Tag: research

Sit or stand? SCOPE research examines sedentary behaviors of older adults at Oak Crest

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Excessive sitting, some say, is the new smoking – in other words, something that insidiously contributes to shortening a lifespan.

Indeed, says Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, at least one decade of research into physical activity behavior shows that “sitting too much is going to be detrimental to your health.”

But what does that mean for elderly people who live in nursing homes or retirement communities, where very little time is spent standing or moving?

Little scholarship on this matter exists on that population, Sebastião says, who are different from their counterparts still living at home in their communities.

“Physical activity is reduced drastically, and the amount of time spent sitting is higher,” Sebastião says. “Someone is going to cook for you. Someone is going to clean for you. Someone is going to do your laundry.”

Residents of DeKalb’s Oak Crest Retirement Center are participating in Sebastião’s current research project to help him understand how sitting impacts their lives and what “interventions” he can develop or suggest to get residents to sit less and move more.

Called “SCOPE” (Sedentary Behavior, COgnition and Physical Function in OldEr Adults Living in a Retirement Community), his work examines how sitting affects not only the physical fitness of the Oak Crest residents but their mental fitness as well.

Tests for physical fitness gauge upper- and lower-body strength, record how many steps they can take in two minutes, county how many times they can stand up from a chair in 30 seconds, assess their gait while walking a straight line for a certain distance and pivoting for a return and how far measure they can lean ahead without losing their balance.

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Speed is a critical factor, Sebastião says: People who walk quicker live longer.

Cognition, on the other hand, is evaluated through verbal and visual memory skills. Sebastião recites 16 words to the test subjects and asks to hear them repeated back to him in any order.

Declining memory is something Sebastião understands personally through interactions with his late grandmother. “I would say to her, ‘Grandma, you need to buy your groceries. Grandma, you need to pay your bills. Grandma, you need to clean room.’ ”

When he completes his study – he’s hoping to examine 100 people, and is about three-quarters of the way there – he will have valuable data for the next step.

“I’m trying to establish a connection between scores on these tests and the amount of time residents spend sitting,” he says. “We don’t have any recommendations on how long people should spending sitting to protect them from adverse health outcomes. We don’t have such a thing for older adults.”

Possible “interventions” to help those in need include wearing Fitbits or similar devices that track footsteps, standing or walking around the living room during TV commercials, engaging in exercise that improves cardiorespiratory or muscle fitness or seeking counseling to help them understand the importance of moving more and sitting less.

scope-2Unfortunately, he says, much of physical activity behavior or the lack of it is most likely predetermined by personal habits earlier in life.

Human beings who are physically active and fit in their younger years “are building up a savings account. Their rate of slowing down as they grow older is slower,” Sebastião says. “Those who are active at a young age are more likely to be active in older age.”

Sebastião, who studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults, received a six-month Dean’s Research Grant to conduct his work at Oak Crest.

Two graduate students and one undergraduate student are assisting him.

All will write their own papers; they also will combine to pen a group paper, with Sebastião as lead author, for submission to journals on gerontology and geriatrics. The undergraduate student, meanwhile, will present at the College of Education’s Third Annual Student Research Symposium, scheduled for Friday, April 20.

scope-3“My students are learning important elements within the research process – how to design a study, how to select instruments for data collection, how to collect data,” he says. “They’re also learning how to talk with our participants throughout the testing to provide motivation.”

Josh Pak, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, is enjoying his chance to work with the senior citizens.

He believes that his collaboration with Sebastião will equip him well in his eventual career, in which he plans to work with elderly adults on cardiac rehabilitation.

“Some have no idea of how to go about fitness. A lot of them just go around their apartments,” says Pak, who is from Arlington Heights, “but a lot of them surprise me with how much they can do. A lot of them love to be active.”



Research road show: Cohen, Strid collaborate with students

irc-1Six NIU students affiliated with the College of Education were among the presenters at the 41st Annual Statewide Conference for Teachers Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students.

Recently graduated master’s student Stephanie Eller and undergraduates Lorena Flores, Autumn Gathings, Christina Poe, Raven Stepter and Amor Taylor joined Department of Curriculum and Instruction professors James Cohen and John Evar Strid in sharing research.

Eller and Flores joined Cohen for “Undocumented Immigrants: Myths and Realities,” which also served as the basis for a featured article in the Illinois Association for Multilingual Multicultural Education winter bulletin with the two students as the lead authors.

