Lakia Scott and Chance W. Lewis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Published by NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, www.nationalforum.com
NATIONAL FORUM OF MULTICULTURAL ISSUES JOURNALVOLUME 10, NUMBER 2, 2013SPONSORED BY THE TEXAS CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FORMULTICULTURAL EDUCATION40Understanding the Urban Dialect: Code-Switching and TechnologyIntegration Models to Enhance Literacy Practices for Twenty-FirstCentury African American LearnersLakia ScottDoctoral StudentUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte, NCChance W. LewisProfessorUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte, NC______________________________________________________________________________AbstractAfter providing a basis that attributes how language structures determine the success of mono-dialectal students, this study provides a comprehensive review of previous research associatedwith dialect shifting, language transition models, and recent trends in code-switchinginterventions. Researchers assert that teachers of urban African Americans must not onlyincorporate the aforementioned interventions used, but additionally provide technologicalinfluences to meet the needs of the twenty-first century learner.National reports over the past decade have derived the notion that the literacy levels ofAfrican American students are continually lower than that of any other ethnic group (NAEP,2009; NCES, 2011). However, this perceived achievement gap in literacy does not consider theimplications associated with educational policy directions, teacher education programs, factorsthat attribute to student performance or negligent instruction (Champion, Rosa-Lugo, Rivers, &McCabe, 2010; Kornhaber, 2004; Utley, 2002). The devastating reality, however, is that theeducational and social needs of these students, particularly those without the educational orfinancial resources to change their circumstances, are not being met.What seems to be the answer in addressing the challenge of educational parity for urbanAfrican American students is not one of easy resolve; however, the conversation regardingreading and writing achievement for these students should begin with speaking the samelanguage – or at least the recognition that multiple languages are a part of the conversation(Delpit & Dowdy, 2002). Second, in the attempt to regain the interest, engagement, andoverallmotivation of urban African American students, educational policy and practice must
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS41keep up with the technological trends for learners. Twenty-first century learners come to see thissurge in innovative technology as a necessity to everyday living, and in order to reach students,these technologies should be regimented in daily educational activities (Jetnikoff, 2009; Moore-Hart, 2004).This article seeks to define the various language types for African American learners andunderstand the attempts through research and practice for code-switching techniques to become acommon thread in instruction. A close connection to the use of social theories will furtherelaborate on how language structures are seen as a way to exposethese hidden practices. It isimportant to also identify recent instructional practices and interventions that bridge languageliteracy and technology while also discussing success stories to advocate the need for suchcombined strategies. This paper will provide implications for integrating code-switching andtechnological involvement as a core standard to meeting the needs of urban African Americanlearners in the subject areas of Reading and English.Review of Related LiteratureThe Language of LanguageIn addressing the use of code-switching and how technology can enhance literacypractices and the achievement ratings of urban African American students, it is important tounderstand the various terms associated with language patterns while also recognizing researchimplications regarding teacher education on language diversity and previous pedagogicalattempts to prepare students for balancing language forms. It is also relevant to understand theextent to which the term “standard” juxtaposes that any other language forms are considerednon- or sub-standard. In the literature, these terms have been used interchangeably to discusspreferred language usage in English-speaking classrooms (Champion et al., 2010; Connor &Craig, 2006). Standard American English (SAE) is a term used by many educational researcherswhich labels the language used in classrooms and everyday contexts to describe the traditionallanguage patterns associated with the English Language (Smithmerman, 2000). There are limiteddefinitions of what SAE is; however, there are multiple definitions that showcase what SAE isnot (Stockman as cited in Pearson, Velleman, Bryant, & Charko, 2009). Also referenced asEuropean American English and Mainstream American English, this vernacular is also the onlytype of language used as a measure for students who speak English. It is used for establishing abasis of literacy, content understanding, and overall assessment practices.African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is known as a variation of the Englishlanguage with morphological and phonological differences from SAE that includes grammaticalfeatures such as dropping consonants, plural noun associations, and the deletion of possessivenoun tenses and verb associations (Craig, Thompson, Washington, & Potter, 2003; Oetting &McDonald, 2001; Rickford & Rickford, 2000). Other names for this language pattern include butare not limited to: Ebonics, non-standard American English, African American English, BlackEnglish Vernacular, and Black Dialect. Most commonly, families from lower- and middle-socioeconomic backgrounds and/or those who reside in urban areas are predominant speakers ofAAVE. Noted, not all African American students speak with this type of vernacular and, thosewho do speak AAVE may not use these features all the time (Rickford & Rickford, 2000).
