Bio: Matthew Worwood is Associate Director of Digital Media & Design at the University of Connecticut, as well as a Doctoral Student at Johns Hopkins University. He works within the learning sciences, with a particular focus on instructional design and the use of digital media for learning.
Posts by Matthew:
- I use the YouTube for kids app. This helps filter inappropriate age-related content
- I teach him about Google search, and how it presents information based on my interests. We discuss “recommended” videos.
- I ask him to consider who produced the content. If its a five-year-old do they really know everything about the topic?
- We then discuss the concept of a perceived authority over a topic. If NASA made the video we can assume they know a lot about Space.
- I then ask him to consider if it looks and sounds genuine?
I’m busy. We’re all busy. We are all busy because we are parents, challenged with the daunting task of raising children. This is on top of all the other responsibilities we have in our lives, which might be our careers, managing the household, caring for a loved one, and in my situation, working on completing my doctorate program. I shared this information for two reasons; the first is because this is actually a social scholarship assignment that requires me to initiate a conversation via social media (hence the inclusion of references), and the second reason is because I’m about to suggest we parents take on another responsibility – taking a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home.
As we are busy, I thought I’d offer some context to multiculturalism and how I am approaching this subject as a white male raising three other white males, and then structure the article via a few simple questions so you can pick and skim the article if time is short.
What do we mean by multicultural?
When we talk about culture, we could be talking about a few different things. Rather than extend the article into another topic, let’s assume culture to be something that considers behaviors, actions, and beliefs commonly associated with a group (e.g., English culture, white culture, European culture, etc.) or a time period (e.g., 18th Century Culture) (Mason, 2014). Furthermore, let us agree that culture is something that changes and remains complex. It is likely that we belong to multiple sub-groups associated with a culture (Mason, 2014), for example I am White; I am a White European; I am a White European Male; therefore, I most likely have behaviors commonly associated with being white, but also being of European descent, and of being a male. You see how complicated this can be… I’m going to stop…. The point is raising my boys to increase their awareness of cultural norms other than their own, is moving in the direction of promoting multiculturalism. Rather than perceiving events only from a White European Male, I want them to accept or even acknowledge that this perspective is unique perspective they offer, but it will be different when comparing an experience through another cultural lens.
Ultimately, I want my three boys to develop a capacity to expand their perceptions and understanding of the world beyond the single cultural lense of their upbringing.
What do we need to know as parents?
Pedersen (2000) explains that a major challenge to promoting multiculturalism comes from the fact that us humans like to see things almost exclusively from our perspective; so we measure difference based on how it relates to what we consider to be normal; we measure correct or incorrect behavior based on what our parents (or teachers) taught us was correct or incorrect behavior. Unfortunately, these “rules of the game” (p. 23) become our norm before we develop the cognitive capacity to reflect, compare and even challenge our expectations of the world and its inhabitants.
Many learning theories, most notably Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, highlight how influential parents are when it comes to the upbringing of their children. They sit quietly, making observations of or actions and behaviors, they construct knowledge about their world from the questions they ask at the dinner table, to the conversations they hear on the ride up to visit their cousins. Ultimately, our children will “group into the intellectual life of those around them (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88), and that means we need to consider how we are socializing our children to participate in a multicultural world (or reflect on whether we are unconsciously limiting their perception and judgment of the world to one cultural perspective only).
Why is this important?
There are many reasons why promoting multicultural awareness at home is essential; for a start, we shouldn’t assume that schools can tick every single box when it comes to sharing information about different cultures (which is particularly essential for me as my boys attend parochial school). We also need to recognize the influence we have over how our children are being socialized. For example, if I never engage in actions associated with preparing meals in the kitchen, and my boys only see their mother engaging in these actions, am I inadvertently, though my actions, passing on this cultural pattern to my boys? Might it develop into an expectation of all women? Likewise, as we celebrate religious and national events within our culture (i.e., Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.), what meanings do my children interpret from these events? For example, as an outsider living in the U.S., it seems that the meanings given to Thanksgiving have now assumed more of a celebration of Americanism, as opposed to honoring a historical event. Therefore, my boy’s interpretation of Thanksgiving feels very much connected to freedom, religion, and thankfulness for everything this great country has to offer, as opposed to its colonial routes. I am not suggesting I destroy their perspective of Thanksgiving, but when older perhaps I could ask them what Thanksgiving might mean for a Native American’s perspective, or help them avoid the conversation I often have to experience each year.
PERSON A: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day (I’m assuming this is because they know of a country to the North that celebrates Thanksgiving on a different day)
ME: No, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England
PERSON A: Really, why?
ME: Because we’re not American
Ok, I’m not that harsh, I usually find a more respectful way to inform them that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving.
Where might we start?
