"Stay focused and flexible": a Q&A with Susan Luft, Ph.D.

Sue Luft, a graduating student in our Language, Literacy, and Learning doctoral program (now called Contemporary Learning and Interdisciplinary Research) recently discusses her educational background, experience at GSE, and future plans. 

Congratulations to Sue and all graduates!

What is your educational background?

I received my bachelor’s degree from Pace University in Elementary Education and my master’s degree from Manhattanville College in Reading and Writing K-12.

What are your academic areas of expertise and interest?

My areas of interest and expertise are in literacy, new literacies, student collaboration, and dialogic learning.

I am currently focused in learning more about how educators can use online collaborative tools for rich student learning experiences.

How did you initially become interested in these academic areas?

When I began teaching elementary students, in 1999, technology was a somewhat new frontier in the classroom. It became immediately clear that student motivation was increased when they were given opportunity to engage in social learning experiences that included technology.

In addition, students’ out of school lives included rich technological experiences and it seemed natural to include such practices in their classroom learning.

Can you describe any research you conducted at GSE? 

While I was working on my Phd at Fordham, I used the research tools that I was given in my studies to conduct a few research studies. I was lucky to have had rich classroom experiences at Fordham that put me in touch with professors who were experts at conducting research and analyzing data. Taking courses with these professors allowed me to learn about research and hone my own skills.

Some of the studies that I conducted were supported by grants from the school district that I teach in and others were used as a pilot study at Fordham and then for my dissertation research.

All of the studies focused on elementary students’ literacy development through collaborative student learning with the use of varied communication technologies.

I also had the opportunity to connect with globally acknowledged researchers in the area of my interests – both dialogic learning and new literacies.

Through Fordham University Summer Literacy Institute I was introduced to New Literacies Research Team members Don Leu and Julie Cioro. At the time Don and Julie were at the forefront of New Literacies research on reading instruction with the Internet. Both researchers along with their colleague Lisa Zawalinski later began a relationship with the school district where I teach, which allowed me to further my interest and understanding of online reading instruction and the educational value of Internet Communication Technologies.

Additionally, while conducting my dissertation study, Dialogic Learning through video chat in two first-grade classrooms, I was introduced to Dr. Rupert Wegerif of Exeter whose globally recognized research contributions to Dialogic Learning and ICT helped to give me point of reference with my own study.

If you could tell people one thing about Fordham GSE, what would it be?

Fordham professors are experts in their field. They have a wealth of knowledge to share and are willing to do so with their students.

What advice do you have for future GSE students?

Stay focused and flexible: be willing to grow and change.

What are your plans for after graduation?

While having my dissertation research published in a peer review journal is one of my short-term goals, I hope to continue making contributions to the research community which focus on literacy development through dialogic learning with Internet Communication Technologies.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Now that I will have some free time again I would like to enjoy time with family and friends, travel, and the great outdoors.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Through my experience at Fordham I learned that there are many people that help us achieve our dreams: teachers, mentors, friends, colleagues, and family. All of which are valuable. We cannot get there alone.

Learn more about the Contemporary Learning and Interdisciplinary Research (CLAIR) Ph.D. program.



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