Leveraging Digital Literacies to Support Refugee Youth and Families’ Success in Online Learning: A Theoretical Perspective Using a Socioecological Approach





online learning for refugee families and youth, digital literacies of refugee families and youth, socio-ecological thinking in K-12 online learning, models for K-12 online learning


Previous research about refugee students’ experiences with online learning has focused on the challenges faced by refugee youth, their families, and schools without addressing what strengths families might bring to this type of learning. Further, while previous research has touched upon refugee youth and their families’ substantial digital literacies, these strengths have not been widely applied in support of online learning. In this paper, we advocate for a holistic, asset-based approach to support and develop refugee families’ digital literacy practices for use in online learning experiences. In doing so, we hope to countermand the suggestion that online learning is something refugee families can never benefit from or will only benefit from under an extremely narrow set of conditions. We begin by reviewing previous research about refugee populations and their digital literacies. Then we share Bronfenbrenner’s socio-ecological framework for thinking about shared responsibility in digital and online learning that does not rely on individual students, families, schools, or communities as independent actors. Next, we apply the socio-ecological thinking that we propose to online learning for refugee families across various systems and share theoretical, design, and pedagogical implications. We conclude by offering some implications for research and reiterating the importance of asset framing and shared work in serving refugee and other vulnerable populations well.


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Section II