Flores then presented for a second time with Cohen and Strid, addressing the question of “Can Paradigm Shifting Occur in a One-Semester Diversity Course?”

Poe and Cohen presented “English Learners’ Writing Needs in the Elementary Classroom” to a full house.

“The room was good for 60 people but well over 80 showed up, with people sitting on the floor and standing in the doorway,” Cohen says. “Christina dominated the room with her wealth of knowledge regarding the research and practical applications of writing strategies for English learners.”

Gathings, Stepter and Taylor came well-prepared for their Dec. 7 talk on “Roadblocks to Bilingualism: How Teachers Become Bilingual.”

Autumn Gathings, Raven Stepter and Amor Taylor present Dec. 7 in Oak Brook.

Autumn Gathings, Raven Stepter and Amor Taylor
present Dec. 7 with their professors in Oak Brook.

The three already had gained solid footing during earlier appearances at the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) Conference in Salt Lake City and at the Illinois Education Research Council Symposium at NIU-Naperville, where they described their findings on the language-related backgrounds of teachers.

Reponses to questions Strid posed to his students in an Applied Linguistics course provided the raw data; Cohen and the three students pored through the 126 essays to identify themes and commonalities and to discern conclusions and recommendations.

“I’m a nerd when it comes to organizing, reading and writing, so this project was made for me,” says Gathings, a junior Elementary Education major from Oswego. “I feel important. I’m using my free time to do something that I know is going to pay off later. This will help me stand out.”

Cohen began working with the trio a few semesters ago.

“I was never able to work with a professor as an undergrad,” says Cohen, who always wanted to offer that chance to those he taught.

So he made his pitch, telling students he was willing to add them to his projects or to lend his expertise to their research. Either way, he told the students, the goal was to get published.

Gathings, Stepter and Taylor chose the former option, learning that research is a long and difficult but worthwhile process.

James Cohen

James Cohen

“Dr. Cohen is so passionate. He just influenced me in a way that I felt a natural connection to what he was saying,” adds Stepter, a senior Early Childhood Studies major. “Knowing there was someone who believed in me gave me a boost in my confidence. It taught me that I can do more, and how to contribute that into a school setting.”

Taylor, a junior Middle Level Teaching and Learning major specializing in English, was excited for the chance to publish.

“I said, ‘Oh, I can get something published? I can write something?’ That drew me in. That was intriguing for me,” Taylor says. “I love to write and to read, and this incorporates both of these things. I read the people’s stories, and I get to write a paper.”

Cohen feels like a proud father.

“They were tremendously helpful. They got so good at coding that I said, ‘OK, go on and do your thing.’ We’ve been expanding their role in the presentation every time,” he says. “They’re learning how to analyze qualitative data. How often does an undergrad get to analyze qualitative data? They’re learning how to present at professional conferences. We’ll be writing up the data soon.”

He sees benefits beyond the obvious.

Gathings, Stepter and Taylor have explored second-language acquisition theory and simultaneous vs. sequential bilingualism in a way deeper than any textbook can provide.

“They’ve internalized this information,” Cohen says. “When they go and become teachers, they’ll be able to articulate things most teachers aren’t able to articulate.”

John Evar Strid

John Evar Strid

“They’ve gotten an insight into the research process,” Strid says. “They did a phenomenal job – going through the data, finding the salient points, putting it together for the presentation, doing the actual presentation. It opens doors for them.”

Sure enough, Cohen and Strid say, the three students were a hit in Salt Lake City, where “the audience just fell in love with them. They’re so smart, articulate and passionate.”

In Naperville, they add, representatives from Elgin’s U46 and other school districts were handing over business cards and encouraging the students to call them after graduation.

“No matter which way they decide to take their careers, it’s a big win all around for them,” Strid says. “They really showed the initiative to follow through, and that really says a lot about them – all positive.”

Meanwhile, at Cohen’s encouraging, all three student applied and were accepted for the maiden voyage of Educate Global and traveled to teach in China during the summer. Eller also participated at Cohen’s suggestion, teaching in Taiwan.

“We agreed to go do one thing with Dr. Cohen,” Gathings says, “and now we’ve gone to China and to three different conferences.”

“I thought we were just going to get published,” Taylor adds with a laugh.

The students say they’ve grown in their confidence in themselves as well as in their belief in the importance of bilingualism and multilingualism.

