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High school teachers and students are learning to program side by side, thanks to a collaboration between the Center for STEM Education and STEMed Labs.

Suzette, a Manor New Technology High School freshman, hunches over her tiny breadboard, which is a base for prototyping electronics, and an LED strip. Both are connected to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. She’s engrossed in her efforts to program circuits and control the small LED.

“If you program the LED to blink 60 times in the span of a minute, the blinks will be too quick for the eye to register,” says the STEMed Lab instructor. “Instead of appearing as a blinking light,” he explains, “it will simply appear dim.”

A student works on a circuit board while another looks on.The students take in this information and continue their work.

The 20 or so high schoolers in the STEMed Labs Pi Bytes class have invested four consecutive Saturday afternoons this semester to learn how to program on the Raspberry Pi platform from a team of engineers and computer scientists. Says Suzette, “I want to learn new things and see what I’m interested in and if I might want to do this as a career.”

The students come from public and private schools in the Austin and surrounding areas. Joining them in their studies are a handful of teachers from the region, each of them scattered about the room observing, taking notes, and asking questions.

The teachers are participating in the workshop thanks to Dr. Carol Fletcher, deputy director of the UT College of Education’s Center for STEM Education. Last year, Fletcher met Ripal Nathuji, co-founder and president of STEMed Labs, the nonprofit that created Pi Bytes. When she heard about the classes, she immediately recognized an ideal professional development opportunity for teachers who were interested in furthering their computer science teaching skills.

According to Fletcher, although teachers who participate in the STEM center’s TeachCS “boot camp” receive computer science training that helps them successfully earn certification in the area, “it is unusual for the teachers to have the chance to work directly with students during their training. Also, the investment we make in a student camp pays out exponentially when you include teachers who can scale up the number of students who can be reached far beyond the camp experience.”

One student helps another at a computerSays Nathuji, “This collaboration is a perfect intersection for creating opportunities for teachers and for our small organization to spread the knowledge and implementation of our program throughout schools.”

James Casselman graduated from the UTeach Natural Sciences program seven years ago after deciding to make a career change from hardware sales and marketing to something he found more meaningful. He now teaches life sciences at Taylor High School, about 35 miles northeast of Austin. “I teach anatomy and physiology and aquatic science, but I try to roll in raw html and Code.org’s one hour of code a week into my classes as well,” he says. Casselman participated in the workshop because he “wanted to learn how to do more. I want to teach my students not to just be consumers of technology, but creators. This is the industry.”

Similarly, Margarita Flores-Sicich, engineering teacher at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Round Rock, wanted to learn more for the benefit of her students. “I’m familiar with some of this because I teach engineering,” she says, “but I’ll have to incorporate Raspberry Pi into my curriculum in two months. It’s really cool to have the chance to see how these experts teach it and to see the problems the students encounter. It will help me be more prepared.”

Flores-Sicich, who was a first-generation college student and worked as a chemical engineer before becoming a teacher, added that she has a passion for science and engineering that she wants to pass on to her students. “I loved science as a young student, but engineering wasn’t even a word that I’d been exposed to. Somehow I discovered the word that led to my career, and now I get to expose my students to this subject.” She says that her school currently offers two years of computer science classes and is aiming for four.

Says Fletcher, “The Center for STEM Education seeks to be the leader for computer science education in Texas and in the nation. Our partnership with STEMed Labs is one way that we provide relevant, real-time education for computer science teachers in Texas.”

To learn more about The Center for STEM Education, visit the center’s website.

-Slideshow by Christina S. Murrey

Keffrelyn and Anthony Brown

Two UT College of Education professors highlight three black education leaders’ ideas, providing a counternarrative to today’s challenges

Black Intellectual Thought in Education: The Missing Traditions of Anna Julia Cooper, Carter G. Woodson, and Alain LeRoy Locke was recently published by associate professors Keffrelyn Brown and Anthony Brown. The following is a Q&A with the authors.

Can you provide a brief overview of Anna Julia Cooper, Carter G. Woodson, and Alain Leroy Locke and the importance of their ideas?

During the early 20th century, science, theology, social science, and popular discourse regularly portrayed African Americans in dehumanizing ways. Each of the authors had a profound belief in affirming the humanity of Black Americans. Given the time-period, this was no small task.

