Lit Review: Promoting multicultural understanding and positive self-concept through a distance learning community: cultural connections

Cifuentes, L., & Murphy, K. L. (2000). Promoting multicultural understanding and positive self-concept through a distance learning community: cultural connections. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(1), 69-83.

Author: Lauren Cifuentes and Karen L. Murphy
Title of article:
Promoting multicultural understanding and positive self-concept through a distance learning community: cultural connections.
Publication year: 2000
Database source: SpringerLink
Name of journal: Educational Technology Research and Development
My Codes: VCProjects

Main Point: Students engaged in year long videoconference collaboration with students of another culture (within the same state) exhibit higher multicultural understanding and greater positive self-concept.

Methods: A qualitative case study method was used to examine two classrooms that connected for nine units over the course of a school year. Data collected included the students’ multimedia portfolios, written reflections of instructors and students involved, and interviews of the students.


  • The two teachers were from different cultural backgrounds, and the collaboration created a strong collaborative relationship between them that benefited their instruction.
  • The teachers mentored each other throughout the year.
  • The students grew in their multicultural understanding.
  • The students grew in their cultural sensitivity, as evidenced in their comments at the beginning of the year vs. the end of the year.
  • The students loved the technology and were motivated by it. The interaction with the more well-to-do students inspired the at-risk border students to want to attend college.
  • The students’ misconceptions about each other were dispelled.
  • The students became more confident in their speaking, poise, and behavior on camera. The rest of the students in their schools looked up to them.

Author/Audience: The authors are educational technology professors writing for an educational technology audience.


Both of Cifuentes and Murphy’s articles feature team teaching as a key component to collaborative projects.

The sustained learning described in Cifuentes’ two articles contrast with the short term one hour experiences in Lee’s study. This makes me think I should follow-through when my teachers are interested in a sustained learning experience. It isn’t too often. Their schedules are so busy. What would it take to establish and facilitate long term collaborations like these? One of my local teachers put out an ad on the listservs for a year-long partner and no one responded. Is it too hard to commit up front without knowing someone? We need to think and experiment in this area more. Two other differences between the activities in the two students are: a much closer age of the participants and the Cifuentes’ activities are more social constructivist.

Many of the activities included self-expression and sharing those expressions. These experiences were clearly key to understanding the other students and becoming friends with them. Don’t you think sometimes we think that that Q&A part of a project such as Read Around the Planet isn’t “curriculum related” when they talk about favorite music, after school activities etc.? But that is important learning too. It helps them realize they are part of a global community and to appreciate and respect differences and similarities.

The student empowerment results are stunning considering the at-risk students studied. It’s so frustrating for me when teachers cancel a program because their students are misbehaving. It seems these types of experiences are just what the students need. It’s motivating and interesting to them. This article defines the results in student positive self-concept and empowerment that can come from a sustained telecommunications project. Seems worth the trouble to me!

One of the references included was a teacher testimonial published online. It’s on the site: Bringing cultures closer with technology. If you don’t have access to the databases, this is the next closest thing to get the gist of what was done in this collaboration/study.

0 replies on “Lit Review: Promoting multicultural understanding and positive self-concept through a distance learning community: cultural connections”

  1. What if we used the Mini-JAZZ format as the support/springboard for ongoing collaborations?

    Or if we worked better to support the connections and relationships that begin during the week of JAZZ in the summer?

    Or even a follow-up to RAP?

    I think that we do a LOT of one time cool events, but we could just follow-up and somehow nurture the relationships a bit more.

  2. I have a few schools that are starting to use VC tentitively, ages around 9-11.

    I will pass your good ideas around.

  3. I really appreciate the point made above regarding the importance of sustained experience. A one shot connection among students of different cultures will leave an impression, but a sustained experience builds relationships and can transform individuals.

    • Lauren! Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Are you still involved in videoconferencing? I would love to hear about what you are up to now… I very much enjoyed your articles!

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