In this essay, we examine the relationship between students’ spatial literacies of their neighborhoods and communities and their transnational identities, the latter which have complex, broad spatial and temporal dimensions. Over four months, we, a team of university researchers, led a series of instructional activities with a class of racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse first- and second-generation immigrant students in an 11th grade introduction to research course. Here, we document the ways in which students learned about various data sources for inquiry to create digital, layered map-based stories about the factors that shape their (and others’) immigrant experiences in their local community. We offer two illustrations that respectively speak to how students' spatial literacies of their neighborhoods included their self-positioning within the local sociopolitical landscape and at the same time, the signs and symbols they chose in their story maps reflected broader sociopolitical forces. We raise considerations and questions for educators who want to engage transnational and immigrant adolescent youth in multimodal, digital spatial storytelling.

Author Biography

Jennifer Kahn, PhD

Jennifer Kahn, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of STEM Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning and learning scientist at the University of Miami. Dr. Kahn studies how to broaden participation in interdisciplinary, technology-rich activities to support youth learning across community settings, from schools to libraries, museums, and cultural heritage archives. Her current research qualitatively explores how youth and families critically engage with large-scale data and data visualizations to connect personal, local experiences with global social-scientific issues.

Daryl Axelrod, PhD

Dr. Axelrod received his PhD in education from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL and is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the FIU Embrace Center at Florida International University in Miami, FL. His collaborative learning with digital literacies research covers two primary areas of interest. One is emergent bi/multilingual students’ multimodal composing practices, such as how adolescents use mobile devices to compose digital comics for literacy learning. He also examines youth and families’ storytelling practices that incorporate data visualization tools, such as families telling migration stories while examining related census data maps.

Dr. Matthew R. Deroo

Dr. Matthew R. Deroo is a former language teacher and teacher educator who spent 10 years in China before getting his PhD. He is an assistant professor at the University of Miami. His interdisciplinary research centers around three lines of inquiry: supporting immigrant youth from a translanguaging perspective, multimodal and semiotic theoretical framing in teacher learning, and community engaged scholarship. Dr. Deroo is a Mandarin speaker committed to supporting teachers and students to draw upon their full linguistic repertoires in support of their learning.

Svetlana Radojcic

Svetlana Radojcic is a doctoral student in the Language and Literacy Learning in Multilingual Settings program at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL. Radojcic’s research focuses on the use of multimodal literacies in TESOL classrooms for the purpose of teaching and learning English as a second language. She is also interested in examining how immigrant youth and adult ESL learners engage in digital literacy practices to express their linguistic and cultural identities.



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