When we think of multicultural education or building global citizenry with our students and children, a common practice implemented is celebrating holidays from different cultures. As caring adults, we may believe that this is the best way to teach children about others in an appropriate and engaging way. This strategy may be our first steps into building cultural awareness, but we need to acknowledge the following statements:
- All Latino and Latina people do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
- All African Americans do not celebrate Kwanzaa.
- All people of Asian descent do not celebrate Chinese New Year.
- All Native people do not have the same ceremonies.
- All European Americans do not celebrate Christmas.
While our intentions may be well meaning, these celebrations do not acknowledge the diversity in continents, countries, and groups of people. It can be an interesting launching point, but we need to go deeper. Multicultural and global citizenship recognizes that there are cultural variations between people along with the similarities. It’s hard for us to support the idea of global citizenship and cultural awareness if don’t practice it our lives. To help us create meaningful and rich cultural experiences for children, we as professionals and parents need to have those experiences and utilize tools and strategies to deepen our understanding of other cultures.
Using digital tools can be one method to help us build cultural awareness and can be engaging and empowering. Technology offers a window into perspectives that are not available in our day-to-day lives and provides an opportunity to customize learning that works best for us. For example, I look for content distributed through different types of media such as videos, blogs, and songs, to reinforce information and compare resources. For me, these approaches help me connect with other people and learn from people within countries about historical events, social dynamics, and daily experiences. While this method works best for me, It’s important that each of us finds a connector when we’re learning about other cultures. It can give us a centering point and makes learning more meaningful.
Even when gathering information, I recommend using multiple sources. This is a technique I was taught in my undergraduate studies and has served me well ever since. Being a critical consumer of information recognizes each source has its own perspective and usually presents one side of the story. Using multiple resources gives us a better understanding of a culture and can help us have richer dialogues with others. We need to also be acknowledge that gathering information won’t make us experts on that culture. There is no way information alone could present all the complexities of another person’s cultural experience. However, it can help us begin those initial conversations and questions to build a better community with families, children, and other caring adults. This task requires us to go move past celebrations and recognize another human’s experience.
Taking a different approach to global citizenship and multicultural education will take stepping outside of our comfort zone. While celebrations may be fun and interesting, we also need to think deeply about how we connect with people with different backgrounds. I would like to hear from you and learn how you are building your multicultural education and global citizenship as a parent and/or professional using technology. There are different approaches to building cultural awareness and it would be great to learn other effective methods. We are all cultural learners in some capacity and there are a plethora of tools available to open our doors to more knowledge and opportunities. We just have to make sure we use them.
Here are some of my favorite resources:
- Public and academic libraries’ online resources
- Facebook groups
- Websites (hosted from different countries, i.e. rádioUOL, )
- Blog sites