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Creating a Culturally Relevant Internet Communications Technology Curriculum.

ETEC 521 Final Project By David Berljawsky Submitted To Prof Hardman Nov 30, 2009.

There is little question that we are currently undergoing a digital revolution. There is an increasing dependence in the use of modern internet technologies. We have become more reliant on the services and conveniences that these technologies provide us. They have made the world a more streamlined place and there are certainly some strong positive aspects that arise from these technologies. People from all cultures are able to communicate with each other in real time at a minimal cost. Information that may have previously been difficult to obtain is now easily shared by anyone at all times. However we are entering an age where we are expected to be constantly on at all times. We have cell phones that are connected to the web and we are expected to be available by our employers and peers at all times. This can be overwhelming and disruptive socially, emotionally and culturally. The entire technology industry is a western societal invention. It was invented by western society to be used by western society and to promote their particular values. These perceived benefits may not be seen as a welcome change to all cultures. After all, according to Postman in Technopoly, Those who have control over the workings of a particular technology accumulate power and the workings of a particular technology accumulate power inevitably form a kind of conspiracy against those who have no access to the specialized knowledge made available by the technology (Postman, p.9). How does this affect First Nations communities? I propose that it has helped to create a generational divide between the older and younger generations. If we are not careful there will be an even further erosion of culture. The younger generation is influenced by these modern technologies and this has affected the transmission of their

cultures values and knowledge. Is it even possible for First Nation communities to protect themselves from this digital revolution? This paper will examine the digital divide and how it affects First Nation culture. This includes ways of communication among other traditions. It will also examine how certain teaching philosophies can be used to develop a technology curriculum that can be introduced into First Nation communities. This needs to be culturally relevant, and have the ability to help preserve the culture for future generations. There are many ways that ICT education can be utilized in positive ways for First Nations communities this will be examined as well.

How does modern ICT conflict with First Nations customs and beliefs? Before delving into the educational aspects of modern internet technologies, it is important to understand some of the issues that these technologies have created in First Nations culture. It has been shown that there is certainly a bias in technology. Remember, modern ICT technologies were not designed to be a technology that is representative of all cultures. It was created by western cultures for their use. This has happened time and time again with technology. However, like many IT professionals, I continued my work with little input from our aboriginal communities. As a consequence, the information technology era has advanced and operated within a narrow philosophical, structural and intellectual framework, as defined by a Eurocentric worldview. (Dyson et al, p.2) This has caused much conflict in non-dominant cultures both emotionally and culturally.

Using western based technologies to teach, or to promote heritage can create an erosion of culture. It has been shown that whenever new technologies are introduced and adopted by a culture something essential changes. When written words became the defacto norm then oral storytelling and traditions were compromised, although, this can often take some time. Moreover, considering the pace of technologies evolution it may be a faster process than ever before. People had to be persuaded that writing improved the old oral methods sufficiently to warrant all the expense and troublesome techniques it involved (Ong, p.95). This is true of technological advances as well. The world is a different place than it was before modern internet technologies became commonplace. What was seen as normal before is now seen in western society as being in the past and thus irrelevant. Initially new technologies are viewed negatively, with suspicion and uncertainty. However we need to remember that eventually they almost all become accepted as the norm. Technology creates a huge divide in First Nations culture because of the way it transmits information. Younger students currently have an education that incorporates modern internet and computer technologies. This generation is more aware of the western styled benefits of technology than the previous one. They use it in their everyday life, for communication, education and in other web specific activities. This helps to create a conflict with the traditions and values of the older generation. Second, a technology does much more than realize the goal toward which it is put; it always helps to shape the context in which it functions, altering the actions of human beings and the relation between them and their environment (Verbeek, p.43).

Modern internet technologies provide a different way of communication and education that clash with typical First Nations customs. Many older First Nations cultures incorporate oral communication as a way to transmit their values and beliefs. There is also an environmental aspect to First Nations ideology that technology does not necessarily share. While western science and eduation tend to emphasize compartmentalized knowledge which is often decontextualized and taught in the detached setting of a classroom or laboratory. Native people have traditionally acquired their knowledge through direct experience in the natural environment (Kwagley, p. 3). Learning through western based educational technologies will not provide this type of education. Learning through physical actions and the physical environment is not a part of modern ICT education. A concern is that the younger generation may not see traditional norms as being representative of their values and even of their culture. They are taught to learn in the internet age, and are educated though modern computer technologies which certainly do conflict with older traditions. If it makes sense to us, that is because our minds have been conditioned by the technology of numbers so that we see the world differently than they did. Our understanding of what is real is different (Postman, p.13). One needs to remember that students become a product of their environment. Many First Nations communities have started to use ICT technologies to promote their culture. This acts as a double edged sword. Although in theory this seems like a good idea, there are conflicts that occur. The most important is that the technology being used was not designed to promote first nations values and beliefs. What can occur is a degradation of the culture. Although the information is preserved digitally and