  • Anna Julia Cooper: In seeking to redress the common discourse of this period, Cooper’s ideas focused on the intersection of race and gender in the context of African American women’s lives. She held fast to the promise of American democracy to live up to its highest ideals of being a truly egalitarian society. In her words, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” And from this standpoint, Cooper maintained that schools and curriculum were vital spaces for African Americans to reach their highest potential.
  • Carter G. Woodson: Woodson’s ideas focused the potential for knowledge to challenge the existing fallacies about Black life. He believed that a rich African American history must circumvent the pervasive effects of what he called “mis-education.” His project was multilayered and involved the reconceptualization of knowledge as a process that occurred in academic settings, K-12 classrooms, and in the life of the masses.
  • Alain Locke: Locke was a philosopher who promoted the idea that African American culture provided key insight about the human experience as valuable as European cultural forms. He also wrote extensively about cultural pluralism, particularly when it came to African Americans’ placement in American society, as well as on race, the arts, and valuation theory.

These three authors wrote during a time in which African Americans were struggling with a new set of social, economic, political, and racial injustices. They each wrote extensively about the contexts that shaped African Americans’ experience in the U.S., while also providing in-depth ideas about education, race, and history—ideas that could have theoretical application to our most pressing social and educational issues of the present.

What counternarrative do these scholars provide to the dominant discourse in education and critical social theory, and why is it necessary?

Cooper, Woodson, and Locke wrote about ideas concerning education, culture, race, and curriculum that predate some of the canonic texts and authors that are often cited in the foundational discourse of education. Their ideas powerfully illustrate the careful and thoughtful intellectual discourse tied to African Americans’ experiences.

This counternarrative is important because it challenges the veneration of an exclusive, selective tradition of critical social thought. This canon of scholarship is legitimized by and grounded in a Western, White-dominant worldview. The intent of this book, however, is not to replace one canon with another, but to show the diverse contexts from which ideas take form.

Black Intellectual Thought in Education has been adopted for use in the Curriculum and Instruction department of The College of Education at UT-Austin.

-Photo by Christina S. Murrey

New book explores what inhibits and promotes Latino male college success

Victor Saenz

Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education: A National Imperative, a new book co-edited by Associate Professor and Executive Director of Project MALES Dr. Victor Saenz, shares new research from emerging scholars and seasoned practitioners that shines light on factors that inhibit or promote Latino male student success at four-year institutions, community colleges, and secondary institutions. The book both informs policy and practice across the education continuum and provides a call to action.

The question of why Latino males are losing ground in accessing higher education, relative to their peers, is an important and complex one, and it lies at the heart of the book. There are several broad themes highlighted, along with the four dimensions of policy, theory, research, and practice.

“Our new book comes at a time when national, state, and local conversations are expanding the definition of males of color to include Latino males and other historically marginalized groups of male students,” says Saenz, who teaches in the Department of Educational Administration in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin, and who holds a faculty appointment with the UT Center for Mexican American Studies. “The chapters within this book collectively represent a timely and necessary contribution to these emerging conversations.”

Co-edited by Saenz, Dr. Luis Ponjuan and Dr. Julie L. Figueroa with a foreword by Dr. William Serrata, the book is designed as a primer for policy makers at all levels as well as scholars in higher education.

According to the professors, anyone who wants to better understand the various issues related to Latino male higher education access and degree attainment and also wants to work toward addressing a growing gender gap can benefit from the lessons in their book.

Says Saenz, “The book is beneficial to community leaders and activists who want a comprehensive discussion about the challenges Latino male students face in schools and how they can work proactively to overcome those challenges. The shifting demographic reality represented by the growth of the Latina/o community also gives our focus on Latino males a singular urgency.”

Visit Amazon to order a copy of the book, which was published in January by Stylus Publishing.

 

WeTeachCS Mixer

On Feb. 3, 2016, the Center for STEM Education played host to over 120 computer science (CS) educators at the Google Fiber Space in downtown Austin. Held during Texas Computer Education Association’s Annual Convention and Exposition, the WeTeachCS Mixer provided an opportunity for CS educators from across Texas to network, share ideas, and begin building a statewide professional learning community. This opportunity to connect with the larger CS education community is vital because there are relatively few CS teachers compared to other STEM fields.

For more information about the event, visit the Center for STEM Education website.

 

Inaugural Building Bridges Event Links Researchers and K-12 Teachers

On Jan. 20, 2016, the Center for STEM Education hosted its first specialized networking event, Building Bridges: Creating Partnerships and Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice, funded by a grant from the 100Kin10 organization. The meeting’s goal was to begin bridging the gap between UT Austin STEM faculty and researchers, and local K-12 educators. With both communities excited about this new initiative, over 60 researchers and educators attended the early morning event.

