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The Impact of Culture

Valid barriers to using technology in classrooms do exist, however, and they range from the contextual (e.g., 200 people with one laptop) to the administrative (e.g., lack of funding, lack of knowledge support), from the legal (e.g., obtaining parental permission for student technology use) to the physical (e.g., migraine headaches resulting from screen blinking). Because teachers can easily observe these barriers, they can more easily acknowledge and deal with them. Other barriers, however, are not so obvious, and they also can impact student achievement in CALL classrooms. The most pervasive of these less obvious barriers is culture.

Culture can have an impact in CALL classrooms in many ways, some of them similar to its impact in non-technology classrooms and others a factor of the tool. For example, student learning styles on and around computers can  be different for learners from different backgrounds, and learners may use different strategies for the same task (e.g., writing) when they use a different tool. In addition, culture may influence how people perceive the use of computers in classrooms. As in this chapter’s opening scenario, these influences can be misunderstood.

Culture also has an impact on what  students learn. Whose culture and language are portrayed by the electronic tools that learners use, and how the culture and language are portrayed, can influence how much and what learners understand and also how they feel about the work they are doing.

How can teachers be more aware of culture’s impact in CALL classrooms? They can do the same kinds of things they would do in any classroom, but in CALL classrooms technology can help. For example, teachers can value learners’ first languages, offering them plenty of first language support by using native language websites and software, bilingual electronic storybooks, and translation services such as BabelFish (http://www.babelfish.com/) and Google Translate (https://translate.google.com/).

Teachers can develop greater cultural sensitivity themselves by studying and communicating with members of other cultures. Software and Internet resources can help them to see cultures through different eyes (both emic and etic views) and to study culture deeply. A starting point for teachers and learners might be the country reports offered by CultureGrams (http://www.culturegrams.com/); another useful resource is Egbert and Ernst-Slavit (2018). In addition, teachers can work with learners to develop new literacies and strategies, as noted previously,  that will help them be successful in CALL classrooms.

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The Impact of Culture by Joy Egbert and Seyed Abdollah Shahrokni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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