Cinthia Salinas and Cecil Robinson
Social studies teachers typically seek to create classroom environments that help students discover the knowledge and skills essential for participation in a democratic society. Multicultural approaches enable students to develop an increasingly pluralistic view of American history and society.1,2 Teachers can become advocates for the many different voices represented in todayís classrooms.3 Knowledge about the contributions, histories, and stories of many different ethnic and cultural groups in America have, at last, become commonplace in discussions about American society. However, if we want to incorporate such materials into our lessons, we must face the task of finding multicultural resources for ourselves and for our students. The Internet is, more and more, available to teachers as a means to locate many appropriate resources.
In their use of Internet sites, teachers encounter at least two challenges. First, they must confront and choose from the wealth of information available on the Internet. Second, teachers need to restructure lessons and activities to include the use of Internet resources. This article describes an effort to confront these two challenges.
The Internet as a Multicultural Resource
Social studies teachers traditionally have relied upon books, magazines, journals, and broadcast news media as major classroom resources. They select these sources of information because they are readily available, and their validity and reliability can often be easily checked. However, particular voices and perspectives are selectively limited because they lack industry credential standards, write in a manner unacceptable to publishers, or do not conform to any number of other mainstream expectations. The Internet, on the other hand, is a medium, which does not restrict people from representing other ways of being, experiencing, and understanding. In fact, the Internet enables teachers to reconceptualize the curriculum, ìto help students understand how knowledge is construct and how it reflects human interests, ideology, and the experience of people who create itî4 In other words, the Internet makes available to social studies teachers a great variety of resources to help students construct a deeper and richer understanding of the social world in which they live.
Utilizing the Internet
In order to illustrate the number and variety of multicultural resources that are available on the Internet, we asked the pre-service students in two sections of an elementary social studies education course to identify resources on the Internet about the history, current issues, and childrenís literature of Mexican Americans and Native Americans. In addition, students were to seek sites that could serve as lesson plan resources or activities. Most of our students, as well as the course instructor, had limited experiences conducting such web searches and evaluating results. To address these concerns, we offered a total of four class sessions (and one optional evening session) to teach the students how to conduct an efficient and effective Internet search, evaluate a web site, create their own web site, and post their findings to their own web pages.
One group identified nearly sixty sites that contained interesting information about Mexican Americans. The sites were created by a wide variety of authors. For example, about 40% were developed by women and about 17% by authors with a Spanish surname. In addition, nearly half of the sites were created by a university faculty member, university student, teacher, or secondary students. Half of the web sites allowed individuals to contact the author of the site directly by e-mail. Further, almost forty percent of the sites were created or edited in 1999.
Another group identified 72 sites that dealt with the history, current issues, and childrenís literature of Native Americans. Again, our students found a variety of web site authors. Women wrote and created 48% of the identified sites and Native Americans wrote and created 32%. University faculty or students or a teacher or his/her students created 39% of the sites gathered by our students. Authors of 57% of the web sites supplied a direct link to their e-mail addresses. About 50% of the sites were created and/or updated in 1999.
Clearly, the teacher candidatesí searches yielded a wide variety of authors and institutions and in turn a myriad of voices and perspectives. Further, they found many timely materials that might have been difficult to acquire through traditional sources. In sum, the Internet makes possible the accession of ìmultiple sources of information and opinion that teachers can use to introduce students to the need to examine the different sides of an issueî5
Resources to Study the Mexican American Experience
Teacher candidates found and described many history-based web sites that teachers can utilize in their lesson planning. For example, one student located Mexican American History and Culture (home.ici.net/customers/nikos/mex.html) a site created by a high school history teacher, that includes materials and assignments for his class and links to other informational Mexican American/Chicano sites. The Aztec Webpage (www.azteca.net/aztec/index.shtml) offers a primary source view of the Treaty of Hidalgo (Treaty with Mexico, 1848).
There are several excellent childrens literature web pages and resources. Annotated Bibliography of Childrens Literature Focusing on Latino People, History, and Culture (clnet.ucr.edu/Latino_Bibliography.html) includes an extensive annotated bibliography of Latino literature for children. Another impressive listing is Multicultural Childrens Literature Curriculum Collection Bibliography (library.ucsc.edu/collect/mclc.html) The Childrens Literature Relevant to Mexican Americans web site (www.scils.rutgers.edu/~kvander/ChildrenLit/hispanic.html) also included a listing of the Pura Belpre Award (outstanding Latino childrens literature) winners and Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) children and young adult book award winners.
