As children grow up amidst a dizzying array of new technologies, Katie Headrick Taylor is working to improve educators' understanding of how young people use digital media and how to leverage technology in ways that support youth in underserved communities.
Taylor is joining the University of Washington College of Education's faculty this spring after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy. Taylor, who previously taught at a residential shelter for homeless and runaway teens and taught English at a public high school in Japan, studies children’s digital literacy practices, spatial literacy as it pertains to youth mobility and mapping, new ways of teaching spatial literacies, and how to leverage new technologies to engage young people in civic processes that drive community change. She earned her PhD at Vanderbilt University and her bachelor's degree from New York University.
Taylor recently answered questions about her research agenda, what courses she'll be teaching and some of her interests outside of work.
What drew you to education?
My mother was a teacher's aide in a public elementary school for 20+ years. From the time I was in first grade through my middle school years, I spent most afternoons with my mother and the lead teachers, listening to them plan lessons, helping them prep materials, and chatting with the students who were catching up on work after hours. Even after several years of seeing my mom in this professional capacity, I was always struck by her uncanny ability to make students value their own self-worth through relationship-building, even if they weren't "performing" as well as other students or meeting institutional expectations. In short, being around my mother in these interstitial hours — between school and home — made me want to emulate her teaching practice, and to understand more about the variety of learners served (or not) by schools. I sought out opportunities to do so as an undergraduate and continue this mission to today.
Describe your research and service agenda.
I explore digital media and technology in the lives of children, youth, and their families through ethnographic and mixed-method case studies, classroom and informal design studies, and the development and teaching of undergraduate and graduate courses. My research focuses on how children independently elect to use digital media and how technology can be leveraged to make learning relevant to a diversity of young people in formal and informal learning environments. I am particularly interested in the potential of mobile and geospatial tools for learning in the STEAM disciplines, and how these technologies can bridge learners' experiences within underserved communities to those within the classroom. I hope my work highlights the multiplicity of stories (especially those of young people) that produce places, and I believe that technology is an excellent tool for more equitably representing this multiplicity.
What makes this work meaningful to you and why is it important?
I think this work is important because it co-constructs with young people, families and teachers learning pathways between learners' communities, interests, experiences and formal curricula. Learning pathways take into account the mobility of learners' bodies, but also the trajectories of their developing interests and their imagined futures as adults, professionals, residents, stakeholders, etc. Learning pathways make the lives of children relevant to formal instructional settings, but also make schools a relevant feature of a changing child, neighborhood, community and city.
What attracted you to UW College of Education?
The people at UW College of Education take seriously the mission of improving public education and, by proxy, the lives of underserved and underrepresented young people. In doing so, the College demonstrates great support for those of us who are doing this kind of work at all levels of this complex system, whether that be at the policy level or at the classroom level. I felt this commitment so vibrantly in interactions with graduate students, faculty members and administrators that I couldn't wait to join such an energetic and mission-driven group of people to do this work.
What courses will you be teaching?
This spring, I am excited to be teaching a methods course called "Learning and the Interaction Order." This course will be a variation of Rogers Halls' interaction analysis seminar he teaches at Vanderbilt University and we hope to have our students digitally collaborate across our two settings, sharing ongoing analysis on our various projects. Next academic year, I am excited to be teaching "Learning Across Settings as Technologically-Mediated," "Cognition in Contexts" and "Current Issues in Technology and Education." Also, I hope to collaborate with colleagues at the iSchool to develop a course regarding issues of technology and youth civic engagement.
What's your favorite education-related book and why?
There are too many to name, but I'm currently reading Howard Becker's What About Mozart? What About Murder? And though Becker is not strictly an educational researcher, I believe he can teach us a lot about how we see and conceptualize learning at all scales of human interaction.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
Like all parents, I'm passionate about watching my two children "being and "becoming" thoughtful and caring people. I enjoy hiking, canoeing and having dance parties with anyone who will humor me (and I can usually count on my 3-year old for that role). If I had time, I would cook complex and intricate meals and write complex and intricate letters to my friends and family. I am always looking for new music (e.g., bands, MCs, singers) and welcome recommendations at any time.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications