How Smart Schools Can Help Increase Inclusion
Classroom technology gives a voice to the ignored
A recent piece by Christina Thomas Dhanraj has reinvigorated the conversation around diversity in the workplace. Dhanraj speaks eloquently about the increasing presence of Dalit women in corporate spaces thanks to anti-discrimination laws and increasing awareness about corporate diversity and inclusion – largely a reflection of the policies of most multi-national offices.
The seeds of Dhanraj’s experience in corporate India are planted in our schools. Students from these communities are present, but that does not mean they are included.
In a previous blog,we spoke about how increasing personalization in the curriculum leads to better learning for students. But what about diversity in the classroom? This continues to be a touchy subject, especially in a country like India, where increasing homogenization is the preferred solution to differences. We are more focused on equal experiences rather than equitable experiences. This is a fallacy propagated by our desire to be fair and our solution to be as easy as it is quick. But a one size fits all solution rarely addresses the concerns of the most marginalized and seems to cater more to the majority, and often more privileged, group.
We live in a society where the hardest challenge faced by people across classes is social mobility. Education is seen as one of the few methods by which people are able to change their circumstances. Are students from marginalized communities receiving the best quality of education they could possibly receive?
A seminal study by Myra and David Sadker demonstrated that from kindergarten to grade school, women were often sidelined in classroom discussions, and consequently classroom learning. Research demonstrates that this experience is shared by students from other marginalized groups – delineated by caste, class, ethnicity, race, etc. While India-specific data is not as robust experiences shared by marginalized students reflect this bias. Silencing and social exclusion in the classroom undoubtedly affect the future professional personalities of our students.
One cannot discount the pressure on teachers in such a scenario. The most well-meaning of teachers struggle with the paucity of time and resources. Not only is this heart-rending for a teacher deeply invested in her student’s success, but it is also draining and stressful to feel like you’re constantly fighting a losing battle. While capabilities and support might be perennially limited, no compromises can be made when it comes to our children’s future.
So how can teachers effectively address exclusion? To start with, the deliberate inclusion of students is vital. Calling on a reticent student while is not the most pleasant experience for them and can often make them feel like they are being called out or put on the spot. This is why teaching techniques like the jigsaw method or learning by teaching are becoming increasingly popular. These methods encourage students to support their own and each others’ learning in low-pressure environments – through discussion in smaller groups or by gently encouraging them to take on empathetic leadership roles.
Technology can also be a helpful tool when it comes to democratizing classroom participation. Fedena (our student management system) allows teachers and students to set up discussion groups – large and small – for a variety of reasons. Whether it be discussing a problem set for a homework assignment, or delving deeper into a discussion that began in history class, the social pressure of participating in classrooms is reduced. Students have the opportunity to formulate their point of view before “speaking” – giving them an opportunity to contribute insights they might not have had a chance to otherwise.
It is important to start having honest discussions and make deliberate efforts to address these issues. Learning technology is only an enabler – ultimately it is the willpower of educators and parents that will carry a student through.
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