“We are focusing on more collaboration within the College of Education and across the university, with the goal of functioning like a hub,” explained Associate Professor Victor Sampson, the center’s new director. “We are looking out into the community and sitting down with them from the outset in order to collaborate around problems and provide research that is more inclusive and responsive to them.”

For more information about the event, visit the College of Education website.

 

CoE Professor Angela Valenzuela Nominated for ‘Si, Se Puede’ Award

Angela Valenzuela, professor of educational policy and planning and cultural studies in education programs, has been nominated to receive the Cesar E. Chavez – “Si, Se Puede” Award from the People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER). The distinction is given to individuals who demonstrate community leadership and whose work honors the legacy of Chavez’ civil rights and labor activism.

PODER, a grassroots organization devoted to addressing environmental issues, seeks to frame those issues as matters of social and economic justice. The organization is specifically focused on increasing participation of communities of color in corporate and government decision-making.

A reception in honor of the award and its recipients will be held Saturday, March 26, at the Emma Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center in Austin.

CoE Alumnus Ryan Miller, Ph.D., Receives National Award from NASPA

Ryan A. Miller, director for inclusion and equity at The University of Texas at Austin and a graduate of the College of Education, is the winner of the 2016 Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award. The recognition is given by NASPA, the national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education.

This award recognizes outstanding dissertation research conducted by doctoral degree recipients presently in or intending to enter the student affairs profession. Miller earned his Ph.D. in educational administration.

Miller received the honor for his dissertation, “Intersections of Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Higher Education: Exploring Students’ Social Identities and Campus Experiences.”

CoE Alumnus Jason Rosenblum Commended for 2015 Dissertation

Jason Rosenblum, a 2015 Ph.D. graduate from the Learning Technologies program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, has been chosen as a Highly Commended Award winner of the 2015 Emerald/HETL (Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association) Education Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for his doctoral dissertation entitled, “What is it like to experience sound while playing educational computer games?” In his innovative dissertation study, Dr. Rosenblum drew upon music, game development, and education to conduct an interdisciplinary, qualitative phenomenological investigation to explore the gameplay experiences of six participants.

Rosenblum is an assistant professor of visual studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. His research interests include frameworks for game sound research, game sound as a facet of learner motivation in games, and digital and analog game-based approaches to support engaged learning.

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Clinical Professor Dolly Lambdin’s retirement from UT won’t curtail her leadership in children’s physical education and health.

The year Rocky won three academy awards, Jimmy Carter was elected president, and America celebrated its 200th birthday was also the year that saw clinical professor Lambdin venture from New York City to Austin, bringing her passion for physical education to the Kinesiology and Health Education Department in the College of Education. It was the beginning of a 40-year teaching career at UT.

Since 1976, says Lambdin, the school has shifted strongly toward a public health focus.

“I’m excited about the move toward preventative health in physical education,” says Lambdin, whose enthusiasm for her work only grew stronger over the years. “Our society focuses on health care, but our program is about helping people develop healthy lifestyles.

We are about physical education for all kids all the time.

This shift in the conceptualization, purpose, and teaching of physical education is one that Lambdin not only has been a part of at UT and in Texas K-12 schools, but also has helped lead across the nation.

A Unique Dual-Teaching Career

After Lambdin completed her master’s degree and taught in a New York City K-8 school, an opportunity opened up at UT Austin for her to instruct future physical education teachers. It was a chance she didn’t want to pass up, but she also wanted to continue teaching PE.

Professor Dolly Lambdin

UGS 303 Advanced Weight Training

“Waneen Spirduso [then-chair of the KHE department] was an out-of-the-box thinker,” says Lambdin. So was the head of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Elementary School in Austin, and they agreed to allow Lambdin to teach in both locations, simultaneously.

With that, Lambdin became a teacher of elementary students who also taught teachers. “My dual career allowed me to be thoughtful about teaching teachers. Teaching at St. Andrew’s allowed me to see what worked and what didn’t,” she says.

Lambdin taught in both locations for a decade before leaving St. Andrews to focus on her growing family and to pursue her doctorate. By the mid-1990s, “I wanted to get back to the classroom and accepted a position at Blanton Elementary in Austin.”

At UT, Lambdin taught multiple courses across two departments—KHE and Curriculum and Instruction. Because she taught Intro to Teaching, Teaching Methods and the Student Teaching Seminar, she was able to develop a strong rapport with students and see them develop over time. “I supervised student teachers while I also taught,” she says, which gave her access to lots of new ideas and teaching innovations that she could share broadly. “I liken myself to a honeybee, finding these terrific ideas from each teacher and spreading them around like pollen.”