Cohen (third from right) introduces Raven, Amor and Autumn to Wayne  Wayne E. Wright (blue shirt), associate dean for Research, Graduate Programs and Faculty Development at the Purdue University College of Education.

Networking: Professor Cohen (third from right) introduces Raven, Amor and Autumn
to Wayne E. Wright (blue shirt), associate dean for Research, Graduate Programs
and Faculty Development at the Purdue University College of Education.

 

“We definitely need to advocate for not only bilingualism but biliteracy as well,” Taylor says, “and to replace judgment with curiosity.”

“I learned to advocate for others,” Stepter says, “who can’t advocate for themselves.”

The words are music to Cohen’s ears. “I am sincerely impressed. They got it. They got it!” he says. “They’re hungry for knowledge.”



Working the Intersections: Symposium brings practitioners in LGBTQ research to campus

working-the-intersectionsScholars who assembled at Michigan State University for the first National Symposium on LGBTQ Research in Higher Education focused on methodology and practice.

Among them that day in 2014 was Z Nicolazzo, a soon-to-be NIU College of Education professor who studies trans* collegians with a particular emphasis on trans* student resilience and kinship-building.

Nicolazzo’s memories from that event include hearing the loud-and-clear invitation for another institution to host the next gathering. Three years later, ze and Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education colleagues Katy Jaekel and Carrie Kortegast are the first to answer that call – and with a different and expanded premise in mind.

Called “Working the Intersections,” the second national symposium will take place Saturday, Oct. 14, at NIU. Researchers, faculty, staff and students from across the United States and Canada are expected to attend.

“Our theme is really thinking about how gender and sexuality show up alongside a lot of other identities and experiences,” Nicolazzo says. “We were really intentional when we called for papers.”

“When we talk about things like gender and sexuality, oftentimes particular identities are left out,” adds Jaekel, whose research agenda includes the classroom experiences of LGBTQ students. “We want to be more inclusive, and we hopefully want to generate some new knowledge.”

D-L Stewart

D-L Stewart

Keynote speaker Dafina-Lazarus (D-L) Stewart, professor of higher education and student affairs at Colorado State University, will speak at 8:30 a.m. Kristen Renn, a professor of higher, adult and lifelong education at Michigan State University, gives the closing address at 4:30 p.m.

In between are several paper-and-panel sessions, roundtable sessions and a PechaKucha plenary session, all geared to illuminate emerging knowledge, trends and conversations of LGBTQ research.

Under the “Intersections” theme, participants will discuss the experiences of LGBTQ people of color – “it’s vastly under-researched in our field,” Nicolazzo says – as well as how LGBTQ identities coexist with disability, spirituality, religion and more.

Exploring these topics is critically important, both say, especially for those in higher education.

Many faculty members and Student Affairs professionals don’t put LGBTQ issues up for discussion, Jaekel says, because such topics are often considered “value-neutral.” Others believe they don’t know enough, she adds, or are afraid to misspeak.

“While many people think that because things like gay marriage have occurred, and there’s been an increase in civil rights, that these issues have been solved and everything is better,” Jaekel says. “The truth is there continues to be a group of students who have particular needs.”

Z Nicolazzo

Z Nicolazzo

And, Nicolazzo says, that population is on the rise.

“All indications are that there are three- to six-times more people identifying as transgender below the age of 18 than over 18 – that’s our college-going demographic. We have more LGBTQ students in higher ed, and we need to meet the diversity of our students, faculty and staff in college environments,” ze says.

“We also have a growing awareness that there are LGBTQ faculty and staff at institutions of higher education,” ze adds, “so I think it’s important to not only highlight the research of those folks who are LGBTQ but to also highlight the work about LGBTQ people.”

Both are excited that a large number of students have registered to attend the symposium.

“It’s really important for students, and particularly LGBTQ students, to see what Laverne Cox calls ‘Possibility Models’ – models of who they can become in the future,” Nicolazzo says. “A lot of folks who are interested in doing research, or are interested in teaching, but identify as queer and trans* might not think they can do it because they don’t see a lot of faculty who are queer and trans*.”

“Different privileges are afforded to some and less to others, so we really wanted to highlight that,” Jaekel adds. “A lot of times, we look only to experts for knowledge and truth about gender and sexuality. Students have much to offer us, and highlighting different voices and different positions, we can learn from one another. Everyone can be deemed the expert of their own experience.”

