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"Multiculturalism in Cinderella"- Final Essay

Page history last edited by Katelyn Hartvigsen 7 years, 6 months ago

By Katelyn HartvigsenMulticulturalism in Cinderella


           The Importance of Technology and Multicultural Learning in the Classroom


          For centuries, learning in the classroom has depended on textbooks, however, in the last decade, the use of technology in the classroom has drastically increased as culture has become largely technology based. The new online resources for teaching- such as blog posts, story maps, websites, and even YouTube- change the way children view literature and the way they learn at school. It has become more and more popular to introduce technology in the classroom at a young age, in hopes that this will prepare students for the “real” world, a world largely dependent on technology. Another element that has become increasingly significant in the classroom setting is the importance of multicultural learning. In today’s society, the classroom is composed of students of a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and it is crucial for teachers to understand and in turn educate their students on cultures outside of their own. The “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” project created at the University of California, Santa Barbara is an interactive and innovative lesson on multiculturalism that presents different cultural variations of Cinderella in a creative online format.

            The team members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” were originally brought together by a shared passion for teaching and education; many of the group members are currently minoring in education and plan on pursuing a career in teaching. When creating their project, the group set out to generate a final product that would be useful in classrooms, a product that could benefit students as well as teachers. “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” was produced in order to establish an exciting and interactive way for students to actively participate and learn about other cultures around the world. The objective of the project was to demonstrate an effective way that students could learn about about other cultures, through the familiarity of a story that hit close to home, Cinderella. The team members also set out to demonstrate the idea that the best way to serve the needs of different types of learners (auditory, kinesthetic, and visual) is by connecting students  to technology. All in all, “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” was created to illustrate the effectiveness of technology in regards to cross-cultural education and learning. Additionally, the team members wanted to analyze the effectiveness of technology in regards to making education more inclusive as well as the effectiveness of Cinderella in regards to teaching students about cultures outside their own.

            The team members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella”  strived to create a project that presented teachers with a simple and efficient way to inspire global awareness and respect for all cultures within their students. The team members decided that Cinderella was the perfect piece of literature to utilize for this project because it is considered a universal text and has become wildly popular throughout many different countries. The story of Cinderella details the life of an overworked and mistreated young girl who undergoes a magical transformation, all thanks to her fairy godmother. The general story of Cinderella has been adapted to fit the cultural norms of over 365 different cultures; each story incorporates elements that are unique to that specific culture, such as specific language, customs, style, and wardrobe. The team members believed that the actual story of Cinderella was straightforward enough to understand and follow, even if an individual had never been told it before. It was crucial for the group to pick a literary work that was simple and straightforward in order to amplify the cultural elements present within each story. The goal of this project, as previously stated, was to develop an online education tool that made learning about other cultures fun and exciting, a tool that truly interested students and kept their attention. By employing the fairytale Cinderella, students learn to become cross-culturally competent while sincerely enjoying what they are reading and making personal connections along the way.

            The entire development of the project, from idea to finish, occurred over a period of approximately six weeks. Throughout these six weeks, members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” worked on their project twice a week during in-class meetings as well as during meetings taking place outside of class, during their personal time. Throughout these six weeks the group’s project changed dramatically with the realization of new ideas as well as the unveiling of potential problems.

            At the onset, “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” intended to utilize the program Inklewriter in order to demonstrate the changes that occur in a single story when examined through the perspective of a dissimilar culture. Inklewriter is a free online program that allows users to create, save, and publish a game book- a book in which readers interactively choose what path they want the story to follow. This program places the story and the choices in separate sections, allowing the reader at any time to return to specific questions and choose a different option than they previously had. Through this program, the team members believed that they could produce an engaging and personalized Cinderella experience that would illustrate the differing customs of each culture. Each member would do research on a specific adaptation of their choosing, making note of the major points of the story and the cultural aspects present. As a collective group, the team would decide what they considered to be the major features of the original Cinderella, additionally, each member would compare the features of their assigned adaptation to the features of the original. After uncovering the main similarities and differences existent in each of the stories, the team members would develop a single comprehensive game book in which different options coincided with different cultural variations of Cinderella.