Professor Dolly Lambdin

EDC 370E Teaching Elementary Physical Education

Of the 600 student teachers who’ve graduated from the UT program in the last 40 years, Lambdin has supervised a whopping 150 of them. Some have taught more than 30 years, but even if they averaged 5-year careers, she says, “that means since physical education teachers often teach 200-300 new students each year, more than a half million elementary students have been taught by teachers from our program.”

That also means that more than 100,000 have been influenced by teachers Dolly has personally taught and mentored. “Some of the teachers have gone on to become National Board Certified Teachers, Teacher of the Year for their school and state, and school district supervisors,” she says, proudly.

“These people are producing a healthier society, which is critical for a successful society. They are going to change the world.”

Leader in Physical Education Curriculum Development

Former president (2003-04) of National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and past president of the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America), Lambdin remains passionate about children’s physical health and education. Her unique perspective and career led her to be called on to help guide physical education curriculum and standards in Texas and beyond.

She was an original member of the committee that created the first curriculum framework for the state of Texas for physical education. The committee was tasked with writing Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for PE.

Her efforts helped launch new guidelines for PE, with a focus on children’s motor skills, fitness, and social skills. “Coordinated School Health, where physical education and health education concepts are integrated throughout the school—including the cafeteria and communication with parents, has became law in Texas and is spreading across the nation.”

Dolly Lambdin with Dr. Bartholomew after receiving the 2013-1014 Teaching Excellence Award.

Dolly Lambdin with Dr. Bartholomew after receiving the Teaching Excellence Award 2013-2014.

In addition, Lambdin helped create a national seminal document Get Adobe Reader that helps teachers “replace negative practices like having kids pick teams and putting them on the spot, and focusing more on empowering kids to take care of their bodies,” she says.

These guidelines are also highlighted in the relatively new Physical Education Teacher Education graduate program that involves faculty from Curriculum and Instruction and Kinesiology and Health Education.

KHE Chair John Bartholomew says, “I’m proud to have had a leader of her quality represent the department so well nationally while maintaining her work with undergraduates. Her impact has been impressive.”

What’s Next?

Lambdin says of her future goals, “My own desire is to make physical education a kids’ movement, helping them to develop the skills, knowledge, confidence, and determination to live a healthy life.”

And it’s that desire that continues to drive her. After retiring from UT this winter, she intends to do more national work. “I really want the public to see the power and positive impact of physical education. I want to help showcase what great programs are doing so that people recognize their power and desire it for their kids,” she says. “Every child should be ‘turned on’ to physical activity and have the skills and knowledge to make healthy choices.”

-Photos by Christina S. Murrey

UT College of Education’s Superintendency Program attracts and prepares education leaders of the future. Houston Independent School District’s Rick Cruz is one of those leaders.

When Rick Cruz was a 5th grade teacher at Joe E. Moreno Elementary in the Houston Independent School District, his students achieved the highest state standardized testing results in the school’s history, with 93 percent passing the exam and 58 percent earning the commended level. Cruz was named Teacher of the Year two years in a row.

Rick Cruz

Photo by Christina S. Murrey

Yet he quickly learned that no matter how successful his students were in the classroom, few of them would actually make it past high school. “They didn’t have the support necessary to actually go on to college,” says Cruz.

Ninety-eight percent of the student population at the elementary were economically disadvantaged and most had no family members who’d attended college. Yet Cruz, who’d double majored in literature and Portuguese at Yale University, knew that colleges were looking for kids just like them to enroll in their schools, and that many highly selective colleges offered qualified students from underserved communities full scholarships and life-changing opportunities.

“I began organizing after-school workshops with fellow teachers to help students and their families learn what it takes to get into these highly selective schools,” Cruz says.

Interest in the workshops grew. Cruz then founded and led a 501(c3) nonprofit organization called the EMERGE Fellowship and the program spread across HISD. It’s currently serving more than 750 students and has helped nearly 200 students gain entry and scholarships allowing them to attend colleges like Harvard, Yale, Penn, Rice, Stanford, Cornell, and Smith.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier had originally encouraged Cruz to start EMERGE and provided the support to expand the program. Says Cruz, “[Grier] was excited about the success of the program and wanted to see it implemented even more widely throughout HISD. He asked me to become an assistant superintendent. I tried to say no because I was initially apprehensive about becoming an administrator.”