Katy Jaekel

Katy Jaekel

The College of Education colleagues hope their participants share wisdom, gain insights, create knowledge and leave energized.

“Because I know we have so many students coming as participants, one of my main goals is for them to develop some good mentoring relationships and networks that might last beyond the conference,” Nicolazzo says.

Hir personal goals likely apply to all of the scholars coming Oct. 14.

“I’m really hoping that we can continue to practice how we share our information in ways that are understandable for the broader public,” ze says. “I’ve become really good at talking to other gender scholars about why my work matters. What I really want to become better at is making my working understandable to people who don’t do this kind of work at all.”

For more information, email LGBTQsymposium@gmail.com.



People with visual impairments might score romance on Tinder, SEED researchers discover

jvib-coverMen with visual disabilities are more likely to find dates on Tinder than are women with visual disabilities, according to a study by professors and their graduate research assistants in the NIU Department of Special and Early Education.

Published in the July-August issue of the Journal of Visual Impairments and Blindness, NIU’s research explores questions of whether sighted individuals are opposed to dating persons who are blind, and whether Tinder is a good vehicle to facilitate such interactions.

Researchers at NIU created eight individual Tinder profiles featuring four NIU College of Education graduate students – two men and two women, all in their early- to mid-20s – and then posted two photos of each during four separate test periods.

Half of the photos depict the students as they appear normally. In the others pictures, however, they are wearing sunglasses and holding white canes. Their clothing is the same in both photos.

Only one photo of each student was posted at any one time; “blind” and “sighted” photos were not posted simultaneously.

No written descriptions that would include personal interests, favorite things or other information were provided. Because Tinder allows users to choose a distance within which they are willing to travel for dates, NIU researchers established a radius of 50 miles from DeKalb.

When the first group of profiles were “live” on the popular dating app in the spring of 2015, the profile of the man with visual disabilities received five more “likes” than did the same man without sunglasses or cane. However, the sighted woman in that same round of testing received 14 more “likes” when she wasn’t pictured with sunglasses and cane.

Stacy Kelly

Stacy Kelly

During the second round, in the fall of 2015, those numbers respectively rose to nine and 58.

The percentage of “likes” for the male profiles are quite low – from 2 to 4 percent of the total 700 swipes – while the same percentages for the women range from 39 to 68 percent. Researchers attribute this to “cultural norms which dictate that men are to approach women.”

Stacy Kelly, as associate professor in the Vision Program of the NIU Department of Special and Early Education, says the study shows how sighted people view people with visual impairments as potential romantic partners.

The research also demonstrates the power of the Internet to connect people and to open personal and professional doors, she says.

“It makes you a whole person. It makes your life full,” Kelly says. “We want people who are blind to have a level playing field with their counterparts who are sighted. So much of social networking is visual in nature.”

And despite Tinder’s emphasis on photos, she says, people with visual impairments do use the app to seek romantic partners.

“They’re human,” she says, “and we know that they can be socially isolated. We know that they can struggle later in life financially, or become unemployed. And Tinder is free to use.”

Gaylen Kapperman

Gaylen Kapperman

Co-authors on the study are Gaylen Kapperman, professor emeritus in the NIU Vision Program; Tom Smith, an associate professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Kylie Kilmer, a graduate student in the Vision Program.

Kapperman, who is visually impaired, knows from a lifetime of conversations with others with visual impairments that they find the dating scene difficult – something that hasn’t changed following the advent of social media.

“Girls who are blind, when they have tried to initiate some kind of relationship with guys, and when they are honest in their profiles, get no takers,” Kapperman says.

One woman with visual impairments told Kapperman that she hid her blindness from a potential suitor, who discovered the truth when he came to her front door to pick her up for a date. He did not take the surprise well, the professor says, and left alone.

“I always advise people to be upfront about it,” Kapperman says.

The research project reinforces NIU’s standing as a global leader in promoting and leveraging assistive technology for people with visual impairments, she adds.

A five-year, $1.25 million U.S. Department of Education grant awarded last year to NIU will fund the preparation of students to receive the Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist designation – the new national standard – from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Stacy Kelly and studentsNIU is the first university to offer a course of study toward the CATIS designation, something that leads to greater empowerment of people with visual disabilities as they are taught how to use the latest innovations.

“For people who have access to assistive technology, their whole, entire world opens up,” Kelly says. “Assistive technology gets them through the workday. It gets them through the weekend. People really can be limited if they can’t connect to the technology.”