            The project plan above was presented to the team members’ peers in English 149 as well as to their professor and advisor Alan Liu. The team’s peers questioned the group extensively on how exactly the game book could result in an easily understandable and flowing story. The other students in Professor Liu’s class expressed concern with the overall success that Inklewriter would give the team members; since the differing elements of each adaptation of Cinderella are so vastly different, the comprehensive game book would probably become very confusing and result in parts that made little or no sense. The team’s peers also worried that this single game book would constitute a destruction of cultural uniqueness, for the most distinctive elements of each adaptation would have to be omitted in order for the game book to be successful. The input from outside observers inspired the project to go in another direction, as all the team members agreed that Inklewriter had proven to be much too confusing and costly.

            After discussing amongst themselves, the team members resolved to generate a project that allowed them increased creative freedom and the ability to manufacture something truly effective for the classroom. The members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” collectively decided to construct a project that could also be used as a lesson plan in the classroom, more specifically a middle school classroom. Through the use of Tumblr and StoryMap JS, the students are presented with blog entries written from the point of view of the characters in the varying adaptations of Cinderella as well as a map to help visualize these adaptations in an interactive format. Tumblr is a free blogging platform and social networking website that allows users to post multimedia as well as other content to their own personal blog. Most of Tumblr’s features can be seen from the homepage, referred to as the user’s dashboard. On Tumblr, users are able to follow other user’s blogs, create hashtags, link to their Twitter and Facebook, and even edit their blogs using HTML. Using Tumblr, students are able to view three personal blog entries from each of the main characters in the adaptations of Cinderella. These blog entries are written in first person and combine the main points in the progression of the narrative with the personal thoughts and feelings of the main character. Each member of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” was responsible for choosing an adaptation of Cinderella and producing the subsequent blog entries; five different adaptations were represented on the blog site- Yeh-Shen, The Turkey Girl, The Persian Cinderella, Rhodopis, and Baba Yaga. At the end of each blog is a hashtag of the name of the story, students are able to click on this in order to examine other posts on Tumblr that have included the same hashtag. When analyzing each blog, students are encouraged to click on the terms that are highlighted in blue, for these words or phrases are significant to that character’s culture and are linked to other sources. Students are urged to conduct further research on these culturally significant terms, and “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” makes it simple, with one click of the mouse.

            StoryMap JS is a free open source tool created to illustrate and strengthen stories through the use of specific emphasized locations on a map. StoryMap JS produces online maps that highlight different points of interest, each of these points can further to be annotated with text, images, links and other information. The program encourages users to draw lines connecting multiple points and covers locations across multiple states, across multiple countries, and even within the confines of a building. Using StoryMap JS, readers are taken on a journey around the world, a journey that allows students to truly visualize different cultures and grasp the unique customs and traditions. The map, titled “Cinderella Around the World,” chronicles thirty different adaptations of Cinderella and uses drawn lines to connect the multiple points, revealing the true distance between each of the stories. Each individual point includes the title of the adaptation, the location of the adaptation, a picture from the adaptation, and a short summary of the content of the adaptation. It is important to make a note that this map only includes thirty Cinderella stories, but there are hundreds more throughout the world.

     Furthermore, the research surrounding “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” gave the team members background information on the effect technology has in the classroom as well as the importance of multicultural learning in the classroom. In her article, “Communicating Cross-Culturally: What Teachers Should Know” Yvonne Pratt-Johnson analyzes the importance of cross-cultural competency and learning in the classroom. Pratt-Johnson claims that in order to most effectively comprehend and educate students about culture, teachers must strive to go beyond surface-level learning about culture and dive into its’ true multi-layered complexity. Pratt-Johnson claims that there are six basic complex cultural differences teachers must aim to grasp in order to better teach their students; with this understanding, teachers can provide better aid to diverse students. These six differences are (1) differences in ways of knowing, (2) differences in ways of solving problems, (3) differences in communicating non-verbally, (4) differences in ways of learning, (5) differences in dealing with conflict, and (6) differences in symbols.