But Cruz changed his mind when Grier shared his story. When Grier was a senior in high school, he asked his counselor about the logistics of taking the SAT to gain entrance into college. His counselor tried to dissuade him and told him he’d be better suited for military service given his family’s low-income background. One of Grier’s teachers overheard the conversation and gave him money out of her own pocket to take the test. “Terry’ sincerity and passion for helping students access postsecondary opportunities persuaded me to take on the role,” says Cruz.

Cruz led the district’s College Readiness division for two years as assistant superintendent, preparing 215,000 students across 282 schools for post-secondary success. In that role, he scaled EMERGE, increased scholarship and financial aid offers by more than $70 million, and helped the district achieve record-breaking performance levels on AP, SAT and other college readiness indicators.

Because of the progress made, the district was awarded an $8.5 million grant from a local foundation to scale college readiness efforts even further and ensure that quality college advising was available to all students in the district. Cruz was also recognized by Houston Mayor Annise Parker for his contributions to education and had a day named in his honor.

Cruz was subsequently promoted to major projects officer for the district, a role in which he is responsible for leading several of the district’s key initiatives, including a secondary transformation initiative fueled by a $30 million Race to the Top Grant.

Still, he felt he needed to continue his education. “It was a big jump from teaching to being an administrator and I knew there was a lot I still wanted and needed to learn.” A colleague had earned his Ed. D. in educational administration from the UT College of Education’s Cooperative Superintendency Program and recommended Cruz. “UT’s program is one of the best in the country,” says Cruz, “and I’m learning from the cohort as well as the professors.”

Cruz says what he most enjoys about the program is that it “marries theory with practice; it provides me with a conceptual understanding of the work I am doing, as well as practical ways to improve upon it.” Cruz is also extremely impressed by the strength of the department’s alumni network and feels that he has already grown significantly as a result of the program. “I look forward to becoming a more effective educator and leader,” he says, “and I am excited by the prospect of having a greater impact on the lives of students as a result.”

Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk Executive Director Sharon Vaughn joined a panel of national experts at the White House on November 17 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in Washington, D.C.

Sharon Vaughn at the White House

Vaughn’s presentation on successful research-based interventions for literacy (which can be viewed at this link) took place at the U.S. Department of Education’s Barnard Auditorium. Joining her on the panel were distinguished researchers from across the nation, including Sue Swenson (family engagement), Lynn Fuchs (mathematics), Rob Horner (school climate/social and behavior), Lise Fox (early childhood), Michael Wehmeyer (inclusion), Lisa Dieker (teacher training), and David Test (secondary/transition).

According to the Department of Education, “When IDEA was enacted in 1975, America pledged to provide and ensure that children with disabilities have opportunities to develop their talents and contribute to their communities. That pledge endures today and IDEA continues to provide not only access to the school house, to assessment, and to the general curriculum, but the full promise of inclusion, equity, and opportunity.”

Educational Psychology Professor Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper recently conducted and published a meta-analysis of research into China’s only children.

Though in October 2015, China announced that it will allow two children for every couple, effectively dismantling its  one-child policy, the one-child policy had been in effect since the late 1970s. Falbo and Hooper’s research uncovered that in certain contexts the country’s only children have benefited from less psychopathology, like anxiety and depression.

Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper

Photo by Christina S. Murrey

“Broadly speaking, there’s a slight advantage for China’s only children in terms of symptoms of psychopathology,” explained Professor of Educational Psychology Falbo. But the findings vary based on whether the only children meet social expectations.

“We quantitatively synthesized the results of 22 studies that compared Chinese only children to their peers. When the sample was college students, only children had lower psychopathology. When the sample consisted of military recruits, however, only children reported more symptoms of psychopathology,” explained Falbo.

The researchers interpret this difference in terms of meeting expectations consistent with social class. In 1979, China began instituting a one-child policy, which, alongside other national policies, was aimed at accelerating the country’s economic development. China began incentivizing parents to invest in quality over quantity with regards to children, providing one-child families with benefits like extra pay and priority in schools. By 2005, the percentage of women aged 35 to 44 with just one child was nearly 80% in large cities like Shanghai. The birth rate in smaller western provinces also dropped, with families having 2-3 children rather than 4-5.

“Only children in China are more likely to be born to educated parents who push them harder to succeed. Those who make it to college meet parental and societal expectations,” said Falbo. Yet if the only children aren’t accepted into college and join the military instead, they suffer more from anxiety and depression than their peers with siblings, who tend to be from working class communities. “The Chinese army prefers recruits from Red Class, who are rural and working class,” said Falbo.