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS42Language Transition Models: Dialect Shifting and Code-SwitchingChampion et al. (2010) began research on the reading performance of thirty-three second-and fourth- grade African American students in order to identify oral reading proficiency skillsof African American English speaking children. The study hoped to compare their reading skillswith their levels of dialect usage as measured by the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language-Screening Test and the Gray Oral Reading Test–Fourth Edition to decide if the latter was anappropriate measure to assess oral reading abilities. The findings concluded that the Gray OralReading Test was not a useful instrument in identifying the oral reading proficiency of urbanAfrican American elementary students with varying levels of African American English(Champion et al., 2010).Craig and Washington (2004) asserted that, “African American English is characterizedby morphosyntactic and phonological features that are contrastive to their renderings in StandardAmerican English (SAE), the primary variety of English that is used for classroom instruction,curriculum, and standardized tests” (p. 450). In addition, the authors assert that, “students whofail to achieve standard American English competence may have difficulty processing curricularcontent presented in SAE or perhaps more fundamentally, learning to read” (p.452). Thisinformation posits the importance of students, even in primary grade levels, to understand thetransition that must occur in their dialects.Code-Switching: A Necessary Skill for Educational ReformCode-switching is a term that has been most commonly used in the linguistic field thatdescribes the interplay between multiple languages and the reiteration of the phonological andsyntactical elements of each language in a given context (Clyne, 1987; Genessee, 1989). Theskill of code-switching can be taught in a variety of settings that include: home, community, orschool environments. However, there is no clear indication or mandate that African Americanstudents are taught how to code-switch. One aspect in home- and school language variations thathas been noted is that AAVE-speaking students have not only been compared to other culturalgroups, but also other African American students who can interchangeably use SAE. Researchhas revealed that while some students learn traits associated with language differences in earlygrade levels, those who do not fail to meet academic measures as assessed through standardizedtests (Connor & Craig, 2006). The research findings also suggest that students who speak AAVEand learn how to shift their dialects and/or code-switch perform at higher rates on standardizedtesting measures than those students who do not learn these skills. Blake and Sickle (2001)examined how when students increased their ability to code-switch from African AmericanEnglish to Standard English, academic progress drastically increased, particularly in themathematical and science fields. The need to teach these students how to develop content-specific language constructs became a main concern for urban educators and a growing complexissue for those who weren’t accustomed to the cultural differences that their students presented.The International Reading Association (IRA) recognized the need for code-switchingpedagogies in appreciation of the diversity of language and culture that exists in a classroom.Also mentioned is the need to appropriate texts and literacy instruction for all students if they areto be successful in academic English (IRA, 2010). NCTE echoed an emphasis for students todevelop an understanding of diverse languages, patterns, and dialects, by combining IRAstandards that address English Language Arts practices and span across ethnic groups, cultures,
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS43and social roles (IRA & NCTE, 1996).Theoretical FrameworkThis article will attempt to interweave the collective works of social theorists Karl Marx,Antonio Gramsci, and Jaques Derrida. The culmination of these works will manifest a newlydeveloped term, hegemonic language conflict, which will then be used in the latter sections withcomponents of the topic. From a Marxian perspective, the Bourgeoisie class will find a way tomaintain, defend, and reproduce the capitalist social order. In this structure, Gutek (2009)illustrates that schools introduce and maintain the social consciousness that “dulls the sense ofoppression of the exploited classes” (p. 278). To perpetuate the classes and ensure labor,schooling, in the formal sense, is affected by capitalism to indoctrinate students into a socialconsciousness that befits their class. Classified as a struggle between dominant and dominated oroppressed groups, conflict theory is a refined theory that encompasses struggle betweencontenders rather than classes. Gutek (2009) illustrates,the school’s curriculum will reflect how the dominant class conceives of and usesknowledge. What is selected in the curriculum reinforces existing beliefs and values forthe children on the dominant class and will be used to convince children of subordinateclasses that this curriculum is also valid for them. (p. 290)In conflict theory, reproduction models are posed: economic, cultural, and hegemonic. Inthe economic reproduction model, schools facilitate economic class divisions by the way inwhich students are stratified (or labeled) and appropriated roles for later occupations. In thissense, those in power can continue to provide viable resources and access to control wealth,capital, and potential. Those who are not in power are continually controlled and maintained bythose in power. Language structures are also proposed as distinctions of social class divisionsand inherently, public schools are systemically adjusted to accommodate the dominant socialclass group. The last model of reproduction, hegemonic state reproduction, ties the politicalstructures (also referred to as state) to school practices. In that, the dominant culture imposespower to carry out specific actions that will perpetuate stratification.These neo-Marxist principles also extend to the works of Antonio Gramscis concepts ofdomination through cultural and ideological hegemony. In understanding Marxs conceptsassociated with capitalism, Gramsci extended that individuals are not solely dominated throughviolence and political reign, but mostly through ideology. Hegemony, as noted in Lemert (2004),is the permeation through society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs, and moralitythat supports the status quo in power relations. Ideological hegemony then is defined by themajority of the population holding the values of the bourgeoisie as the norm or common basis forwhich all other structures should exist. Gramsci uses the term cultural hegemony to refer to thistype of ideological domination. In order for the proletariat or working class to regain ideologicalcontrol or resist these forms of domination, there is a need to establish ones own culture whichwould challenge the sanctioned norm or values that are imposed on a society; a counterhegemony. For Gramsci, hegemonic dominance heavily relied on the communitys willingness toconsent to the imposed norms and values.Lastly, Derrida elaborated on how having a centralized language disempowers others
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS44from deriving any other meanings; he coined this as decentering (Lemert, 2004). Anotherfamiliar term, deconstruction, was used in the postmodern context to examine, extrapolate, andfully expose assumptions, frame of reference and philosophical underpinnnings of the text inwhich it is used in order to fully understand meaning. Derrida was an advocate for oral andwritten narratives as a necessity to illustrate or explain realities and justify pre-existing notionsand conditions. Gutek (2009) also mentioned that Derrida coined the term differance to identifyand analyze the differences in how people use and understand language. Derrida dismisses thepossibilities of universal truth, but asserts that science and social interactivity can bring aboutobjectivity in asserting truth claims, according to Gutek (2009). Derrida, in his work contributesto the various components of language, power relations, and motivations in order to shapeparticular truths.The three aforementioned theorists collectively bring about the derived term hegemoniclanguage conflict, which will be used to describe how the ruling class seeks to establish languagenorms that contradict the cultural differance of existing societies. It is important to note that thiscollective term is a culmination of what each theorist has brought to the forefront; Marx hascontributed conflict theory, Gramsci has introduced hegemony, and Derrida has elaborated onthe extents of language.Findings about Code-Switching and Technology PracticesCode-Switching PracticesWhitney (2005) gave suggestive measures for educators of diverse classrooms thatfollowed the same wavelength of research in the field. The need for educators to understand andappreciate AAVE as another language form and not see it as broken English or slang wasparamount in developing a fair playground in the classroom. Additionally, Whitney (2005)discussed creating a classroom culture that spoke abundantly to multiculturalism and was rich inoral language as a main form of learning. Many researchers in the field urged to engage studentsto interact by demonstrating code-switching and allowing students to use various contexts ofwriting to encourage various language forms (Gay, 2003; Landsman & Lewis, 2006; Whitney,2005).Working with primary grade-level students, Wheeler and Swords (2006) conducted acase-study that identified ways in which instructors can create an environment where code-switching is a part of regular instruction by displaying charts and graphics that detail theirdifferentiations. The process of scientific inquiry allows the teacher to develop various languageinterventions (such as display charts that associate the differences amongst SAE and AAVE) tofind effective instructional techniques that can be used to teach students language differences.Also, the notion of code-switching as a form of meta-cognition allows students to understand theneeds of a setting and the language that should be used in that setting (Wheeler & Swords, 2006).These aforementioned research findings support the notion that integrating code-switching techniques in urban classrooms is possible. It is reasonably feasible for the educator totransition instruction to serve the needs of the AAVE-speaking student. However, the latterchallenge associated with reaching the 21stcentury learner is also creating opportunities forengagement and motivation so these students feel like being part of the educational process is ameaningful experience.
