Fergus1s’s Weblog
I hope this blog is somewhat educational.

Technology and Ethnocentric Assumptions

Today we had a guest speaker in my EPS 225 class. This teacher was from Balfour, and was discussing the notion of ESL in the classroom. The children she works with are from war torn countries, and have had to get by with very little, other than the most basic of needs, as well as their lives. I decided to write about this today, because we do take a lot of what we do in this culture for granted. The politically correct term for this is ethnocentric. It means we focus exclusively on our own cultural mores and values, while ignoring those of other nations.

Computers are a fact of life here in Canada. In school, it is taken for granted that the buzzwords that fly around regarding technology and computer usage are already understood. But for people who have endured brutal living situations, the mere fact of holding a pencil is difficult. How do we address these issues in classrooms where perhaps computers are not always taken for granted? What would it be like, to come from a place like Sudan, where food is scarce, never mind technology? Where guns do the lawmaking, rather than negotiators? And if we are to teach in such classrooms, how do we approach the idea of technology, as no doubt, these students will be eager to fit in, and learn as much as they can? How do we introduce it to these students? What can we do to facilitate learning in such environments?

For me, there are no straight answers, as the idea of communicating in the virtual environment may appear to be a very abstract concept outside the realms of North America, Europe, and wealthier nations. Essentially, technology is often used as a way of communicating, uniting the world, making it a smaller place. However, through technology, learning can become a broader experience, and one based on breadth and depth of knowledge, rather than regurgitation. Still, the idea of culture shock is something we need to address in such settings.

On a broader scale, we must be aware of our biases when dealing with our students, taking the time to assess our limitations, and our beliefs so that these are not projected onto the lives of our students. As teachers, we do have a great deal of power when we are dealing with our students. We must be always aware of how we come across, and measure our words and actions wisely, with utmost care, striving for, and keeping in mind the needs of those we teach. We must not assume that everyone we teach will automatically understand the nuances of technology, or even share the same view of life. It is always important to stand outside yourself when you are working with others.

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3 Responses to “Technology and Ethnocentric Assumptions”

  1. I’d never really thought about that- I think my mind was still addressing the problems of students having different access to technology. But you raise a really valid point, and when I get to a classroom, I’ll remember that I may need to take some time to get students on a par with understanding any technology we use, and that there may be a limit to how much technology you can throw at a person who has never been exposed to it.

  2. What a great idea for a blog. This raises some excellent issues. Many ESL students become isolated in the classroom because of their language differences, never mind the complexity of computers which are becoming more and more frequent in classrooms. People in our culture are educated for this; however, other people are not. I read that it takes 2 years for an ESL student to speak English to a good ability, but to be able to be fluent in writing and day-to-day slang, it could take from 5-9 years! When does the technology aspect come in?

  3. All of you ladies raise some excellent points, and it really is an important topic to think about. It is especially important to consider the role of technology when working with immigrants and ESL, however, although it is common for most Canadian children in Canada to have computers, the reality of it is that many still do not. There are some children who will be in your classroom (not ESL or immigrants), who may come from families living below the poverty line or those who simply have not had exposure to the technologies many of us have. In my pre-internship there was a ‘white’ boy whose family religion did not allow him to even have a television in his home. With that said, it certainly is important to consider our ethnocentrism’s with the broader world, but is equally important to apply those same ethnocentrism’s within our own communities.


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