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Culturally Responsive Teaching: What is Edtech’s Role?

Good teachers know the importance of culturally responsive teaching.  A pedagogy that recognizes the importance of students’ cultural references in all aspects of teaching (Ladson-Billings, G, 1994), culturally responsive teaching is one of the most important aspects of a 21st-century classroom. Even if your students are a part of the ethnic/ religious/ socioeconomic majority, a culturally responsive approach fosters a mindset that is crucial to navigating our increasingly diverse world outside of the school walls.

According to The Education Alliance at Brown University, culturally responsive teaching includes a few key components.

  • Positive perspectives on families and parents
  • Communication of high expectations
  • Learning with the context of culture
  • Student-centered instruction
  • Culturally mediated instructions
  • Reshaping curriculum
  • Teacher as facilitator

The emergence of edtech has made it easier than ever for students to take ownership over their learning and for teachers to act as facilitators. In fact, Albert was born out of idea that students can and should be accountable for their own growth.  Our CEO, Luke, initially created Albert because he wanted access to more practice questions to prepare for the AP European History exam. This student-centered approach is also why we require every question to have an explanation for the correct answer and for each incorrect answer.  The platform is designed to give students immediate feedback, so that they can self-correct as much as possible before asking for more guidance from a teacher.

Unlike the traditional textbook companies, edtech companies are in unique position to reshape curriculum all of the time.  We can update our questions quickly and without too much overhead. When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016, we made the appropriate changes to the AP Comparative Government questions within a week.

We strive to create questions, practice sets, and reading material in our ELA and math courses that allow students to see themselves in various scenarios and that do not require prior knowledge of a particular demographic group. For example, our math team will not publish questions that require students to understand the rules of American football or seats in a particular nation’s government without appropriate context.  We also aim to include diverse character names in word-based problems and provide reading passages that cover a diverse mix of people, cultures, and histories. These are just small steps and it’s far from perfect, but hopefully these are steps in the right direction towards a more inclusive curriculum on Albert’s site.

Many of our science courses are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards were developed with changing demographics in mind (which is great!) and this document outlines NGSS’s approach to making science accessible to all students.

There is a heavy focus on interdisciplinary practice, which means that students with different strengths can approach science from many different angles.

NGSS includes the Common Core ELA/Math Standards. Students who may struggle with math or ELA (for instance, ELL students) get extra reinforcement in this areas when they are included in science classes. On the other hand, students who may thrive with ELA/math but not science get an extra incentive.

  • NGSS includes engineering. This serves several purposes. Students learn about non-Western historical contributions of other cultures (e.g., Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, and Arabic) to the field of engineering. Second, students solve engineering problems that are relevant to their lives and to their communities (and participate in social activism as a result). NGSS is heavily project-based, and students and teachers can select relevant issues to illustrate concepts. Finally, students get to test their innovation/creativity skills prior to college.
  • NGSS includes science and engineering practices/skills. These skills allow for students to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways and encourage practice with literacy (e.g., this would be most applicable for ELL students).
  • NGSS includes crosscutting concepts. These crosscutting concepts specifically ask students to connect scientific concepts across disciplines and to their own lives.

When the standards are already taking a culturally responsive approach, it’s even easier for us to create progressive and engaging resources.

Creating a learning environment that addresses the needs and backgrounds of all students requires time and energy from teachers, administrators, parents, students, and partners like us. We hope Albert can be just one part of your culturally responsive classroom!

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Article written by The Team

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