When children Scratch do they enhance intercultural understanding?

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The article “Prosuming across Cultures: Youth Creating and Discussing Digital Media across Borders“, authored by QUT Senior Lecturer Dr Michael Dezuanni and MIT Media Lab Andres Monroy-Hernandez, helped me to understand how online community spaces can help youth to enhance intercultural understandings. Their study is about the popular Scratch community (over 3.5 million registered users, hundreds of different nationalities). The site is designed for children aged 8 to 16 to create games, movies, art, music and interactions. Dezuanni and Minroy-Hernadez query if this community assists to promote tolerance and understanding between users from different countries.

During a ‘Relief’  teaching day at a Gold Coast primary school, I recently observed Year 5 students using Scratch to create animations. My initial opinion was that it looked like a great way for children to learn the basics of programming and have fun creating digital media. Dezuanni and Monroy-Hernandez study shows that it is much more than this. Their qualitative analysis of community discussions analyses the types of interaction that takes place. They share examples of the typical conversations Scratchers have about their countries, home cities and topics about local food and customs.

The findings show that tolerance of ‘others’ can be increased when the notion of ‘others’ is discouraged. Scratch facilitates this by: placing standards of communication for tolerance; utilizing moderators that assist to uphold these standards; and allowing opportunities for the children to uphold these norms themselves. The authors conclude: the norms of tolerance and diversity established within the community by its moderators makes it more likely that these values will be accepted and defended by community members” (Dezuanni and Minroy-Hernadez. 2012).

Are the students you know using Scratch or a similar digital environment? What is your opinion of unfair portrayals of people and cultural “othering” by users of digital media? Please leave a comment, your opinion is welcomed here.

 

Reference:

Dezuanni, M., & Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2012). «Prosuming» across cultures: Youth creating and discussing digital media across Borders/«Prosumidores interculturales»: Creación de medios digitales globales entre jóvenes. Comunicar, 19(38), 59-66. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1112903187?accountid=13380

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One thought on “When children Scratch do they enhance intercultural understanding?

  1. I’ve occasionally used Scratch with my class but hadn’t considered using it in the way you’ve discussed. We’ve only built worlds within our class and hadn’t considered using Scratch for the global community. With regards to cutural ‘othering’ I would hope that we are educating our students to be digital citizens (in every sense) and using programs such as Scratch would help to promote tolerance and resilience in every child.

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