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Developing youths cultural and social skills through a social-virtual curriculum


Nikleia Eteokleous
School of Education, Frederick University, Limassol, Cyprus
Abstract
Purpose This study seeks to evaluate the application of a social-virtual curriculum delivered through in-classroom and web-based activities, aiming to develop youths social-cultural skills, cultural competency and multicultural awareness. Specically, the study evaluates the overall impact of the curriculum to the participating youths Universality-Diversity Orientation, diversity of contact, relativistic appreciation (RA) and comfort with differences. It examines the inuence of gender, ethnicity and religion to the aforementioned variables. Finally, it aims to identify the role of the curriculum and the Web 2.0 in promoting multiculturalism and multicultural education and in changing youths perceptions, and attitudes towards others. Design/methodology/approach A quantitative approach was applied, using the Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale that measures an individuals Universal-Diverse Orientation. Descriptive (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations and Cronbachs alpha) and inferential (the independent t-test, the paired-sample t-test and the one-way analysis of variances) statistics were conducted. Questionnaires were given to 303 students. The pre-measurement took place in April 2008 (70 per cent response rate) and the post-measurement took place in June-July 2009 (45 per cent response rate). Findings The study discusses the impact of the social-virtual curriculum, the inuence of gender, ethnicity and religion, the role of the social-virtual curriculum and the Web 2.0 tools in promoting multiculturalism and multicultural education and in changing youths beliefs, perceptions and attitudes towards others and the new learning, collaboration and communication culture established. Originality/value The study constitutes the foundation for further research to be conducted regarding the educational use of Web 2.0 tools, the in-depth examination of the application of the educational networking within the school curriculum. Keywords E-learning, Web 2.0, Multicultural, Ethnicity, Gender, Religion, Youth, Culture, Social skills Paper type Research paper

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Introduction Statement of the problem Internets role to knowledge accessibility and dissemination, revealed to be as extremely important. The technological advancement in information technology and telecommunications resulted in the development of the Web 2.0, which created the appropriate framework for user participation, providing an array of tools and countless opportunities for altering communication, work, collaboration, socialization, friending, entertainment, etc. Google, MSN, Facebook, Search Engines, Blogs, Wikis! We are living in a digital world and the above are part of our daily life activities (Eteokleous and Pavlou, 2010). Elementary and secondary students constitute a great part of this digital world and are characterized as digital natives (Prensky, 2001) and digital learners (Murugesan, 2009; Oliver and Carr, 2009; Richardson, 2009). They are extensively using Web 2.0 tools to play internet games, visit social networking web sites, participate in

Multicultural Education & Technology Journal Vol. 5 No. 3, 2011 pp. 221-238 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1750-497X DOI 10.1108/17504971111166947

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blogs and discussion forums, become net-writers through wikis, etc. (Burnett et al., 2003; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009). Our society can be also characterized as multicultural. Technology provides a realistic, visually compelling, interactive and motivating environment (Goddard, 2002), for developing the skills and knowledge needed in todays multicultural environment. Consequently, how can we combine technology, education and dialogue in the diminishment of social, economic and cultural gaps inherent within and among societies, and laying the foundations for peaceful coexistence. Main aim The current study evaluates the application and impact of a social-virtual curriculum delivered through in-classroom and internet-based activities, aiming to develop youths social-cultural skills, cultural competency and multicultural awareness. Specically, the study addresses the following objectives: . To evaluate the overall impact of the social-virtual curriculum to the participating youths Universality-Diversity Orientation (UDO), diversity of contact (DC), RA and comfort with differences (CD) (Miville et al., 1999). . To examine to what extend do gender, ethnicity and religion inuence youths UDO, DC, RA and CD. . To identify the role of the social-virtual curriculum and the Web 2.0 in promoting multiculturalism and multicultural education and in changing youths perceptions, and attitudes towards others. Theoretical framework Internet in education The walls of the classrooms are torn down. Computer technology evolution has widened the educational activities for instructors and students in the 1990s, removing time and space constraints, increasing exibility and accessibility to education and knowledge. With the rapid diffusion of the Internet, computers and telecommunications; new approaches to learning were created including online course delivery (Crosta, 2004; Hewitt, 1998). As a result, the interest in the development and use of online learning has been steadily increasing (Dabbagh and Kitsantas, 2004) providing anytime, anywhere learning. The internet as a medium to implement online learning provides a pervasive new channel for education, an alternative method of teaching and learning, that makes it more accessible (Gao and Lehman, 2003) and appealing to students by providing exible learning, and enabling new ways of learning (Owston, 1997). Online instruction is identied researches as an alternative and successful way of learning (Bickle and Carroll, 2003; Hiltz, 1993; Navarro and Shoemaker, 2000). Furthermore, the online environment expands teaching and learning opportunities, providing teachers and students with more exibility to apply modern learning techniques, practice and experience new techniques that go beyond the classroom environment. Teacher and students collaborate, communicate and interact through synchronous and/or asynchronous methods of communication, i.e. email, bulletin boards, chat rooms and blogs. They have the exibility and freedom to work in their own space and time; where teaching and learning have no boundaries; being as effective and valuable as when conducted in the classroom (Eteokleous, 2009).

