Telling Our Education Story Across Borders

By: Kate Wittrock  

This paper explores the educational experiences of refugees and immigrants at a rural school in Florida. Through PhotoVoice, students use photography and storytelling to provide narratives and tell their story as an English Language Learner in an American School. PhotoVoice puts a camera in the hands of individuals often excluded from the decision-making process in order to capture their voices about their lives, community, and concerns (Wang, Burris, & Xiang, 1996). PhotoVoice challenges the established politics of representation by shifting control over the means for documenting lives from the powerful to the powerless, the expert to the lay person, the professional to the client, the bureaucrat to the citizen, and the observer to the observed (Booth & Booth, 2003). Having participants share stories in their own voice provides meaning and context for the images (Wang, Yi, Tao, & Carovano, 1998) and enriches language learning by ensuring participant involvement in meaningful communicative activities (Gallo, 2001). Cortazzi and Jin (2007) argue that expressing intended meaning and understanding others’ meanings is what drives language development. Three main questions are investigated in this paper through the use PhotoVoice (1) How does my school help me navigate cultural differences? (2) What does my school do to help me learn? (3) How does my school help me connect to my community? Pre-service teachers working with the English Language Learners in the after-school program also provide their reflections on working with the students and discuss their experience.

Language Diversity, Culture, English Language Learners, Refugees, Immigrants, Cross-Cultural Education
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Kate Wittrock

Professor, School of Education and Social Services, Saint Leo University , United States
FL, United States

Education Professor at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, FL, USA