transmitted to other cultures, it is presented in a way that is not authentic to the culture in question despite the industries constant bellowing that multiculturalism is an important aspect of the internet. After all, according to Bowers, The computer industry has multibillion dollar reasons for maintaining the myth that computers are a culturally neutral technology. (Bowers et al, p.184). Using an outside technology does not promote authenticity. A loss of tradition can occur for the particular culture when the younger generation is not educated in a way that is authentic because students can lose their way in the community by not receiving a culturally appropriate education. Linda Smith (1999) a Maori indigenous scholar, describes distance as an ongoing part of colonization... She explains that through colonization, ...the individual can be distanced, or separated, from the physical environment, the community (Smith, p.33). A distance from the environment is created when the physical aspects of the culture are removed. The ICT environment is represented in a non-physical which conflicts with this time honoured way of learning. Now that we have explored some of the ways that modern internet computer technologies can affect First Nations culture we can explore the educational aspects. Is it possible for educators to deliver an appropriate curriculum that is culturally sensitive to both older and younger generations and that respects their representative belief systems?

A New Curriculum

Internet and computer technologies are here to stay. They are a part of nearly all educational curriculums nowadays. This is regardless of ones opinion on their respective benefits to First Nations cultures. There are certainly ways in which these technologies can be incorporated into these cultures in a way that is culturally sensitive and respectful. The first step though, is to educate the educators. They need to be aware that there is a bias involved and that these technologies are not perfect for all learners. Educators need to be aware of this because only then can they teach appropriately. This is true in all teachings. Where technology is used and where the teachers are given the right kinds of support and training and the right kind of equipment, then (they) are able to actually implement some of the best theory and practice regarding the teaching of writing (Viadero, p.13). There are many different ways in which ICT curriculum can be developed and taught to First Nations learners. I believe that the constructivist approach is the ideal way to educate. An understanding of the constructionist approach is required to continue. One of the key components to this approach is that learners are required to identify and to pursue their own learning skills. The key methods that this theory uses involve the use of open ended environments and collaborative learning environments. Other components are, problem based learning and hypermedia. They largely emphasize the process of learning, rather than the products of learning (Driscoll p 393). The reason that this learning theory can be beneficial for a First Nations technology curriculum is because of its collaborative nature. By working in an environment where the students are working collectively much information is shared. This environment can be conducted through online learning. In

the constructivist theory students are responsible for their own learning which in an open ended environment can be extremely positive and empowering Helping learners to become more aware of their thinking processes is thought by many, including Gagne, to be essential in the development of mindful, strategic behaviour or cognitive strategies (Driscoll, p.401). This process can lead students to develop self directed learning ability. This is defined as when students are free to learn in the way that they feel is most comfortable for themselves. They learn to control their overall participation. There is a major critique however that needs to be addressed before continuing. When given options, learners apparently choose the quickest route through the instruction, whether or not that route best meets their learning needs (Driscoll, p.398). This is where using collaboration techniques becomes essential. Using modern internet computer technologies students should become more involved with the topics that they would want to learn. There is little argument that what works best in western cultures for education doesnt always work in First Nation cultures. The students would then have a say in what they would want to learn. With the proper scaffolding from peers and elders in the community, they would then be learning culturally appropriate knowledge. There are many benefits in using the constructivist approach to teach internet and computer technologies. By using ICT communication lines would be opened up. Students would be able to communicate to other students located further away from them. They would communicated with other cultures and learn from each other. This is extremely beneficial in remote communities where communication is more difficult. After all children grow into the intellectual life of those around them (Miller, p.381). The students would be able to learn about other cultures and customs quite easily through

this approach. This would assist in the promotion and transmission of their respective cultures. The elders in the community would also be able to play a large role in what knowledge the students would learn. By having the younger generation work closely with the elders it would help to close the technology gap. This would assist in the education of the younger generation by giving them the ability to learn within the proper context, with the proper significances for the culture attached. To bring significance to learning in indigenous contexts, the explanations of natural phenomena should be cast first in Native terms to which students can relate, and then explained in western terms (Kwagley, p.3). The elders would be able to provide this knowledge and guide the students to the proper online resources. Another key benefit would be that the older generation would be able to educate the younger generation about the issues involved with technology. This could be reciprocal. They would learn together, the younger generation would be educated about the traditional customs and traditions and would then learn to compare them to western constructs. At the same time, the older generation would be able to develop an improved computer literacy. It has been noted that Children acquire many favourable and unfavourable responses by observing those around them. (Standridge, 2000, p.5)

Preserving Culture and Bridging the Divide There are many ramifications that occur when one generation is engaged with a communication style that conflicts with the older generations. This generational divide is

not a new phenomenon. Whenever new technologies are introduced there is an apprehension that occurs. It often can take generations for these newly created technologies to become commonplace. It is important that cultures protect their history because it is always unsure about what will happen to their history when new technologies become commonplace. One of the keys is to understand how history has been altered not only now, but throughout time through technology acceptance. We need to know if television changes our conception of reality, the relationship of rich to the poor, the idea of happiness itself (Postman, p19). Only when we are aware and educated about the changes that technology brings can we delve into ways to incorporate it properly into our lifestyles. Knowing that technology causes irreversible cultural change is an important concept for one to grasp. Is it feasible that a common technology based ground can be attained? I believe that it is possible, however it certainly will have its difficulties. It starts with a shared understanding of what the two groups would like to achieve from the integration of technology into their culture. It is important for both the younger, more technologically inclined generation and the older generation to state their concerns. Some technologies come in disguise. Rudyard Kipling called them technologies in response. They do not look like technologies, and because of that they do their work, for good or ill, without much criticism or even awareness (Postman, p.138). It is imperative that the younger generation understands that much can be lost if they chose to ignore their traditions and embrace modern internet technologies without understanding it`s consequences.