Digital natives and immigrants. Youth, mainly under the age of 18, born and grew up in the information age are characterized as digital natives (Prensky, 2001) or digital learners (Murugesan, 2009; Oliver and Carr, 2009; Richardson, 2009). They feel extremely comfortable in using the internet and the Web 2.0 tools, thus extensively using them in order to play internet games, participate in social networking web sites (i.e. Face book, MySpace, Twitter), use email, search for information, communicate through chat rooms, join in blogs and discussion forums, develop their own web sites, become net-writers through wikis, etc. (Burnett et al., 2003; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009). On the other hand, the digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001) are those who were already grownups while the technology was evolving. Nevertheless, in order to survive they adjusted to the new setting and made technology an integral part of their lives, frequently using it for various purposes: educational, personal and professional (Eteokleous and Pavlou, 2010). Web 1.0 and 2.0. We all experienced Web 1.0, where as the passive consumers of information, we were characterized as the public without having any contribution or active involvement. Web 1.0 users were reading, receiving and researching (the 3 Rs). The technological advancement in information technology and telecommunications resulted in the development of the Web 2.0 and created the appropriate framework for user participation. Specically, a sites primary content is contributed by its users, where the traditional one-way communication is transformed to a two-way communication, and process of information. The users are contributing, collaborating and creating (the 3Cs) (Ala-Mutka et al., 2009; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009; Richardson, 2009). The term, Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications, which facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites and video-sharing sites. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change web site content, in contrast to non-interactive web sites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them (Web 1.0) (Hargadon, 2009; Prensky, 2001; Richardson, 2009). With the advent of the Web 2.0, the internet has become truly interactive. Wikimedia, videos, blogging, forums and chats are excellent examples of how denitions, ideas, photographs, videos and voice can be input and shared over a powerful Web 2.0 Internet (Eteokleous, 2009). Social and educational networking. Millions of people use various social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, Flickr, LinkedIn, Live Journal. Discussion forums, blogs, wikis, chat-rooms, electronic calendars and documents (i.e google documents), etc. are some of the Web 2.0 tools employed within the social networks. Using these tools the users create prole pages and groups of common interest, socialize, upload pictures, video, music, comment on events, pictures, etc. The concept of social networking is becoming even more popular, invading to peoples everyday lives and activities. Having in mind the opportunities provided through the Web 2.0, and the changes in users role, the social networking can be transformed to educational networking (Hargadon, 2009). The Web 2.0 tools can be applied for teaching and learning purposes towards achieving educational objectives (Eteokleous and Pavlou, 2010). Various researchers (Ala-Mutka et al., 2009; Burnett et al., 2003; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009; Richardson, 2009) argue that the new web will dramatically change the education

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of the twenty-rst century, by altering the way which students approach learning, the way which teachers approach teaching and learning, the way of interaction and communication among students and teachers and the way which they learn from each other (Hargadon, 2009). Multiculturalism and multicultural education Multiculturalism has been frequently mentioned and used the past couple of years in educational and business environments, political discussions, policy government agendas, public and private organizations. It caused changes of educational and social practices and policies in various nations. Multiculturalism covers a vast area and it has a broad meaning, since many different interpretations and approaches regarding the coexistence of groups exist. Nikolaou (2000) denes multiculturalism as more than the acceptance of the presence of diverse racial, cultural, economic and social groups; it refers to peoples philosophy for, and attitude towards people of different race, ethnicity, geographical origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, economic class and age. In this sense, human differences are recognized, respected, appreciated and celebrated within a multicultural environment. Along the same lines, Smolicz (1996) characterizes a society as multicultural when it is composed of more than one ethnic group. Our society can be successfully characterized as multicultural since individuals having different cultures, nationalities, languages and religions are travelling across countries and continents for numerous reasons, i.e. work and education. Various concepts are associated with multiculturalism, such as diversity, culture, peace education, ethnicity, social justice, equity, respect, understanding and tolerance. At some point, we might imply that these concepts characterizes multiculturalism (Eteokleous et al., 2008). Multiculturalism becomes a pedagogical issue since the changes at the societies conguration are reected to the schools systems. Numerous homogeneous educational systems go through a totally new experience since students from other countries, having different cultures, religions and traditions enter the classrooms (Eteokleous and Christodoulou, 2009). A few years ago, teaching in a multicultural environment was the exception; nowadays the majority of the schools have students from different cultural, ethic and religious backgrounds. The educational environments are adjusted to these new settings, besides the challenges to teach within such context (Mushi, 2004). In educational terms, multiculturalism means the inclusion in schools of children of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a way that respects, encounters, boosts up, reveals and exemplies the cultural traits and values of all in equal ways. Multicultural education represents an orientation to schooling, where the teaching-learning process is grounded in the democratic ideals of justice and equality (Banks, 1996; Sleeter, 1995). According to Gorski (2004), multicultural education calls for all aspects of education to be continuously examined, critiqued and transformed based on the ideals of equity and social justice. Within this context, multicultural education is an important element of the current society, as it helps people develop knowledge and skills necessary to survive in a multicultural world (Christodoulou and Eteokleous, 2009). Through multicultural education students should become able to recognize and respect peoples differences, promote understanding and authentic interactions among different groups (Eisenchlas and Trevaskes, 2007), develop social skills, multicultural competency and cultural

