Technology is changing educational landscape more rapidly than any other innovation in history. The research is rather conclusive that technology improves classroom instruction and, as a result, student learning. However, many educators still identify classroom technology with technological tools that are used on top of their usual teaching practices. Technology is most effective in the classroom when used to solve real problems with appropriate pedagogy and solid foundation of learning theories (Roblyer & Hughes, 2018).
While cultural studies is potentially a very exciting and engaging subject area, it can become boring if not authentic and relevant to the students. Technology is able to bring this much-needed authenticity and make the studies relevant to most students.
Technology can be used to promote multicultural digital citizenship. Whereas before, one could practice his or her cross-cultural skills only by physically meeting a person from a different culture, now all you do is log in to an internet forum or a social media network. Many schools employ digital citizenship curricula nowadays. In addition to knowing how to behave online, the students also need to know how to do it in a culturally appropriate way. Using technology in a cultural studies classroom and including online cross-cultural communication into the curriculum will help the students in their future interactions with people from cultures other than their own.
The best way to learn a culture is to take a plane (or another mode of transportation) to a place where the members of that culture live and spending some time there. It is, however, quite impractical in a school setting. This is when using information available on the internet comes as a second choice. There are many different ways of learning about a culture on the internet. Students can access info about the country on CIA factbook or Wikipedia. They can use interactive maps such as Google Maps, use YouTube to watch traditional cultural practices, and communicate with people from that culture using video chats or social media.
In my class, we actually take a trip to a specific country after one semester of learning. So far, my students and I have been twice to Russia and once to Malaysia. Before going, the students spend about a month of classes to gather information about the country and its culture. They use Google search to locate encyclopedia articles and publications about different aspects of the country they were going to visit – history, politics, demographics, traditions, and values. They also use collaborative tools such as Padlet to gather information and Google Slides to create presentations on their findings. Knowing that they will eventually meet these people and visit some of these places keeps the students motivated and engaged in each class. Equipped with this kind of knowledge, my students usually feel instantly connected to the country when we arrive there. In the end, they are able to learn much more than if they went without that prior knowledge. At the end of the year, many students express that their learning was very relevant and authentic.