     The group members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” found that their project directly connected to Pratt-Johnson’s arguments and could be used as a tool to inform teachers as well as students about the six cultural differences Pratt-Johnson claims are crucial to understand. One Cinderella story was originally told orally, highlighting the different ways of knowing (1) while another Cinderella is filled with cultural symbols of importance, highlighting the different ways of using symbols (6). “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” informs students about cultural differences such as the Persian tradition of not looking men directly in the eyes as well as the tradition of the Persian New Year. After reading this article, the team members decided that it was important to include links to the different terms significant to each culture so students could conduct further research.

     The team members also utilized the information found in Dr. Ram Singh’s article “Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students.” Dr. Singh’s research project studies the effect that technology has on both students and teachers in the classroom. Dr. Singh’s results show that the use of technology in the classroom creates a beneficial change in the roles of students and teachers, allowing students to take on the usually active role of the teacher as opposed to the passive role of receiving the information by hearing, reading from a textbook etc. To Singh, “Technology is the ultimate carrot for students, it's something they want to master, and learning to use it enhances their self-esteem and makes them excited about coming to school” (Singh). When the students use technology as opposed to other methods of learning, they can define their own goals, make their own decisions, and encourage more active mental work.

     The group members of “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” found that their project directly connected to Dr. Singh’s arguments as well. “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” uses technology not only to teach and inform students, but to create an interactive environment as well. The team member’s project allows students to take on an active role as they navigate through the story map as well as the blog entries. The project benefits all three separate types of learners (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), and creates a more personalized lesson plan for all students. Students, as well as teachers, benefit from being able to physically complete tasks themselves and learn on a more personal level. This project demonstrates the many benefits of technology-based learning, and illustrates the importance of this type of learning for both teachers as well as students.

     After creating and presenting the project “Multiculturalism in Cinderella,” the group members analyzed its’ success and discussed what problems could possibly arise from a lesson plan like this one. “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” uses the story of Cinderella, which could be considered a fairytale that is aimed towards a female crowd as opposed to a male crowd. The project also leaves little room for students’ imagination, since it lays out all the stories and does not give students a chance to create any part of the story on their own. In the end, it could be beneficial to include a section that urges students to create a Cinderella story of their own, involving aspects of their own culture or their own family traditions. Another problem that arose is the problem of how realistic each story should be. For example, if a story includes a very gory section or an aspect of a culture that could be viewed as negative, should it be included for a classroom of sixth graders? In the end, this becomes up to the teacher.

     Overall, the project “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” demonstrates the best way to improve current classrooms, by educating students to be cross-culturally competent and respectful through the use of technology. In modern times, technology has becoming a prominent part of most individuals’ lives, in fact, many students are accustomed to acquiring information through their televisions, computers and phones. Many students struggle with focusing in the classroom, due to the use of textbooks, worksheets and information on the board. “Multiculturalism in Cinderella’’ solves this issue by incorporating technology into a classroom setting. The project allows teachers to be perceived as facilitators or guides, while students self explore their own topics of interest. Students learn about different cultures in depth from the blog site, Tumblr, and expand their geographical knowledge and awareness through the site Story Map. By presenting the topic of multicultural learning online, “Multiculturalism in Cinderella” strives to create a more modernized classroom.


Works Cited


Jeffers, Susan, Amy Ehrlich, and Charles Perrault. Cinderella. New York: Dial for Young  Readers, 1985. Print.


Pratt-Johnson, Yvonne. "Communicating Cross-Culturally: What Teachers Should Know." Pratt Johnson-Crosscultural. St. John's      University, Feb. 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.


Singh, Ram, Dr. "Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students" Archived: Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students.      U.S Department of Education, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.




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