For this course, we are asked to read Joan Wink’s (2011), Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. What I’ve shared in this blog article would be referred to as a mess, and my challenge would be to identify something within the mess to address. I think a good starting place is to find ways to expose my children to other cultures, and then find ways to facilitate discussions through questions. For example, having them ask why I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to expose them to the simple fact that Thanksgiving is part of American culture, and not something that should be expected outside of the Americas. Likewise, exposing my children to other cultural events could help generate questions about those events, and this might lead to exciting discoveries for me as well as my children. The key to promoting multiculturalism is raising my children to understand they will share likenesses and differences with people of other cultures (Pedersen, 2000); however, they must work hard to resist the temptation to limit their viewpoint and judgment to one perspective only.
For those interested, here’s a list of the citations used in the article above:
Mason, M (2014). Comparing Cultures. In M. Bray, B. Adamson, & M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research: Approaches and methods (2nd ed., pp. 19-46). Hong Kong, China: Comparative Education Research Centre.
Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
My activity on Dads for Creativity dwindled to only a few articles last year because I was finishing up my documentary, Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture. This film project became a significant learning experience for both myself as the educator, as well as the proud parent of three small boys; it began with an intent to explore how educators foresee the future of schooling but instead examined the rise of digital technology and how it disrupted the traditional transfer of information for learning. Anticipated topics like how virtual and augmented reality will change the traditional classroom experience, were replaced by conversations about the ubiquity of information, and the concept of Google knowing versus true understanding of a topic. As my story emerged during post-production, it soon became apparent my most important audience was parents of young children, and therefore I present an article on why I believe we (they) have an important role to play in Media Literacy.
“Media literacy is more important than ever before. Because of course knowledge again is the seed of our economy. And education is the prime way we get citizens to be able to access that knowledge, to become informed citizens. And in order to do that, educators right from the gecko, right from Preschool, really need to start explaining to students… not all the things on the Internet are true.”
Michael Lynch, Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture
Thanks to tablet devices like the iPad, young children are now able to access the world’s information. For many, this experience begins with YouTube. As many parents know, around two, most children with access to tablet devices will learn how to navigate the search bar to find their favorite unboxing videos. The image of young children on these devices might now begin to stir feelings as we reflect on what we see at restaurants and supermarkets. However, as children mature, YouTube – like many applications that access content on the World Wide Web – not only provide a source of entertainment but an opportunity for learning. It is the latter that I care deeply about. As demonstrated in the short clip from my documentary, my eldest has independently taught himself about Pangea, Climate Change, countries of the world, the solar system, and random animal facts. He is literally a walking encyclopedia on a variety of topics.
As pointed out by Jonathan Plucker – a renowned Creativity scholar and someone who I was lucky enough to interview in my film – young children seeking out information on topics of interest is nothing new, it’s the where we get the information that has changed. I remember reading about Mount Krakatoa at an early age and thinking what it would be like to see a super volcano explode. I’m sure we can all relate (though perhaps not about volcanoes). However, there would be two major differences if we replay my curiosity of volcanoes today. First, I would be less likely to access the information using the children’s encyclopedia sitting on my parent’s bookshelf. Secondly, instead of turning pages and reading a text, I would be using voice recognition and selecting a video.
Here’s the problem that requires participation from parents. Many young children today* have access to technologies in their home that wield incredible opportunities for learning. Knowledge is no longer confined to the teacher and the textbook. Furthermore, our little ones are interacting with these devices ‘before’ they enter formal schooling. And even then, many are still tasked with learning for a print world, as opposed to the world that exists outside the four walls of the classroom. Therefore, like reading regularly to our children. this is why parents have an important role to play in Media Literacy – especially when at home.
Teaching media literacy takes effort on our part, and requires us to move beyond using these tools simply as devices for entertainment and social interactions (e.g., Facetime with Grandma). Tablet devices with access to the World Wide Web are incredible tools for learning, however, we must teach children to see them in this way, as well as developing the necessary skills needed to navigate their way through the ubiquity of information. This task is more challenging than teaching children how to use that encyclopedia sitting on my parent’s bookshelf, as it lacks the traditional gatekeeper charged with examining the quality and factual integrity of the content. Therefore, the challenge is not only teaching children how to access information on the World Wide Web but asking the necessary questions to determine its integrity. Unfortunately, as Xennials and early Millenials, we ourselves might be lacking some of the Media Literacy skills we seek to develop in our children. Just think about how many facts we reference come from our social media feeds (you know you do!). Therefore, we must begin practicing good Media Literacy ourselves, which starts by learning to identify quality content for ourselves, and not judging it based on how well it aligns to our existing values. Look this is daunting, and I’m not suggesting we pursue a certification in media literacy, however, I have found a few simple steps to be helpful when teaching my eldest how to use his iPad for learning.
How parents can support Media Literacy
I’m still learning myself. I’m not an authority over the topic myself, but I’m trying to summarize my journey as a filmmaking exploring issues that impact the Class of 2032 and beyond. The statements above were covered over a two-year period, as my eldest became more comfortable with using the device for learning. My closing statement – it’s a process, but one that needs our attention.