Kelly and her cohorts plan to repeat their research to create a larger sample from which to draw data. “We see this study and the findings as just the beginning,” she says. “We are now developing a line of research that no one else has considered.”



ETRA professor receives Publons Top Reviewer Award

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves, an assistant professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, won a Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences from Publons for peer-reviewing 16 journal articles in the last year.

The Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences is awarded to the top 1 percent in a field for the number of pre-publication reviews completed.

In 2016, Reeves also won a Sentinels of Science Award for Social Sciences from Publons.



Funding available for research, innovative ideas, partnerships

grants-2Grants to help advance College of Education research, instructional innovation and partnerships are available again this year.

Financial support in research and innovation enables faculty and staff to prepare and improve submissions for external research funding or to design programs that enhance the college’s curriculum and instruction.

Money for partnerships, meanwhile, is offered to build or strengthen collaborations with P-12 schools that augment experiences for College of Education students.

Proposal submissions, including itemized budgets, are taken online.

All grant recipients are required to submit three-page reports that document their study findings; some or all might be asked to present their work to the COE Research Committee or at a Partnership Brown Bag during the 2018-19 school year.

Dean’s Research Grants

  • Four grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff complete pilot projects or small-scale studies in preparation of applications for external funding.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • Apply online!

lightbulbDean’s Instructional Innovation Grants

  • Two grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff improve teaching, curriculum and student academic success.
  • Dollars can assist in the design of innovative teaching strategies, including technology integration, curriculum development and/or other activities or programs that enhance those goals.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Grants for Partnership

  • Multiple grants of varying levels of financial support are available throughout the year.
  • Grants will not exceed $2,500.
  • The dollars should help faculty and staff connect and work with partnership districts and schools through professional development, research or value-added enrichment experiences for College of Education students.
  • Apply online!

For more information on the research and innovation grants, contact Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, at wpitney@niu.edu. For more information on the partnership grants, contact Portia Downey, coordinator of professional development, at pdowney@niu.edu.



And the hits keep on coming …

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

The spring awards season goes on for the NIU College of Education.

Eui-Kyung Shin, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Tom Smith, Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, join former colleague Andrew Milson of the University of Texas at Arlington, in an award from the National Council for Geographic Education.

For more than 100 years, the NCGE has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction. Through its awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service.

ncge“Each year, we are impressed by the level of innovation, quality and creativity of all our award nominees,” said Zachary R. Dulli, chief executive officer. “Understanding our world is critical to a high-quality education, and these award winners represent the best of the best in providing that to our students.”

Shin, Smith and Milson were honored “Future Teachers’ Spatial Thinking Skills and Attitudes,” which earned top honors as Best College/University Article in the Journal of Geography Awards category. Milson taught in the NIU College of Education from 1999 to 2001.

Recipients of NCGE recognition will receive their awards at a special ceremony held during the 2017 National Conference on Geography Education, scheduled from July 27 to July 30 in Albuquerque, N.M.



Laura Ruth Johnson to study civic engagement, advocacy of young parents in Humboldt Park

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson has spent two decades observing the lives, struggles and triumphs of young parents in Chicago.

Throughout those years, the associate professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment has seen many young parents thrive in spite of a lack of programs that could help them.

“Some of them are missing school to work, but not because they don’t value education,” Johnson says. “It’s because they’re extremely responsible. Some are working an extra job to provide for their children or help their parents pay the rent.”

Johnson will turn her attention this summer to how young parents in Humboldt Park engage with their community – and if that civic engagement can inform and enhance their advocacy skills, for themselves and their children, as well as for other young parents.

Findings from a Youth Participatory Action Research study, funded by a summer Research and Artistry grant, hope to “inform services, programs and policy aimed at young parents, and challenge pejorative stereotypes of young parents as having ‘ruined’ their lives with little hope of academic or professional success because of their ‘bad’ choices.”

Instead, Johnson strives to show that young parents can be deeply involved in their communities and academically successful, if provided with the appropriate supports and resources.

Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park

Data will come from interviews, focus groups, observations and written assignments completed by young parents. Over the summer, a small group of young parents will work with Johnson to collect and analyze data, in the process gaining valuable research skills.

Research will take place at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, an alternative high school that currently serves about 190 students pushed out of the public school system, through its embedded program the Lolita Lebron Family Learning Center, which serves the needs of young parents attending Albizu Campos, which make up about 20 percent of the student body.