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awareness (Miville et al., 1999). Education in a multicultural environment goes along with terms such as democratic education, differentiated teaching and curricula, culturally relevant teaching, co-creating the curriculum and student-centered teaching, since all these approaches share a common philosophy toward the development of the full potential of each student. Educational curricula have to take into consideration the language and cultural differences among non-indigenous children and foster an environment of respect, understanding and acceptance of cultural differences (Christodoulou and Eteokleous, 2009; Panayiotopoulos and Nicolaidou, 2007). Finally, a multicultural curriculum should develop citizens that are:
[. . .] curious rather than fearful about other peoples and cultures; [. . .] who is open to learning about other ways of life, and willing to consider how issues look from other peoples point of view [. . .] [and] who feels comfortable interacting with people from other backgrounds [. . .] (Kymlicka, 2003, p. 157).

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Multiculturalism, multicultural education and the internet. Technology and specically the internet, greatly inuence multiculturalism and multicultural education. The various uses of the internet: the world wide web, the electronic mail, newsletters, bulletin boards, chat-rooms, wikis and blogs, online courses and video conferences highly contribute in promoting the concept of multiculturalism and developing a multicultural educational setting (Eteokleous et al., 2008). The internet in its simplest use, searching for information at the world wide web, allows students to be exposed to numerous information about and from diverse groups. The internet facilitates curriculum expansion by incorporating contributions of various cultures into traditional disciplines of study. In addition, the access to various kinds of information using new technologies in combination with new perspectives on cognition and learning, offers students an opportunity to explore highly politicized and deeply personal subjects such as religious faith, sexual orientation topics and inter-ethnic/generational differences. The internet also promotes communication and interaction between diverse groups and it can be characterized as the vehicle for successful dialogue, bridging gaps both geographically and culturally through chat rooms, discussion forums, blogs, wikis and online courses (Cummins and Sayers, 1996; Damarin, 1998; DeVoogd, 1998). Online courses is a setting, where a diverse learning community is formulated and it is more effective than an in classroom setting in addressing and discussing issues of cultural identity, learning about differences and building a diverse learning community. Consequently, the advantage internet holds over face-to-face classroom format is in its ability to provide educators and students wide access to a cross-cultural professional and learning community (Gorski, 2004). The context: MYTecC MYTecC (www.mytecc.com) is a bridge building initiative geared to empower and educate youth to become active, responsible local and global business and social leaders; developing those skills that may enter adulthood with a sense of responsible leadership, awareness of local and global citizenship, business acumen and a propensity to interact harmoniously with one another. MYTecC is about creating a human network in a program supporting and enhancing dialogue and exchange in a Web 2.0 environment. Participating youth at the age of 12-16, attend eight hours weekly after school activities for one year. The program is delivered through universities,

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community and youth centers. Participating youth simultaneously follow three different but complimentary learning curricula: (1) The English curriculum (to improve students English language skills; www. mywaves.org); (2) the Technology curriculum (students learn the Cisco Networking Academy IT Essentials); and (3) the Social-Virtual curriculum (further explained below). MYTecC classes ofcially started at the end of February 2008, to the seven participating countries (Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Turkey and Yemen) and ended in June-July 2009. A total of 20 instructors and more than 300 students were part of the MYTecC community. The social virtual curriculum The current study focuses on the application and the effects of the social-virtual curriculum. It aims to develop youths social, and leadership skills required for them to become responsible and active contributors to society with a strong social orientation wherein they are encouraged to get to know themselves, set goals for themselves, learn to appreciate and respect diversity and communicate effectively. It is delivered through in-classroom and internet-based (virtual) activities. The virtual aspect brings the students together on a virtual platform to debate, exchange information and perform common activities (http://myteccstudents.ning.com/). It is divided in three dimensions: (1) Personal development (it focuses on building personal skills, enhance community role, volunteerism, teamwork, communication styles, critical thinking, effective inquiry and research. (2) Civic education (aims to broaden students understanding on various values and concepts such as similarities and differences, cultural diversity, democracy, respect, acceptance, leadership, conict resolution and stereotyping. (3) Social entrepreneurship (the students go through a basic business planning training and develop community projects/socially responsible business ideas to benet people in their communities). The students from the participating countries have the opportunity to get to know each other through the virtual the activities. Specically, students collaborate to accomplish various activities, developing a feeling of interethnicity and universality. Cross-cultural education and experiences are provided to students, promoting strong connections with their counterparts. Research methodology A survey was employed, making use of quantitative data (Creswell, 2003), where the Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale (M-GUDS) was used. The M-GUDS measures an individuals UDO, which is dened as an attitude of awareness and acceptance of both similarities and differences that exist among people (Miville et al., 1999, p. 294). Given the social-virtual curriculum goals, the M-GUDS was considered the most appropriate tool to measure the impact of the social-virtual curriculum to students.