If you’re interested in this topic, or want to learn more, I encourage you to check out the film Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture (as an FYI – in case you haven’t noticed, this blog is an example of potential bias, am I partially writing it to promote my film? Should that make you question the accuracy of the information? Something to consider as we begin this challenging journey of navigating the world’s information).
*whenever I write this type of statement I’m reminded that access to tablet devices are limited. However, more and more students have access to the World Wide Web while outside of school.
A random blog article for the few readers that stumble across my articles or graciously liked the DadsforCreativity Facebook page. I haven’t written for two years! My absence is not because I have lost ideas on what to write or even lacked motivation. DadsforCreativity simply found itself lower down the priority list that we all must construct to survive our busy lives as parents, professionals, and wondering humans.
In January 2017, my even busier wife gave birth to our third boy. Wow. She’s been either pregnant or nurturing babies for almost a decade. The little guy, of course, created a disruption and is now sitting on my lap as I write this article. He has a pacifier in mouth, a cuddly toy, and yes an iPad (bad Daddy!).
During this period, not only have I been adapting to life as a parent of three children under the age of seven, but I also produced my second education documentary (check it out here), collaborated on a supporting application that helps facilitate a conversation about the future of schooling (download iOS or Android), and started a doctorate so I know a little more about what I sometimes find myself talking about – education technology and changing schooling.
Here’s a clip from the documentary – Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture. Examining how children interact with YouTube speaks to the opportunity and challenges of learning in the digital age.
I share this information because it helps add links to the projects online (always good from a digital marketing perspective), and more importantly to provide a statement on a change to how I will approach my future works on DadsforCreativity.
My favorite thing is parenting. I love my role as a father, and it will be my greatest accomplishment. Therefore, I’m going to continue to write from that perspective, and use my blog as a creative outlet to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings toward parenting and using technology in the home to nurture the type of skills that we value in our young.
Occasionally I might share a study or academic perspective that I think is particularly relevant for informal learning environments (e.g., the home), but I will NOT be applying APA or offering citations. These articles are not going to find their way into a journal, and perhaps my most important readers will simply be my three boys, and God willing my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren many many years from now.
I’ve realized I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?
I’m on my annual vacation to London, the place of my birth and a city that I consider to be fantastic – especially for day trips out with the family. As always I take advantage of the brilliant museums that are on offer for FREE! This year I decided to take my two eldest boys to the Imperial War Museum to see tanks, rockets, and one Harrier Jump Jet that is currently hanging from the ceiling – this blog article is about how parents might respond to the curious minds of our little ones, and what I wish I had known prior to my visit and talking to your children about War.
The blitz on London, war shelters, bombs, and tanks – it doesn’t take long for the curious minds of our little one’s to begin asking questions and making connections…
Eldest: ‘oooh Daddy, what’s that?’
Daddy: ‘that’s a rocket’
Eldest: ‘And what’s that’
Daddy: ‘that’s a bomb shelter’
Eldest: ‘why did people need bomb shelters?’
It wasn’t long until the bigger questions came my way – ‘Why did people drop bombs on other people?’ ‘Did this kill people?’, ‘Who were the badies and why did they want to drop bombs on them?’ the latter was particularly challenging!
I wish I could say I responded to these questions successfully, but unfortunately I failed miserably and found myself encouraging more challenging questions that only dug deeper into the subject. After I returned home, I did some Googling on thought it would be nice to share some points I wish I had known prior to our visit.
- Be Prepared, but don’t solicit – Given the media coverage of Syria or the occasional scaremongering that I think sometimes accompanies reports on North Korea or Iran, I think it’s helpful for parents to be prepared for some of the questions that might arise regarding War. One of the things I wish I had done was listen better, and respond to the question without expanding or introducing a topic. I probably introduced items that were too complex for a child of six. For example, I didn’t want my boy to perceive one particular country as the badie, so I found myself talking about the Nazi’s and this only confused him further. Ultimately, my desire to control the conversation meant that I didn’t afford myself the opportunity to see how he was processing the information and perceiving events from his perspective – and this is perhaps the main take away from my experience.
- Curious, Imaginative, and Sensitive Children will make connections – Making connections is a Creativity skill that we all value, but on this particular subject it will likely generate challenging questions. Again just be prepared and LISTEN more than you TALK. It’s important that we see ‘how’ and ‘what’ connections are being made with the information. We will then be more equipped to respond appropriately and avoid further confusion or untangle the weaves that they are making.
- Offer Love and Reassurance – When you engage in the conversation look them in the eye, get on their level, and offer them lots of hugs and kisses. If you feel the questions are getting too deep, I personally respond by saying ‘you’re too young to be worrying about these things’ but I always ask if he’s ok about me changing the subject and if he’s not I’ll take a few more questions.
I’m obviously still navigating through this topic so please feel free to offer some advice in the comments below. I also found a great article from the Guardian Newspaper that offers some suggestions on books/stories that help introduce the subject of war to children – or more specifically WWI.
Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.
7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.