Many students there are familiar with Johnson’s topic: Parents attend a class, co-taught by Johnson, called “Social History of Parenting,” which helps them develop advocacy skills and involves them in creating campaigns that confront pejorative stereotypes about young parents.

But the need lies beyond Albizu Campos High School and the Family Learning Center.

“Having young parents involved in community and civic engagement is important, but their voices are largely absent,” she says. “So much policy is made for them, but they’re not included as a part of the conversation – and they need to be. They’re the ones these programs are aimed at.”

Quality mentorship offers a start, says Johnson, who has implemented such programs in Chicago for the last four years.

campos-2One goal of her upcoming project is to gather solid data on the impact of efforts like hers.

Whereas much of the civic engagement literature has focused on more traditional sorts of activities, such as voting, this study aspires to document how students’ involvement in community-based projects and grassroots activism that address issues that are meaningful to them can help them to develop leadership skills.

Among her questions: How do young parents view their communities? What issues are important to them? In what ways are local projects involving and engaging young parents? What skills do they gain from participating? How does their involvement shape their identities as active citizens? What role will it play in their postsecondary pursuits?

“Very few programs are aimed at young parents,” Johnson says, “and it’s harder for them to become involved. Most work. They have to take care of their own expenses. They have a child. And, as a result, they’re rendered invisible.”

Compounding the problem, she says, is that many programs focused on young parents are designed merely to prevent teens from becoming parents in the first place. Only a few mentor teens who already are young parents, she says.

Unfortunately, she adds, not many high schools offer child care.

Nonetheless, young parents can and do defy the odds. Four recent valedictorians at Campos High School have been teen parents, she says.

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

“Young parents right now see education as more important than ever,” Johnson says, “but for teen parents, it’s a challenge. They have to take care of a child and go to school. It’s a challenge of having support, of having child care or of having transportation. I know some young parents who walk, with their children, to school in the cold because they have no money for the bus.”

In the Puerto Rican community where Johnson conducts her advocacy and research, she witnesses some attitudes of fatalism among youth.

What difference can we possibly make outside of our neighborhood? How can these projects really change the way things are? Why don’t politicians actually care about us? They say what they think we want to hear, but they don’t know what we go through or actually listen when we tell them.

Even external forces are contributing, she says, pointing to a recent teen pregnancy advertisement that featured pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen and the message, “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers.”

“As if mothers can’t be activists and be involved!” Johnson says. “We’re really trying to change that narrative and paradigm.”

She finds signs of optimism in Humboldt Park, where teen parents are thinking about greater social issues and historical events in relationships to their neighborhood – where they can act locally.

veggies-2Others are connecting the dots, she says.

“They’re invested even more when they have a child because they want to have a better future for their child, and they see that they can link all of the issues,” Johnson says. “Now they have a child to think of. Having safe parks. Having access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Healthy food, for example, offers lessons of urban agriculture, such as community gardens and greenhouses. It reinforces the importance of healthy food for growing children. Politically, it illustrates the social problem of “food deserts” or the public health crisis of diabetes.

Projects that Johnson has worked on with students include public service announcements filmed and posted on YouTube, social media postings and participation in hashtag campaigns such as #noteenshame and #teenparentpride.

Other young parents are podcasting.

“They’re interviewing one another and creating podcasts on their lives, collecting and editing their own stories,” she says. “I see that as a method of civic engagement because it’s having them participate in larger conversations, something that will help other young parents find resources that are of assistance to them.”

Johnson (right) with young parents, mentors and teachers in San Antonio.

Johnson (right) took young parents, mentors and teachers to the annual meeting
of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas

She also hopes to host community events where she – and the teens – present their findings.

A few of those involved in an intergenerational mentorship project for current and former young mothers recently took a national stage, presenting their work and research at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson received funds from the NIU College of Education and the Youth Connection Charter School to bring young parents, mentors and teachers to the event.

“I know some who really found that through their participation in a project, it expanded their view of their ability to make a change in the world, and they’ve taken that to their families,” she says. “Most of the students are really excited to become involved, and they have a lot of great ideas.”



April 21, 25 offer two great ways to back College of Ed students

Two upcoming events will provide great opportunities for NIU College of Education faculty and staff to show their support of students.