Participants were asked to rate 45 items on a scale from 1 to 6, with 1 being strongly disagree and 6 being strongly agree. The questionnaire contained three scales: (1) Diversity of contact (DC interest and commitment to participating in diverse, internationally focused and social cultural activities). (2) Comfort with differences (CD the degree of comfort with diverse individuals). (3) Relativistic appreciation (RA appreciation of both similarities and differences in people and the impact of these in ones self understanding and personal growth). Each of the three scales was represented by 15 items of the questionnaire (Fuertes et al., 2000; Miville et al., 1999). The students completed the questionnaires along with four demographic variables: gender, religion and ethnicity. The researcher addressed the issue of content validity by asking all MYTecC instructors to review the questionnaire. Additionally, it was pilot tested by ten MYTecC students who had been potential subjects of the study. Those students were excluded from the data collection later on. Information was collected regarding wording, expressions and technical terms. The feedback given helped the investigator to revise, and modify the instrument. Minor changes such as clarications, terminology and expressions took place in order to adjust the instrument to MYTecC students, making it more understandable and clear, given the differences in language, religion and culture. The studys population was MYTecC students in all the participating countries (303). Pre- and post-measurements conducted throughout the MYTecC cycle. The instructors were responsible in administering the questionnaire in the classroom. The instructors explained to the students that the questionnaires were to be kept anonymous. Questionnaires, in both pre- and post-measurements were given to all MYTecC students that were present in class the date of the data collection, aiming to get a representative sample. The pre-measurement took place in April 2008 and the response rate was 70 per cent since 166 students completed the questionnaires. The post-measurement took place in June-July 2009 where 135 completed students questionnaires were returned, thus, the response rate was 45 per cent. The response rate in both measurements provided a representative sample (Stephen and William, 1997). Independent and dependent variables were used in the analysis. Gender, Religion, Ethnicity and Age were the independent variables. The dependent variables were: the overall UDO and the three scales: DC, CD and RA. Each of the three scales was calculated by summing students responses in the15 statements that represent each scale. For the overall UDO all 45 statements were added. The dependent variables were treated as continuous variables (Knapp, 1990). SPSS version 13 was used to analyze the data gathered. Descriptive (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations and Croabahs alpha) and inferential (independent t-test, paired-sample t-test and one-way analysis of variances (ANOVA)) statistics were conducted. Israel and Palestine were removed from the analysis since there were incomplete set of measurements. Outcomes Descriptive statistics The analysis of the demographics variables revealed that the majority of the students were from Morocco, 43.4 per cent and 31.1 per cent, at the pre- and post-measurement,

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respectively, (Table I). As far as it concerns religion, the majority of the students were Muslims and overall boys appeared to be more than girls (Table I). Descriptive statistics for the three scales and UDO were calculated for both measurements. Regarding the pre-measurement the means of the three scales and UDO ranged from 3.51 to 4.00 indicating a trend towards disagreement a little bit and agreement a little bit. The internal consistency of the three scales and UDO appeared to have high scores, ranging from 0.708 to 0.892 (Table II). At the post-measurement an increase was observed regarding the means of the three scales and UDO (ranging from 4.25 to 4.40), indicating a trend towards agreement and strongly agreement. Finally, the internal consistency of the three scales and UDO appeared to have high scores ranging from 0.578 to 0.877 (Table II). For the rst scale, DC, the means for the 15 statements that represent the particular scale ranged from 1.56 to 5.00 for the pre-measurement and from 1.97 to 5.20 for the post-measurement (on a scale from 1 to 6). The majority of the statements at the pre-measurement appeared to have means ranging from 3.0 to 4.0 and from 4.0 to 5.0 at the post-measurement. In other words, for the pre-measurement the students seemed to disagree a little bit and agree a little bit, and at the post-measurement the students appeared to agree a little bit and agree, where in some cases they agreed and strongly agreed. Given the above, it can be supported that the social-virtual curriculum positively inuenced students perceptions regarding their interest and commitment to get in touch with diversity. The means of the fteen statements that represent the CD scale ranged from 1.96 to 4.86 for the pre-measurement and from 2.77 to 5.0 (on a scale from 1 to 6) for the post-measurement. As in the previous scale, there was an increase in the means of the statements, showing that students by the end of the project were feeling more comfortable and connected with diverse individuals. Specically, the majority of the statements appeared to have means ranging from 3.0 to 4.0 for the pre-measurement,
Pre-measurement Frequency Percentage Ethnicity Egyptian Moroccan Portuguese Turkish Yemenis Total Religion Muslim Christian Others Missing Total Gender Male Female Missing Total 8 72 35 24 27 166 127 34 3 2 166 90 76 0 166 4.8 43.4 21.1 14.5 16.3 100 76.5 20.5 1.8 1.2 100 54.2 45.8 0 100 Post-measurement Frequency Percentage 20 42 16 31 26 135 84 15 36 0 135 74 60 1 135 14.8 31.1 11.9 23.0 19.3 100 62.2 11.1 26.7 0 100 54.8 44.4 0.7 100