It has been shown that these approaches have been successful in bridging the gap between the generations and their technology knowledge. There have been studies conducted among Aboriginal communities in Australia to determine the benefits of teaching ICT technologies to Aboriginal cultures. The results are mixed. However when the users are provided with a framework based on shared knowledge and collaborative work (based on the theory of Constructivism) the results become more positive overall. According to Donovan I have noted through my experience with Aboriginal students, both young and old, that multimedia and ICT are readily accepted, being used creatively and passionately. This suggests an effective partnership between Aboriginal learning styles and the pedagogical qualities of ICT tools (Donovan, p.97). A key component of preserving culture is to provide the culture a way to assert their independence in the creation of a container for their history. It has been shown that by providing a sense of ownership in the process it can help in the developments of an artefact that is relevant towards the culture. It can be respectful while utilizing technologies designed from other cultures. In Australia the Anangu culture successfully created an archive of their culture that contains over 60,000 archived items. A software system was created with input from the community, as well as the archival process. The following steps were undertaken to make sure that the culture was properly represented in the process. Tracking down a negotiating for the retrieval of material significant to the

Anangu; Attending to the storage of materials to archive standards Creating digital copies of these materials

Returning the digital versions of the materials to the Anangu Collecting information about these materials, from donors and the Anangu

(Hughes & Dallwitz, p.148) The Anangu were completely involved with all aspects of the process. The project was seen as a successful blend of modern ICT technologies and the Anangu culture. The resulting software was used to archive many different Australian Aboriginal cultures. Without working together and respecting each other much will be lost. When creating a culturally appropriate pedagogy involving technology, the Aboriginal values must be preserved. This is needed to provide a culturally appropriate education. This occurs both in the processes of combining ICT technologies to First Nations beliefs and in combining the views and ideals of the older and younger generations. This ideally requires the older and younger generations participation in the process. We have our unique ways of knowing, teaching and learning which are firmly grounded in the context of our ways of being. And yet we are thrust into the clothes of another system designed for different bodies, and we are fed ideologies which serve the interests of other peoples (Donovan, p.96).

Is it possible for modern communication technologies to be utilized in a way that connects the younger generation to the WWW while maintaining their cultures beliefs and value systems in both regular rural communities? There are many ways that ICT technologies can be used to promote and educate First Nations cultures while

respecting their beliefs and values. According to Kwagley We have come at these issues on a two way street, rather than view the problem as a one-way challenge to get Native people to buy onto the western system. Native people may need to understand western science, but not at the expense of what they already know (Kwagley, p.8). There are some key components in creating a culturally sensitive curriculum that need to be examined. As previously examined it is the constructivist approach that concentrates on the collaborate process between all participants. This is particularly important in rural settings. In the Ginolx Nation in Northern British Columbia there were many studies done on using ICT to preserve the culture. A perfect example of bridging the technological generational divide is as follows. The younger generation of the Ginolx Nation were involved in a multimedia project. They were enthused and engaged in learning how to create multimedia presentations to document the history of their culture. According to Scott Students focused on various features of a treaty agreement with their nation, learned some of the history and interviewed an elder about an area that interested them (Scott, p.138). The students worked together with the older generation in learning about their culture. The generations were all included in the learning process. Through this course of action a culturally appropriate ICT education was achieved. After gathering the information the students then embarked on a multimedia project to show what they have learned. Based on these interviews, as well as classroom presentations, learning simulations and field trips, students created short multimedia pieces to present to the community (Scott, p.139). This provided the students with a sense of ownership over the material and a culturally appropriate

education. The students were engaged from start to finish with the entire process. The community elders were included and with their assistance developed a culturally appropriate education. They learned how to use modern ICT technologies at the same time. This is just one of many ways that modern ICT technologies can be used to aid First Nation learners. There is little doubt that there has been much change in the use of modern internet computer technologies in respective cultures. In western societies it has been seen as a benefit, as a way to get things done with more efficiently. This is not always the case, the amount of stress and burnout in western societies has risen exponentially and will only continue to rise. These technologies force society to move at a breakneck speed, which is often impossible to maintain while keeping a healthy lifestyle. This is starting to transfer to the First Nation communities, and they need to be educated about its unfortunate aftermath. Internet communications technologies can be detrimental to culture and their identities if not used properly. Educating about technologies respective benefits and ills should be at the forefront of a proper educational curriculum. However, I have my reservations that this is going to become the case. It is often human nature to take the easy way out, and that is what modern web 2.0 conveniences offer us today. Unfortunately this makes a proper internet communication education even more important than ever before.

References

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