CoE Student Research Symposium

researchStudents, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the second annual CoE Student Research Symposium, scheduled from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

As students learn about the process of research and academic inquiry, they can share outcomes of their research, creative works, scholarly activity and research ideas. They also can display their work during the poster session, explore research methods related to their own interests and learn how to become involved with faculty research.

Participants can present ideas at a Table Talk Session and obtain valuable advice on how to accomplish their research goals.

For more information, email Pat Weilert at pweilert@niu.edu or Bill Pitney at wpitney@niu.edu.

Student Appreciation Day

Student Appreciation Day 2016

Student Appreciation Day 2016

To celebrate CoE students, College of Education Student Services will once again host Student Appreciation Day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at the main entrance of Gabel Hall and the second-floor south lobby of Anderson Hall.

Students will feast on free hot dogs, chips and beverages. They also can sign up for the annual raffle with prizes donated by local businesses.

Help is needed to make this a truly special day. Student Services invites faculty and staff to support this effort by handing out food and beverages and mingling with students.

To volunteer, email Brittany Hall at bhall12@niu.edu to provide your availability, contact information and preferred location.

Name:
Department:
Phone:
Preferred location: Gabel Hall or Anderson Hall
Times you are available (please select one or more):

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Woof! ETRA prof Tom Smith barks up the global media tree

Tom Smith and Rex

Tom Smith and Rex

For Tom Smith, the days before the winter break proved crazy-busy hectic.

And it had nothing to do with the holidays.

It was head-spinning, to tell you the truth,” says Smith, a co-author on a study that scored international headlines for its information on whether stress can make dogs go gray.

“I actually had a news alert set up on Google, and it kept popping up on there – CBS News, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Scientific American, People magazine, Wired.com, CNN, hundreds of news outlets in the U.S., U.K, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East,” he adds. “The news anchors even talked about it on ‘Good Morning America,’ and BBC-TV contacted us.”

The professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who gave numerous interviews with reporters in December, became involved in the project thanks to College of Education alumna Camille King (Ed.D. in adult education, 2011). She’s a nurse and animal behaviorist.

“Camille was a student of mine, and I was on her dissertation committee, too. She did her dissertation research on therapy dogs under Gene Roth’s guidance,” Smith says. “Camille had moved to Colorado, and then she contacted me to ask if I would help her on research she was planning to do on pressure wraps – also known as Thundershirts® – and how they affect anxiety and heart rates in dogs. Temple Grandin was involved, too. I said, yeah, I’d be interested.”

King, Smith and Grandin eventually published that study in a top veterinary journal, Smith says. That validation prompted his former student to begin the latest project on whether anxiety and impulsiveness in dogs is related to graying of their muzzles, and to again seek her professor’s help with the methodological, statistical and data analysis components.

puppiesNow, as much of the world knows, the answer is yes: Young dogs that are anxious or given to impulsivity tend to develop gray muzzles.

Smith admits he was surprised by the finding, quickly adding that King was not.

“I was a little skeptical that stress would be related to the gray muzzle in dogs, and young dogs especially,” he says. “I didn’t express that to Camille at the time, but that’s sort of how I felt. However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking. Both anxiety and impulsivity were clearly and markedly related to gray muzzles.”

Global interest in that revelation, however, came as no shock.

“People love dogs,” he says, “and we’re hoping that the study draws some attention to dog welfare. Dog anxiety can be a real issue. It can cause health problems and shorter life spans, and it can affect quality of life. We’re hoping people will learn to recognize it and say, ‘Maybe my dog is anxious. Maybe I should talk to a vet about this.’ ”

Rex – one of Smith’s two dogs – fits the description. He’s a young Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix sporting a premature gray muzzle, likely due, at least in part, to the stress of being chased around and bitten on the leg by Smith’s other dog.

mission“Before I knew about this, I would have said that I didn’t think Rex is stressed, but that I also didn’t know why he developed a gray muzzle. I thought my dogs were just playing, but when I described their behavior, Camille told me that my other dog is bullying him,” Smith says. “Rex was under quite a bit of stress!”

With the media spotlight faded, Smith is now able to call the experience with King, Grandin and animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt a “fun” one.

“My background is not at all in dog research. I don’t have a biology background. That being said, I did learn a lot about dogs and animal behavior,” Smith says. “I was also really fortunate to get to work with people like this. They’re really creative thinkers as well as excellent, first-rate researchers. We’ve already planned several additional dog-related research projects, so we’ll be busy!”