Table I. Descriptive statistics ethnicities, religion and gender

Scale Measurement DC Pre-measurement Missing Post-measurement Missing CD Pre-measurement Missing Post-measurement Missing RA Pre-measurement Missing Post-measurement Missing UDO Pre-measurement Post-measurement

n 166 0 132 3 165 1 129 6 166 0 135 0 166 135

Cronbachs a Mean 0.785 0.798 0.708 0.578 0.787 0.711 0.892 0.877 3.99 4.34 3.51 4.40 4.00 4.40 3.86 4.25

SD 0.77 0.62 0.60 0.53 0.74 0.53 0.63 0.47

t-statistic 23.339

df 131

Signicance ( p-value) 0.001 *

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130

0.00 *

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23.865

128

0.00 *

25.532

134

0.00 *

Note: *Signicant at the 0.05 level

Table II. Descriptive statistics and paired sample t-test for the three scales and UDO

and from 4.0 to 5.0 for the post-measurement. In other words, for the pre-measurement the students seemed to disagree a little bit and agree a little bit, and at the post-measurement the students appeared to agree a little bit and agree. In comparison with the previous scale, the students rated the statements giving lower scores than the DC scale. At the pre-measurement the means of the 15 statements that represent the RA scale ranged from 3.24 to 4.50 and from 3.69 to 5.00 (on a scale from 1 to 6) for the post-measurement. As in the previous two scales, the mean scores at the post-measurement were higher, showing a shift in students attitudes and approaches and consequently the positive impact of the Social-virtual curriculum. Specically, the results support that the Social-virtual curriculum helped students appreciate both similarities and differences in people and realize the impact of these in their self understanding and personal growth. Paired-sample t-test Paired sample t-test was used to check the impact of the social-virtual curriculum on students beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. Paired sample t-test was conducted for the three scales and UDO. Statistical signicant differences revealed between the pre- and the post-measurement for the three scales and UDO (Table II), showing the positive impact of the social-virtual curriculum experience. Differences in each scale and UDO based on gender, religion and ethnicity Independent t-test. Independent t-test was conducted in order to examine the differences in each of the scales in relation to gender and religion. Given that Israel and Palestine were excluded from the analysis, two religions left (Christians and Muslims), independent t-test was conducted for religion as well, instead of ANOVA. In order to proceed in conducting the independent t-test, the Lavenes test was used to check the equality of variances and perform the normal distribution tests. At the pre-measurement, statistical signicant differences revealed to exist due to gender at the DC scale. On the contrary, no statistical signicant differences revealed

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due to gender at the CD and RA scales. In addition, the individual statements of the CD and RA scales were not inuenced by gender; however, only two individual statements from the DC scale appeared to be inuenced by gender. Along the same lines, regarding UDO no statistical signicant differences revealed due to gender. Finally, those individual statements that appeared to have statistical signicant differences were the same ones as in the rst scale (DC) (Table III). During the post-measurement, in contrast with the pre-measurement, no statistical signicant difference appeared due to gender at the DC scale. The same applies for the individual statements. Regarding the other two scales, CD and RA scales and the overall UDO no statistical signicant differences revealed as well due to gender. However, a few statements from the CD scale revealed to have statistical signicant differences due to gender (Table III). In all three scales and UDO, the analysis revealed statistical signicant differences due to religion in both pre- and post-measurements. At the DC scale, the majority of the statements revealed to be statistical signicant different due to religion. At the post-measurement statistical signicant differences revealed as well, however, with fewer individual statements being statistically signicant different (Table III). At the CD and RA scales almost the same number of individual statements revealed to be statistically signicant different at the pre- and post-measurements (Table III). Finally, regarding the individual statements that appeared to be statistical signicant different at UDO were the same ones as in the three scales (Table III). One-way ANOVA. ANOVA was conducted in order to examine the differences in each of the scales and the variable of ethnicity. As above, the Lavenes test was used to check the equality of variances and perform the normal distribution tests. In both measurements, statistical signicant differences within the various ethnicities revealed for the DC scale. At the pre-measurement, the majority of the individual statements appeared to have statistical signicant differences, however,
Gender Scale Measurement Premeasurement Postmeasurement CD Premeasurement Postmeasurement RA Premeasurement Postmeasurement UDO Premeasurement Postmeasurement DC tstatistic df Religion Ethnicity Sig. tSig. FSig. ( p-value) statistic df ( p-value) statistic df ( p-value) 0.037 * 0.538 0.456 0.234 0.924 0.274 0.266 0.279 5.380 3.735 6.335 9.198 5.464 4.779 5.335 6.650 162 131 161 130 162 128 162 134 0.026 * 0.080 * 0.000 * 0.000 * 0.026 * 0.010 * 0.002 * 0.010 * 4.413 6.710 6.867 2.177 7.008 2.044 7.830 2.407 165 131 164 130 165 128 165 134 0.002 * 0.000 * 0.000 * 0.074 0.000 * 0.091 0.000 * 0.052

