Teaching with Technology: Tech That Explores Diversity

New technology is at its best when it brings diverse people together to share common issues, including those that center on our most precious resource, our children.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

WEB SITES that "Set Their Sights" on Kindness and Diversity

Anti-Defamation League (www.adl.org)

Can hate be "unlearned"? The group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry has several articles for teachers, including "Talking to Your Child About Hatred & Prejudice".

Educators for Social Responsibility (www.esrnational.org)

This excellent online resource for teachers is designed to help children understand cultural diversity.

ERIC's Early Childhood Education Section (http://ericeece.org)

Teachers will find a variety of great articles on kindness and diversity, such as "Teaching Young Children About Native Americans".

Southern Poverty Law Center (tolerance.org)

This site offers a nice variety of lesson plans designed to teach tolerance.

Precious Children (www.PBS.org)

Sixty U.S. teachers are tracked during their trip to China. Learn more about the documentary, and don't miss the wonderful collection of links and articles on teaching diversity.

Peace Gallery: Pictures from Around the World (http://www.peacegallery.org/)

Peace Corps volunteers display thousands of images from around the world. The pictures show the amazing diversity and similarities of people.

I've recently come across an interesting Web site, www.peacegallery.org, where you can see thousands of images from hugely diverse cultures-many of young children-as viewed through the cameras of America's Peace Corps volunteers. At first glance, I noticed how different everyone looks-different skin, eyes, and clothing But look closely, and you start noticing the similarities: People in the pictures are playing, eating, cuddling, crying, and laughing.

Today's early childhood classroom is the first "melting-pot" experience for many families. It may also be the first time children meet others who are "different" from themselves. Here are some ways you can use technology to help children better understand one another and develop an appreciation for other cultures.

Spotlight Similarities and Differences

  • Digital Camera: Make a face gallery. Every family gets up in the morning and sends its best "cultural messenger" to you in the form of their child. Take your digital camera, turn the flash off, and zoom in close on each child's face. Capture every detail, and then print out each picture on an 8 1/2" x 11"I sheet of paper and make a "face gallery" bulletin board. If you don't have a color printer, don't worry-- the pictures look great in black and white.
  • APS Camera: Bring home to school. Offer parents a classroom camera to take home for the weekend. Provide a "shot list" of ideas that includes their child's bedroom, pets, favorite toys, and so on. Any 2.1 MP (MegaPixel) or digital camera works fine. Use the photos to make a bulletin board that features that child. If you don't have an APS camera, you can purchase a disposable camera at your local grocery store.
  • Tape Recoder: Listen in on home. Encourage children to record the sounds of family members who may speak a different language, the music they enjoy, foods sizzling on the stove, and family activities. When you play the tape in the classroom, see if children can identify the different languages spoken or guess what kinds of foods are cooking in the kitchen!
  • Word Processor. Create a recipe book. Ask each family for a favorite recipe and use your word processor to type them up. (You can also ask families to submit recipes on disk-a nice tech lesson for their child.) Print a copy for each child and send it home. Have fun naming the dishes-- Lucy's Lovely Lasagna, for example.

Software That Supports Your Curriculum

Here are some software programs you can use in the classroom to introduce children to different places, cultures, and people. You can also recommend these to parents to support learning at home:

Clifford Musical Memory Games

Teaches: music, sequence, logic. In this fourth release from the Clifford series, children go back to Birdwell Island to fix the island's music. Players collect objects to reconstruct instruments, play a seashell sound-concentration game, and experiment with the 10 main keyboard notes. Parents will appreciate the musical focus. Scholastic Consumer Software, 800-724-527; www.scholastic.com; Win/Mac; $19.99. Ages 4-6.

Curious George Reading and Phonics

Teaches: letter sounds, phonics, early reading. The Man with the Yellow Hat has a present for George, but the map to its location has been torn apart and the pieces scattered all over the town. Children guide George through different locations, playing five word games along the way to earn back pieces of the map. The activities are delightful and involve playing cards with George to spell words, washing windows to match upper- and lowercase letters, and sorting rhyming words as they come down a conveyor belt. Knowledge Adventure, 800-545-7677; www. knowledgeadventure.com; Win/Mac; $19.99. Ages 3-6.

Orly's Draw-A-Story

Teaches: writing, creativity. This 1997 "classic" may be a bit dated, but it is still one of the most innovative programs ever made. Orly is a little Jamaican girl with a penchant for storytelling. She invites players to create characters, vehicles, and buildings at a well-stocked pop-up art center For instance, while telling a story, she'll stop and say, "Hey! We need a submarine for this story. Can you make one?" Players then create a submarine, and when the story resumes, there is their submarine, cruising across the screen. There's also a writing center so children can write their own stories, choose music and sound effects, and of course, illustrate their work. Orly's stories are engaging and emphasize the importance and benefits of friendship.

Broderbund (The Learning Company), 800-716-8506; www.learningco.com; Win/Mac; $10. Ages S-10. ECT

  • Subjects:
    Cooperation and Teamwork, Culture and Diversity, Communication and the Internet, Software and Apps, Teaching with Technology
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