Martha Bigelow, University of Minnesota, USA

Linking Mobility to Pedagogy with Multilingual Immigrant Youth

Martha Bigelow


Immigrant and refugee youth experience migration, globalization, and the “culture wars” of contemporary society in ways which have the potential to inform their educational experiences. In this talk, I will argue that classroom learning has much to gain from bringing youth-focused technologies, literacies, and refugee/immigrant perspectives into language and content learning, particularly in ways that are agentic, foster connections among youth, and are action oriented.

This talk will explore current theoretical trends in multiple literacies, languages and identities, all of which are mobile across digital and geographic spaces. Current theories will be connected to concrete classroom practices which are by definition exploratory, critical, and generative. Classroom learning applications will come from the educational literature as well as my own data gathered with East African youth in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. My aim is to explore practices which support first and new language use/learning through intensely relevant and meaningful academic, socio-political and cultural topics while at the same time help foster inter- and intra-cultural connections among immigrant/refugee youth. I will make a case for the idea that pedagogies can and should embrace the pain associated with loss due to migration as well as maximize the affordances of everyday mobile technologies commonly used by youth. In addition, I will illustrate how first languages can be used for social and academic purposes in classroom learning contexts, allowing for youth to define for themselves, and produce counter narratives on how their lived experience is represented in society.

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Martha Bigelow is Professor in Second Language Education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA. She has been engaged in community-engaged and school-based research with East African youth for more than ten years on the intersections of literacies, language learning, schooling and (racial, religious, gender) identities. She has published numerous journal articles and two books related to her work with adolescent Somali refugees in the United States: Literacy and Second Language Oracy (2009, Oxford University Press) with Elaine Tarone and Kit Hansen and Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity and education in a new land (2010, Wiley Blackwell).  She is the co-editor with Johanna Ennser-Kananen for the Routledge handbook of educational linguistics (2015) and she is currently working on a book with Doris Warriner entitled Relationships, reciprocity and research with minoritized communities: Methodological meta-reflections on power and equity (Multilingual Matters).