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS45It’s Being Done: Literacy & Technology PracticesJetnikoff (2009) and Tarasiuk (2010) discussed ways educators could build vocabularyby using technology by using a variety of websites as resources and teaching tools. Somesuggestions include increasing vocabulary learning by creating visual displays of wordrelationships and exploring variations of the word. Allowing students to connect fun and learningby playing online vocabulary games is not only an effective learning tool, but can also serve as aleisure opportunity for the student. These methods, termed as eVoc strategies, also allow studentsto increase their reading volume by reading and listening to digital texts.DiscussionIt is important to firstly recognize that hegemonic language conflict is the norm whenconsidering the following: curriculum and instruction practice amongst districts and educators,standardized assessments, and professional development. Specific to curriculum and instructionpractice, educators who are not experienced in addressing the dialectal needs of their studentsdisplay no immediate need to accommodate those students. Additionally, curriculum is notmodified and/or created to teach students how to appropriate language structures. As a result, ifstudents are not diligent in learning how to become bi-dialectal, they ultimately suffer. As itpertains to standardized reading and writing assessments, this is also the case. The ways in whichstudents with an AAVE dialect communicate both in written and oral contexts are remotelydifferent from the way in which they are assessed. Until assessments are modified to these needs,hegemonic language conflict will continue to permeate the academic achievement ratings forAfrican American students.Secondly, the very nature of continuing a mono-dialectal classroom environmentperpetuates hegemonic language conflict because African American students are continuallymarginalized through their voices, their home structures, and academic achievement. As earlierstated in the literature, students who recognize early on that there is difference in languagepatterns are able to quickly adjust to these multiple modes and succeed in a traditional academicsetting. However, the other students are not as successful. Hegemonic language conflict closelymirrors that of the reproduction models. Specific to the impacts of students not learning how todialect-shift or code-switch – this demographic becomes conditioned to failure and schoolsfacilitate this process by inundating students with unfamiliar tools and minimal instruction as tohow to use them.Next, the notion to which the term Standard American English is continually used inresearch and common practice also perpetuates hegemonic language conflict. When students,teachers, parents, and even researchers continue to term concepts and ideals in deficit modelframework, the very concept which they are attempting to debunk is reified. This is problematicfor two main reasons: (1) this reiteration promotes conformity of home- and native-languagestructures; and (2) conformity entices assimilation which again, reifies hegemonic languageconflict. When students are conditioned to think that what they do, say, and how they behave aresub-standard/non-standard/below-standard, the mainstream ideology is fantasized and self-concept is lost. How can allowing students to lose parts of themselves, even in their speechpatterns, be acceptable in any classroom? It is not acceptable, anytime, anyplace, any situation ifeducators are true with their intentions of building a culturally relevant classroom.
LAKIA SCOTT and CHANCE W. LEWIS46ImplicationsWhile there is literature that spans over the past twenty years that elaborate on theintegration, need, and successes of code-switching practices for urban African Americanstudents, the integration of technology has not been addressed for these students. Thecombination of these practices will combat hegemonic language conflict. This may be in part dueto limited resources for these populations and/or limited accessibility in school environments.Either way, the concept of associating code-switching and technology practices should beintertwined as a result of their documented success in increasing literacy levels of students fromdiverse populations. Furthermore, a correlational study should be conducted in order to see therelevance of integrating the two in order to meet the specific needs of this type of learner.Also noted by Tarasiuk (2010), the use of discussion boards, chat rooms, blogging, anddigital study boards have also been effective tools to increasing the level of students’ writtenexpression. When teaching AAVE-speaking students, it is important to allow their homelanguages to shine through their writing as they are developing their digital voice. Transitionalstrategies used in code-switching should be the follow-up implementation for students tounderstand how to vary language contexts. Additionally, these online communities willencourage students to be strategic and direct with their written intentions and encourage them tobecome more critical in their writing choices.Also mentioned, the use of multimedia to further express the views of the students notonly creates an environment of diversity, but allows students to become knowledge makers bycreating their own associations to words and concepts. Using visual maps and collages willenhance the perspectives of the student while also allowing them to visually display their culturalidentities and differences. This tool seems to be critical when considering students who are lesscommunicative in verbal and written constructs or students who display limited Englishproficiency. Allowing students to create podcasts, vlogs, and even presentation tools such asPowerPoint and Prezi enhances their technological and online navigation skills. These tools arepowerful when considering how engaged students become when creating a video, giving aspeech, or even summarizing a novel.ConclusionHegemonic language conflict is a permeating practice in the public school educationsystem. As multicultural researchers, it is imperative to not only identify how these practicesfurther perpetuate failure for African American learners, but also condition their thinking thatcultural language forms are inappropriate in academia. The need to integrate these two strategiesis vital when considering the impact it will have on the urban African American learner. Studentswill not only become well-versed in using language in its appropriate contexts, but they will alsobe encouraged to express themselves in a way that further motivates and engages theirgeneration. If students were allowed to use technology practices more routinely during classroominstruction, it is asserted that their intellectual levels will also become more developed, becausein this instance, they become knowledge makers and disseminators of information. Usingtechnological tools paired with code-switching will also better prepare students in understandingthe environments in which their voices can truly be exonerated. They will grow to appreciate thedifferentiated instructional practices of the educator and in turn, will be more susceptible to
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