Researching and developing Swedkid : A Swedish case study at the intersection of the web, racism and education
Abstract: This thesis seeks to provide an insight into three phenomena: the condition of racism in Sweden, the complexity of identity, and the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in classroom settings. It also offers an analysis of how such phenomena combined in the development of a specific educational resource, the Swedkid project (2001-3) which aimed to develop an anti-racist website (www.swedkid.nu) for students and teachers in Swedish schools. A case study approach was used for the analysis in the thesis, in which the Swedkid project was viewed as an instance of web-based, anti-racist educational resource development. This instance (or case) provided a prism of opportunity for learning about ‘race’, ethnicity and the role of ICT in the classroom. The case study embraces a number of sub-studies (Papers I-V and Appendix 1) which explore independently and in combination, how the website was developed and received, the Swedish national context, intercultural and anti-racist work in education, racist experiences of young people, and ICT as part of anti-racist work in the classroom. Three sets of findings (or themes) emerged from the study: namely, the existence of racism in Sweden, that young people’s conception of identity is complex and that the Swedkid website constitutes a significant anti-racist intervention. The overall aims of the research were to: - utilise the Swedkid project as a learning opportunity - explore the Swedish context for the project - investigate and develop an understanding of racism and ethnicity in Sweden generally and in education in particular - investigate experiences of racism among young people, and - explore how ICT can support anti-racist work in classroom settings Three research questions were also posed in the research: - How can ‘race’, ethnicity and experiences of racism be understood in Sweden generally, in education and among young people? - How can ICT support anti-racist work in classroom settings? - How useful were the approaches taken and the methods used in the project? A variety of methods of data gathering were used which include systematic literature searches, interviews, questionnaires, classroom observations plus a project logbook. Three theoretical clusters were particularly helpful in the analysis; relating to globalisation, racism and new technology (e.g. Castells, Jansson, Pred, Essed, Ladson-Billings, Delgado & Stefancic, Aviram & Tami). The research suggests an uneven picture in Sweden generally, and among Swedish young people in particular. While there have been some conscious and planned strategies to eliminate racism and discrimination, and high ambitions and good intentions from policy-makers and teachers in terms of recognising inequalities of schooling and counteracting racism, there is also a continuing picture of hostility, difficulty, denial and insecurity within education and more generally. The study also illuminates the complexity of identity and knowledge transfer, between locally-situated individuals and the different levels of global, European, national and local. It is suggested that the formation of identity is a process which involves viewing someone as ‘the other’ and can be transferred into a racist discourse and as such, used as a basis for legitimizing exclusion. However, responses to the Swedkid website suggest that engagement with other, wider identities (in this case, the characters on the website) can provide the possibility of intervention in stereotypical perceptions and expansion of notions of identity. It is also suggested that the Swedkid website can be used successfully in supporting anti-racist work in classroom settings, although dependent on the skills and commitment of the teacher. The advantages of using ICT for Swedkid lie in the possibility of visualisation and simulation, hence, it provides virtual experience of complex phenomena. The website can thus work as a springboard into informed rather than common-sense or everyday discourses of racism/anti-racism, with virtuality enhancing the classroom work of the teacher. Overall, studies presented in this thesis illustrate how a combination of ICT and anti-racism can offer opportunities for challenging commonsense views of racism and ethnicity, provide counter-stories as evidence that racism exists, and thus offer alternative perceptions and viewpoints on this topic in education and elsewhere.
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