Sunday, September 15, 2013

Culturally Responsive Computing in Urban, After-School Contexts

Thus study examines two different approaches to the design of information technologies that support culturally responsive math education, and report on some evaluations in urban out-of-school settings.

African American Distributed Multiple Learning Styles Systems
(AADMLSS), provides a game-like virtual environment for math learning modules: one in which cultural identity can be conveyed through a variety of signifiers—not only the ethnic identities of characters but also a narrative of actions, contexts, and stylistic elements in sound and image that would be familiar and engaging to urban students. In other words, it was embedded in vernacular culture. These animations are followed by a series of multiple choice questions in which users can earn points towards a final score.

The other system investigated in this study, Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs), began with a year of ethnographic research under the Fulbright program in west and central Africa, documenting the conscious use of fractal structures
in textiles, sculpture, metal work, hairstyles, etc. (Eglash, 1999). Users learn to control an applet that can simulate these fractal structures, or to apply these indigenous concepts to new designs of their own. Over the years CSDTs have grown to include other heritage and vernacular examples: least common multiple in Latino percussion rhythms, polar coordinates in urban graffiti, transformational geometry in cornrows, etc.

Children showed statistically significant improvement in pre/post tests. The pattern in which tools were ranked most popular vaguely follows a vernacular over indigenous trend, but that is not entirely consistent. AADMLSS was ranked above African Fractals but on the same popularity ranking as Virtual Beadloom, which is indigenous. It was encouraging to find that 1/3 of the respondents reported that they continued to log onto the site and use the tools from their homes. The results of the study suggest that both approaches can be effective for integrating math education into urban, after- school contexts. The differences between the two approaches help to illuminate the diversity of factors that can be incorporated into educational technologies that support culturally responsive STEM education.

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