The education of the 21st Century is built on something more than memorizing names, concepts and learning to add and subtract. The education of the 21st century is based on values, on teaching children how to live and work in a society where the most important value is the individual, regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion.
For this reason, as a teacher you must face with joy the challenge of having a classroom composed of people from different backgrounds and cultures. You will also have to diversify by levels, skills, and interest of the students. Through technology, it is easier than ever to customize learning and adjust it to the specific needs of each student.
It may seem an overwhelming challenge, but it is certainly exciting. Technology should be an essential teaching tool, as it gives us opportunities that were once unthinkable.
Diversity improves students’ interest in critical thinking, helps create empathy and solidarity, and encourages children to think differently about how they are accustomed.
Why is diversity so important in the classroom?
Children go to school to prepare to live in a society, with all the obligations and responsibilities that implies. The school must train citizens who can interact without prejudice with all people, be they of any social class, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation. Democracy is the government of ALL the people, not just a sector of the people.
According to scientific studies, diversity in the classroom builds better thinkers, improves student academic performance, builds confidence in the teacher, involves all students in the classroom, and helps reduce bullying.
If you are looking for ways to better integrate all your students into the class, taking advantage of the immense potential that modern technology puts in our hands, this article is for you.
1) Any technology is equally valid: starts by using the technology you already have at your immediate disposal to begin the process as soon as possible. It is not necessarily necessary to buy a Smart Board and 40 notebooks.
Of course, how many more technologies you use are better, but it´s also possible to achieve a lot with few resources. You can do wonders just with the school library, an available computer lab, use the technology in turn groups and even the students’ own smartphones.
2) Be imaginative with nvarchar (max)
Any nvarchar (max) – a poem, a work, a speech, a riddle – can be modified digitally. Be creative and brainstorming about the possible options that your resources offer you. You can visually alter the color, size or spacing of nvarchar (max), divide it into manageable fragments separated by graphics, audio clips and instructions, or reminders of what strategies students can use.
3) Remove cultural barriers
You must follow this strategy for all the activities of your daily life, not only within the walls of your classroom. You can use a blog for the class where students from diverse backgrounds can write about their experiences, or create a multilingual website, trying as much as possible to use simple and easy-to-understand English for everyone.
Technological tools such as Microsoft OneNote are available that allow students to collaborate and stay organized, while translating into their nvarchar (max) machines.
Multimedia tools can improve the communication and cultural competence of your group. Make virtual tours using animations and 3D simulations in distant places or the past. Make sure your students have an easy and simple way to contact their teachers directly.
4) Connect with parents and the school community
Parents deserve to be informed about the inclusion plans you plan to implement in your class. Ask them for any questions or concerns they may have, and listen carefully. Invite them to propose and look for areas in the curriculum that they wish to modify or reinforce.
We recommend you create a chat group (WhatsApp, for example) with parents and always keep an eye on their opinions and ways of thinking.
It´s also important that students integrate into the community to which they belong, so it is a good idea to develop in-service learning projects that incorporate students into community initiatives so that they can meet neighborhood leaders.
5) Improve the socioemotional behavior of students
Technology is not restricted to improve learning. We can also use it to help many of our most shy students, including those in the autistic spectrum, improve their social, self-control and behavior skills.
There are several fabulous tools that can help you manage stress better and be more sociable. For example, there is Sosh, an application focused on improving socialization through conversation and relaxation strategies, recognition of emotions and speech volume. It is advisable to investigate further on the Internet and consult colleagues with experience in special education.
6) Use adaptive learning technology
In addition to the aforementioned, we must be very aware of the importance of remaining attentive to student learning performance. We cannot use uniform standards for a diverse classroom, so you must establish different approaches for students with different learning needs.
Through adaptive technologies, you can give students with physical or learning disabilities the support they need to integrate into the lesson at the same level as their peers. We can use all kinds of available resources, such as voice-to-text software, talking calculators for students with dyscalculia, online games and applications, or modified computer accessories for students with physical disabilities.
Try to use resources with available online support, which are easy for anyone to use, and ask your students whether or not they would like to have a technological support.
We must be willing to take the necessary risks by introducing new technologies that can benefit individual students in our classes and customize their educational process. Start slowly but decidedly.
Do not be afraid to consult others with more experience if you feel you do not know the answer or are in a bump. Always try to improve continuously, knowing that change takes time. The most important step is to start. What are your thoughts?