What can we learn from immigrant students’ use of digital media?

It goes without saying that digital media now feature in almost all aspects of our daily lives. Not limited by national borders, they can open up new opportunities to develop language, literacy and social skills in globally relevant ways. In this regard, immigrant students have resources that are crucial to learning in the 21st century. Eva Lam argues that their digital practices must therefore be understood and leveraged in formal education settings.

Lam confirms that immigrant students in the US mostly use digital media for communication and for retrieving information. They communicate with peers and family in the US as well as in their countries of origin. They also access news from the US, their native countries and other parts of the world. Not only do students use several languages in these online activities, but they also broaden their perspectives on current events by having access to various resources.

Lam refers to a project conducted in a US high school with immigrant students and their peers on multimedia storytelling. Students gathered documents on immigration policy from different sources, interviewed members of their own communities regarding immigration experiences, and created a video documentary to show to others. Participating students could draw on their language skills, digital networks and access to different resources in the process of learning. Moreover, their linguistic and media literacy skills were acknowledged and valued as part of the exercise. By immigrant students having access to numerous linguistic, social and cultural contexts, other students gain insights into different societies and media reporting. Students in the classroom can discuss problems and issues from all over the world from different points of view including the local, national and transnational. Immigrant students in particular can be shown that their multilingual and media literacy skills are appreciated and can be encouraged to use and deepen them.

Lilian Kreimann

Lam, W. S. E. (2012). What immigrant students can teach us about new media literacy. Phi Delta Kappan 94:4 (December 2012/January 2013), 62-65.

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