“The advantage the only child may have over a child with siblings in a college setting is reversed in the military setting, according to the data,” explained Falbo. She says that despite this finding, only children still have a chance to adjust to a military environment.

“China’s one-child policy [was] unique in the world and its effects are different from what we see in the U.S., where people have just one child for more personal reasons, such as divorce, rather than political reasons,” explained Falbo.

Falbo and graduate student Hooper conducted a meta-analysis, collecting 22 previous studies of China’s only children, which featured 23 research samples, and studied their results. Their overall analysis, “China’s Only Children and Psychopathology: A Quantitative Synthesis,” shows that China’s only children are more likely to have educated parents and, though they do receive more resources, attention and education, they are not coddled. Instead, they have high expectations and more pressures placed upon them by parents and society for educational and career success.

China’s Only Children and Psychopathy: A Quantitative Synthesis was published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

Allison SkerrettAllison Skerrett, associate professor in the Curriculum and Instruction department at The University of Texas at Austin College of Education, recently published a book for educators and researchers, Teaching Transnational Youth: Literacy and Education in a Changing World.

A Q&A with the language and literacy professor explores just who “transnational youth” are, how her interest in the topic developed, and how her book helps teachers and researchers understand the educational needs and gifts of a diverse population of students who straddle multiple cultures and lands.

What does the term “transnational youth” mean?

Transnational youth are young people who live across two or more countries—spending significant amounts of time in each (for instance, across a year) and maintaining deep ties to each of the places they live. Often they belong to families who are transnational, so their living “here and there” occurs as part of their families’ transnational lifestyle; but there are also youths who have their own transnational experiences independent of their families’ movements.

What specific needs does this book address?

Although literacy scholars have been investigating how transnational youths use reading, writing, and other literacy practices in outside-school contexts to sustain their lifestyles and identities, this book is the first to investigate educational practices that can promote transnational students’ learning in school.

The book offers approaches to literacy curriculum and instruction through which literacy educators can learn about their transnational students’ educational experiences, challenges, resources and academic needs and use what they learn to promote these students’ academic development. Importantly, the book describes how teaching with more awareness of transnationalism ultimately supports the academic development of all students in the classroom.

How did your interest in this topic develop?

I immigrated to the U.S. from the Caribbean island of Dominica as an adolescent, and growing up on Dominica, my family was transnational in that my father worked in other countries, given the economic hardships on Dominica. He would be away for six months at a time before he was able to come home for a visit for two weeks. Thus I have a strong identity in relation to the phenomenon of transnationalism.

I was also an English teacher in the Boston Public Schools before entering doctoral studies, and I had students each year who were transnational. At the time I did not have the term, awareness, or professional knowledge that would have allowed me to understand these students’ lifestyles, resources, and educational needs, and be responsive in my curriculum and teaching. Later, as a teacher educator and researcher at UT Austin, I conducted research in an Austin classroom that included transnational students. I began to focus on transnational students’ educational experiences and conceptualize curriculum and instructional approaches that can promote their academic development.

What are the findings about transnational youth in the classroom? What do they bring to the classroom that educators may be missing, for example?

Transnational students face a unique and severe challenge in literacy development because they must learn through different curriculum and instructional approaches of two or more nations. The research of migration scholars concludes that these challenges result in poor academic outcomes, academic disengagement, and dropout of transnational students from one or more of the schools they attend.

However, literacy research also paints a vibrant picture of the outside-school literate lives and capabilities of transnational youths. For instance, literacy scholarship portrays how transnational youths use reading, writing, and other literacy practices in outside-school contexts to sustain their transnational lifestyles and identities. As one example, transnational students often engage in digital literacies, using social media and the web, to maintain social relationships across the different countries in which they live. Literacy research also reveals how transnational youths develop special forms of intercultural and world knowledge, and expand their linguistic knowledge and language practices, through participating in transnational life.

Conclusion

Dr. Skerrett recently gave two lectures based in her book at the University of California Berkeley. She will be presenting on her book at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Minneapolis in November and at the Literacy Research Association’s Annual Conference in Carlsbad, CA., in December. Dr. Skerrett is currently teaching from her book in a course titled “Teaching Secondary English and Reading” at the University of Texas at Austin this fall. She has received two university research awards to conduct additional research in spring 2016 in a high school English classroom that includes transnational students.

-Photo by Christina S. Murrey