2 2.103 164 0.618 129 2 0.747 163 1.195 128 2 0.096 164 1.099 126 2 1.116 164 1.088 132

Table III. Differences in each scale and UDO based on gender, religion and ethnicity

Note: *Signicant at the 0.05 level

at the post-measurement fewer statements were statistically signicant different (Table III). Similar results revealed for the CD and RA scales. At the pre-measurement, there were statistical signicant differences due to ethnicity and the majority of the individual statements revealed to be statistical signicant different. On the other hand, the post-measurement revealed no statistical signicant differences due to ethnicity and a fewer statements revealed to be statistically signicant different (Table III). Finally, regarding UDO, the pre-measurement revealed statistical signicant differences among the various ethnicities. On the other hand, at the post measurement, no-statistical signicant differences revealed, however, there are some individual statements that appeared to be statically signicant. Those statements were the same ones as in the three scales (Table III). Discussion The impact of the social-virtual curriculum The analysis revealed the positive impact of the social-virtual curriculum experience to youths UDO, DC, RA and CD, within the Web 2.0 context. The curriculum managed to develop a human network, a virtual community that enabled learning, communication and collaboration. Youth individually and collectively expressed themselves using Web 2.0 tools. The social-virtual curriculum exploited the full potential of the Web 2.0 to transform the way students learn, interact and collaborate, allowing them to build a culture of tolerance, solidarity, mutual understanding and respect (Cummins and Sayers, 1996; Eteokleous, 2008; Gorski, 2004). The students had the chance to experience cultural exchange with youth from other countries. Their interactions through in-classroom and specically through virtual activities brought them closed to each other and helped them realize that they do not have that many differences rather than lots of shared interests and numerous similarities. They felt connected to people with different characteristics from various cultural backgrounds, developing feelings of appreciation towards others and realizing that the differences and similarities that characterize individuals and groups should be cherished for their worth and cultivated for the benet they bring to all people (Eisenchlas and Trevaskes, 2007). After the social-virtual experience students appeared to be more open with the concept of diversity. Overall, the students were interested to participate in internationally focused and social cultural activities; they were positive to meet people from other countries, get to know about other cultural groups and their customs and attend cultural events. In addition, the students were interested in getting in touch with various characteristics of different cultures such as listen to music and learn traditional dances, visit exhibits and watch foreign lms, as well as read book translated from other languages. Finally, it seems that the program helped the students realize the importance of volunteering, and giving back to the community. The I would [. . .] statements of the DC scale got relatively high scores at the pre-measurement, showing students willingness to nd out about others. The statements that have relatively low scores were the ones that described their present feelings about others. However, at the post measurement those statements (that had to do with students present feelings) had a greater increase than the statements that expressed student willingness (the would statements). It can be supported that students present feelings towards others were improved and that they still feel open to further explore and examine other cultures and people different than themselves