Native American Resources
We also found a large number of Native American web sites that teachers might find useful. Examples of history sites include Navajo TimeLine (www.lapahie.com), developed by Harrison Lapahie Jr., a Navajo Indian. It describes a multifaceted account of his family and tribes colorful history. The Native American History Archive (www.ilt.columbia.edu/k12/naha) is maintained by Teachers College, Columbia University as an index for teachers and students alike. The Index of Native American History Resources on the Internet (www.hanksville.org/NAresources/) is a virtual library of tribes, which is maintained by volunteers.
Many childrens literature pages and resources are located on the Internet. An example is Native American Indian Themes in Childrens Books a super, up-to-date site (www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/NativeThemes.htm) that provides a search engine for childrens books and reviews. American Indian Books (indy4.fdl.cc.mn.us/~isk/books/bookmenu.html) provides reviews of books with positive images of American Indians.
Some resources focus on contemporary issues and problems of Native Americans. For example Indianz.com (www.indianz.com) is an e-zine (an on-line magazine) with current cultural perspectives. Native American Political Issues (www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/9118/home.html) is a personal site dedicated to presenting a variety of current issues that Native Americans face in their lives. Another example is The Peoples Path Home Page (yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/). This site was created in the hope that all people, no matter what their own culture, may be able to find a bit of information that might be helpful in the understanding of American Indian Culture and other native cultures.
We also identified several government or nonprofit organization sites that could be interesting and worthwhile in teaching social studies. The Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs (OBEMLA) page (www.ed.gov/offices/OBEMLA) reviews current English language learner issues. It provides links to other federal offices like the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) (www.ed.gov/offices/OCR/) and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans (www.ed.gov/offices/OIIA/Hispanic). Teachers might also want to consider visiting an organizational site like the National Association of Bilingual Education (www.nabe.org). We were impressed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs page (www.doi.gov/bia/mapslst.html), which included a link to a map Indian Land Areas Judicially Established, 1978 (www.wes.army.mil/el/ccspt/natamap/usa_pg.html). Finally, one of the most popular Native American sites, Oyate, (www.oyate.org/aboutus.html) includes books, teacher resources, multimedia, references, and interestingly, books to avoid, with critical reviews of popular works like The Indian in the Cupboard and The Courage of Sarah Noble.
One of the easiest ways to introduce multiple perspectives on topics is to tap into a number of on-line newspaper sources. Students could select a current issue and review the various ways in which it is represented and understood in different cultures. For example, students can compare current events in several traditional on-line news providers such as the New York Times (www.nytimes.com) or CNN (www.cnn.com) with media operated by ethnic minorities, such as Indinan Country (www.indiancountry.com) or Hispanic Vista (www.hispanicvista.com).
The Internet is as a valuable tool for teachers who wish to find historical information and current issues from the point of view of historically marginalized groups. ìThe Internetís potential for radically changing the process of education at all levels is well documented.î6 Our efforts to explore the Internet yielded new and exciting opportunities for our future teachers. To be sure, these resources were not without fault. Thus, evaluative skills for judging information remain critically important.7 Discovery of additional voices through Internet research enables teachers to create special democratic opportunities for students to enhance and deepen their learning experiences.
1. J. A. Banks, An Introduction to Multicultural Education (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1994).
2. W. Fox and G. Gay,îIntegrating Multicultural and Curriculum Principles in Teacher Education,î Peabody Journal of Education 70, no. 3 (1995), 64-82.
3. L. Delpit, Other Peoples Children (New York: The New Press,1995).
4. J. A. Banks, ìMulticultural Education: Historical Development, Dimensions, and Practice,î In J. A. Banks and C. A. McGee Banks, eds., Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (New York: Macmillan, 1995).
5. B. Larson, ìCurrent Events and the Internet: Connecting ìHeadline Newsî to Perennial Issues,î Social Studies and the Young Learner 12, no. 1 (1999): 25-28.
6. W. Owens, ìPreservice Teachersí Feedback about the Internet and the Implication for Social Studies Educators,î The Social Studies 90, no. 4 (1999): 133-140.
7. Joseph A. Braun, Jr., and C. Frederick Risinger, Surfing Social Studies (Washington, DC: NCSS, 1999).
Cinthia Salinas is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Cecil Robinson is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo.