reasonable
cost. The technology allows faculty from the schools and university
to conduct in-services, conferences, and planning sessions without the
need to leave their respective geographic locations. The video conferencing
system also allows faculty and students from the university to observe
classrooms at Audubon Middle School.
Growing as partners in technology has resulted in Audubon and UWP students
using computers and desktop video conferencing equipment. Participants
are learning to use the picture telephone equipment, and to become creative
in using electronic mail to promote communication between middle level
faculty and university students and between university and middle school
Our project included
three separate technology-based activities:
1. Tech Pals:
University students volunteered to be "Tech Pals" with students
from both middle schools. Faculty and administration from the two
middle schools also participated by pairing up with UWP students.
Each diad was expected to e-mail back and forth throughout the semester.
Understanding of professional behavior, confidentiality, and privacy
concerns when working with minors were prerequisites for this part
of the project.
2. Virtual Classroom: Two UWP professors worked together while
two middle school teachers were counterparts at Audubon for this activity.
After research, PicTel was selected for the joint system. Students
were able to observe the English/Language Arts classroom of a first
year middle school teacher. This was an essential component of the
program. Because of the demographics of our corner of the state, and
because of the distance to any urban area from our location, this
is the closest UWP can come to providing our students with "live"
observations of an urban classroom.
3. Chat rooms: A third technology activity was the use of an
educational chat room on the worldwide web through Nicenet org. site.
This chat room was established specifically to provide a reflection
forum for UWP students. This forum provided students opportunities
to reflect on their experiences and interact with their peers for
confirmation, validation, and insights. The medium allowed an equal
voice for the student who does not like to speak up in class and for
the student who prefers to process ideas for a while before committing
to a response. It took away the feeling that one must either respond
immediately to a group conversation or lose the opportunity. It also
allowed students to read and respond in their own time frame. For
instance they could respond any time of the night or day, if they
development activities were also conducted:
In-services were conducted via a video-conferencing system. Four inservices
were conducted: (1) Dealing with Angry Parents; (2) Adapting Curriculum
and Instruction to Meet the Needs of Learners with Exceptionalities;
(3) Authentic Assessments; and (4) Experiences of First-year Teachers.
The last activity was a "reverse inservice" with the faculty
from Audubon Middle School providing professional development to future
teachers by sharing their personal stories and offering advice to
2. On-site visits: The highlights of the collaborative project
were the on-site visits and classroom exchanges. One day each semester
was spent in an actual on-site visit to the middle schools in Milwaukee.
Thus, those who knew each other via virtual visits met in person.
Two to three representatives from the faculty and staff at the middle
schools spent at least one day per semester on the UWP campus, sharing
personal stories and their schools' stories. In the process, they
not only changed our students' minds about urban middle schoolers,
but also won their hearts.
3. Classroom experiences for teacher candidates: Because of
the in-person contact combined with the previous virtual contacts
via video-conferencing and Tech Pals, ten students elected to spend
one week of their winter break observing and participating in the
classrooms at the two middle schools. These are the same students
who earlier were afraid to go to "the crime-ridden big city."
role was to function as a supervisor and advisor. He visited the Milwaukee
schools where the students were teaching and asked for feedback, questioned
the students about any problems, and offered suggestions as appropriate.
He observed that the students were thriving in a setting that was unique
to them, and they creatively responded to new situations.
Some general impressions from the students taking part in this collaborative
project were that they had not had much experience in multicultural
settings before, and had little or no experience with students from
diverse backgrounds. The experience was an eye-opener for many. Some
students at UWP confided to a professor that they expected the classrooms
and halls to be more disorderly than they were. On the contrary, "The
halls were quite orderly and quiet, and students were well behaved in
the classroom," they said.
Students also commented that they expected students to be less advanced
and less articulate than they were. Students commented on what quick
learners many of students were, how eager many were to respond in class,
and how articulate students were in their responses. There was no evidence
of the surly, unresponsive, or incapable urban student they had expected,
according to the UW-Platteville students.
between our rural university and the urban middle schools has grown.
There have been an increased number and sophistication of the activities
in the second year of funding going beyond the first year. We believe
that the project will continue after the funding period.
The expectations for teacher education students and previously held
myths and stereotypes were challenged. They became interested in and
confident with urban school teaching. This would not have happened without
the use of the technology and communication tools used in the project.