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since during the post-measurement, the questions that expressed their willingness had high scores as well. The changes revealed at the CD scale showed that the students altered in a great deal their attitudes, and perceptions towards others. At the pre-measurement students revealed to be only at ease with people of their cultural background, felt uncomfortable to meet people from another country. The above changed based on the post measurement scores. The results revealed that after the social-virtual curriculum experience the students were more comfortable and connected to diverse individuals, and also felt affection towards others that possess different characteristics than they do. Specically, the students realized that people from other cultural backgrounds share the same human needs and concerns. They also appeared to be concerned about the struggles and problems the others face. At the pre-measurement, students appeared to be hesitant and a little bit conservative towards others. The post-measurement scores increase showed the changes in students attitudes and beliefs revealing once more the impact of the social-virtual curriculum. Overall, at the post-measurement students appeared to appreciate more both similarities and differences and the impact of these in ones self understanding and personal growth. In addition, students appreciation towards others characteristics was also increased, realizing the positive inuence of being a friend with people that have different characteristics. Specically, they felt that getting in touch with people from different cultures (know about other peoples religions, customs, identities, etc.) broadened their self-understanding. Students managed to place themselves in the shoes of a person from another culture as well as understand their problems, something that they found difculties to do so when the program started. Also, students reported feeling that they can better understand someone after getting to know how they are both similar and different from them. Finally, in comparison to the DC scale, the students gave lower scores at the CD and RA scales. It can be argued that the lower scores were given since the CD and RA scales examine more sensitive, in-depth and difcult concepts. The inuence of gender, ethnicity and religion It can be supported that overall gender does not inuence the three scales and UDO in a great deal. The statistical signicant differences revealed at the pre-measurement were diminished at the post-measurement showing the impact of the social-virtual curriculum. The gender issues that were approached through the in-classroom and virtual discussions, games and activities had a positive impact on students. It can only be said that girls were more sensitive and caring than boys, showing more affection and care for their fellow citizens and were not embarrassed to show these feelings. In comparison to gender, ethnicity seems to have slightly greater inuence at the three scales and UDO. At the pre-measurement all three scales and UDO appeared to have statistical signicant differences due to ethnicity, however, at the post-measurement differences revealed only at the DC scale. Overall, fewer statements were inuenced by Ethnicity at the post-measurement since the statistical signicant differences were minimized showing once more then positive inuence of the social-virtual curriculum. Specically, students appeared to be more interested in learning and getting in touch with other cultures by having friends from other countries. Nonetheless, they appeared to be a little bit reluctant in getting too closed to others.

In comparison to gender and ethnicity, religion revealed to be the most inuential variable. It is a really sensitive issue, inuencing in a greater degree students beliefs and attitudes towards others. It appeared to inuence the degree of comfort with diverse individuals, the sense of connection with people from other countries and students openness to get in touch with diversity. At the pre-measurement statistical signicant differences revealed at the majority of the statements including students present feelings (I do [. . .] statements) and future/willingness feelings (I would [. . .] statements). On a more positive note, the majority of the statements that the differences due to religion still existed at the post-measurement were the ones that had to do with their future/willingness feelings. The above shows that their present feelings were improved, religion has minimized its degree of inuence, showing in this case a slight impact of the social-virtual curriculum and minor, however, important changes in students attitudes and beliefs. The role of the social-virtual curriculum and the Web 2.0 tools Finally, the study identied the role that the social-virtual curriculum and the Web 2.0 play in promoting multiculturalism and multicultural education and changing youths perceptions, and attitudes towards others. It can be argued that the social-virtual curriculum set the foundation and provided the framework of educational networking since it fully exploited the potentials of the Web 2.0 within an educational setting. It revealed to be a great example where the Web 2.0 is mainly used for educational purposes through the networking and social activities performed, which are not solely used for social and entertainment purposes (Ala-Mutka et al., 2009; Burnett et al., 2003; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009; Richardson, 2009). The advantages of using the Web 2.0 were captured in detail through the social-virtual curriculum. Specically, the virtual aspect linked countries together, encouraged networking among the working groups from the participating countries, through activities and games aiming at strengthening dialogue and positive interaction. The development of a virtual community brought added value through a constant exchange of thoughts, ideas and experience within a framework of tolerance and respect. It put in practice the development and expansion of the Web 2.0 tools. In addition, it took advantage of youths internet ease of use and high Web 2.0 literacy in performing internet-based educational activities. As suggested, it would be better as educators to integrate the Web 2.0 tools in the educational practice than trying to resist in using them, becoming part of the digital world which our students live, might be more possible to raise their interest, motivate them, transform the classroom environment and properly prepare them for the society needs and demands (Eteokleous and Pavlou, 2010). The social-virtual curriculum promoted multiculturalism and multicultural education since it achieved in developing students knowledge and skills needed to survive in a multicultural world (Eteokleous and Christodoulou, 2009) and helped students being able to recognize and respect peoples differences, promoted the understanding and authentic interactions among different groups, (Eisenchlas and Trevaskes, 2007) developed social skills, multicultural competency and cultural awareness (Miville et al., 1999). Along the same lines, the social-virtual curriculum can be also characterized as a multicultural curriculum since students learned how to

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appreciate, and respect the others, became open to learn about people with different characteristics as well as managed to interact, collaborate and communicate with people from other backgrounds (Eteokleous, 2009; Kymlicka, 2003). Additionally, the social-virtual curriculum provided an example of how a multicultural education can be implemented since it promoted democratic education, differentiated teaching and curricula and student-centered teaching grounded in the democratic ideas of justice and equality (Banks, 1996; Sleeter, 1995). It also took into consideration, the language and cultural differences among non-indigenous children and fostered an environment of respect, understanding and acceptance of cultural differences (Eteokleous and Christodoulou, 2009; Panayiotopoulos and Nicolaidou, 2007). The social-virtual curriculum is aligned with the requirements of the information era, preparing students accordingly, by altering education, and transforming the teaching and learning process. Specically, the way new technologies were integrated changed the way which students approached learning, the way of interaction and communication among students and teachers and the way which they learned from each other, as many researchers (Ala-Mutka et al., 2009; Burnett et al., 2003; Eteokleous, 2009; Hargadon, 2009; Murugesan, 2009; Richardson, 2009) were already suggested regarding the use of the Web 2.0 for educational purposes. Technology was used to support constructive learning, and meaning making by students, which they were actively engaged in the learning process and developed meaningful intellectual partnerships with technology (Eteokleous, 2009). Given the above, the social-virtual curriculum can be characterized as a successful example of educational networking. It can be also argued that new technologies application promoted a new learning, communication, work and collaboration culture which was instilled among teachers and students (Eteokleous, 2009). The study through the social-virtual curriculum applied within in-classroom and virtual-based activities, within the Web 2.0 context, suggests a blended-learning model, an innovative method of approaching and addressing sensitive, personal, highly politicized and difcult issues such as multiculturalism, diversity, acceptance, tolerance, understanding, respect towards others, religion, ethnicity (Cummins and Sayers, 1996; Damarin, 1998; DeVoogd, 1998) extensively using tools that students feel comfortable with (Eteokleous and Pavlou, 2010). Additionally, it has been revealed a successful method in developing knowledge and skills related to multiculturalism, and altering students perceptions and attitudes towards others. Consequently, through the recommended blended-learning model students from various countries, get together within a formal or in-formal educational setting, exploiting the opportunities provided through the Web 2.0 tools. The paper provides the foundation of further development and integration of this kind of activities to ofcial schools curricula. The achievements of such a curriculum are multifaceted. Students realize the importance and value of technology as a tool to execute educational, professional and personal purposes and at the same time change their attitudes and beliefs towards others. Also, through the suggested in-classroom and virtual-based model the students have the opportunity to interact and mingle (i.e. shared their interests and hobbies) with others either through formal educational classroom settings (if the model to be applied in schools) or informal supervised settings. Finally, they have the chance to meet other students and network, tremendously beneted from their interactions, provide and gain valuable knowledge and skills (Eteokleous, 2009).

Conclusion We need to go once step further than using electronic textbooks (Peters, 2009) and approach technology as extras or electronic boards. Peters (2009, p. 1) supports that:
[. . .] we can start using technology to let young people communicate and collaborate with their peers around the world [. . .] this is a generation that understands the importance of personal connections-even with those they might never meet [. . .].

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Through an adjusted to the digital-multicultural world curriculum, we need to promote a deeper use of the new technologies with our students. Having as a goal to help students and future citizens of a global world not only become technology literate, but also realize the importance and value of technology in their lives; the educational systems have major, critical and challenging role to play (Eteokleous, 2009). The study reveals the importance of having the educational networking, the anytime, anywhere and the life-long learning to be included in the everyday routine of students. It constitutes the foundation for further research to be conducted regarding the educational use of Web 2.0 tools, the in-depth examination of the educational networking concept and its application within the school curriculum. The students should be provided with those opportunities and experiences that will adequately prepare them for the rapid-changing, high-tech, globalized society. Given that the majority of schools are characterized as multicultural environments (Mushi, 2004), it is a necessity for a multicultural curriculum to exist as the one suggested through this study. The study is of great signicance, as it can feed information to policymakers, school leaders and educators on how to promote youths social skills and promote the concept of multiculturalism through technology. This study reveals the interaction and integration of education with other disciplines in an attempt to enhance and promote interdisciplinary research. It underlies the value of combining technology, education and the development of youths knowledge and skills. The theoretical signicance of the study lies in further developing the suggested social-virtual curriculum for a potential integration within the school curricula. Initiatives like this, and the suggested social-virtual curriculum is an excellent and valuable opportunity to enhance the quality of education provided to our children. It is a great challenge to develop citizens that can be characterized as multicultural and be in a position to promote peace culture in todays interconnected world.
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2001), postgraduate studies at the Pennsylvania State University (MEd in Educational Administration, 2002; MEd in Instructional Systems, 2004; and PhD in Educational Administration with emphasis in Computer Technology in Education, conrmed 2004). He currently works as a Lecturer in Educational Technology at Frederick University, Cyprus. He was employed for two years as an Assistant to the Head of Research and Development at PA College, Larnaca. While studying at Pennsylvania State University, he was awarded an Assistantship through which he was employed as a Research Assistant for three years at the Educational Leadership Program as well as an Assistant Editor at the American Journal of Education. He gave presentations in various national and international conferences and published articles in academic journals and conference proceedings. His research focuses on areas of technology (computer, mobile devices and internet) integration in education, teacher education and technology, multicultural education and technology, and systemic change in education. Nikleia Eteokleous can be contacted at: nikleia@cytanet.com.cy

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