My research interests include:

Short Research Video

  • Critical literacies
  • Digital literacies
  • Digital Making, Makerspaces, Maker Culture
  • Critical Making and production pedagogies
  • Language and literacy
  • Multiple literacies
  • New literacies
  • Secondary school English pedagogy
  • Young Adult Literature

Recent Research Projects:

Making Minds: Digital Maker Education for Literacies Learning with Marginalized Youth

(SSHRC Insight Grant — $246,250 PI)

This research investigates the relationship between “maker pedagogies” and the development of adolescent digital literacies and identities for students who live in poverty. Community makerspaces are becoming a widespread phenomenon; however, these Do-It-Yourself (DIY) models, rooted in design thinking and innovation, are beginning to move into the realm of formal education. As this trend continues, it is important to explore what educators need to understand about maker pedagogies, and how can they support student learning across subject areas. More specifically we ask: (a) how do adolescents’ digital literacy skills develop over time while immersed in a rich media setting that emphasizes digital making rather than digital consumption; (b) how do maker pedagogies intersect with the development of 21st century competencies, such as multimodal communication, creative and critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving and cultural and global citizenship; (c) how can maker pedagogies be used to enhance literacy teaching and learning, specifically for students who live in poverty; (d) what are the materialities and modalities afforded to literacy learners through digital design and production; and (e) how do maker pedagogies work to build students’ ‘performative’ competencies in digital literacies, and how might they promote civic engagement and a participatory social justice orientation, particularly among students who live in poverty?

There’s An App for That: Designing, Developing, Researching Educational Apps

(Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence — $1,175,000 PI)

The specific objectives of this research project are:

  1. To design, develop, implement, evaluate, and make available through a learning portal (EDUZONE) a suite of educational apps that focus on helping students build confidence and competencies in three domains: 1) Cognitive (Mind Zone); 2) Social-Emotional (Community Zone); and, 3) Physical (Body Zone);
  2. To explore the impact of the learning portal (EDUZONE) on the learning of students, their teachers, and the community; and
  3. To build capacity for Ontario universities, service organizations and industry to collaborate and to lead in educational technology innovation.

For more information, visit our project website:  EduApps

STEAM-3D: Discover, Design, Develop

(Canada Research Chair in Technology and Pedagogy — $500,000)

Dr. Hughes is investigating uses of emerging digital media and interactive tools that disrupt traditional curricular and teaching/learning assumptions and practices, which explicitly includes computational fluency over an extended period of time and in a wide variety of classrooms. Her classroom and lab-based research will especially focus on the development and evaluation of pedagogical practices that address the digital literacy needs of marginalized students. Her lab-based research will focus on designing, observing and evaluating the impact of a “maker-space” or production approach that facilitates the discovery, design and development of digital “products” for students of all ages, their teachers, and the community to promote greater interest in STEM through the Arts (STEAM). This research will provide greater understanding of the intersection of new digital technologies and pedagogies and how they can be used to support active student learning that is technology-enriched and practice-integrated, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Science 3D: Discovery, Design & Development through Makerspaces

(Ontario Ministry of Education/Council of Ontario Directors of Education — $1,204,000 PI)

The focus of this research, which involves 20 Ontario school boards, is on developing and observing constructionist “production pedagogies” that work to build capacity for investigating and affecting change and innovation in formal and informal education settings. The research investigates the impact of “makerspace” pedagogies that facilitate the discovery, design and development (3Ds) of digital and tangible products for teachers, their students and the school community. Teachers with knowledge and skill in science and technology collaboratively explore new avenues of thought in their practice. The research questions focus on how educators can use makerspace pedagogies to promote inquiry, play, imagination, innovation and design thinking, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration. With the infusion of resources and custom-designed professional development, teachers are introduced to innovative ideas and practices in makerspace or “critical making” pedagogies. They gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to establish and implement a makerspace in their classrooms/schools, where learners can congregate to design, engineer, and fabricate digitally enhanced products of all kinds, both digital and tangible, and explore the uses of digital technologies in general, including mobile devices, social media, apps and games, digital circuits, 3D printing, e-textiles, programmable robots and virtual reality.

For more information, visit our project website: STEAM-3D Maker Lab


Fostering Globally and Culturally Sensitive Adolescents: Social Action through Digital Literacies

This research project, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Early Researcher Award, explores the impact on adolescents’ learning when they are given opportunities to create digital texts for a wider audience and engage with social justice issues on a global scale. The research positions adolescents as agents of change as they produce digital texts based on issues identified through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, such as the impact of war, child labour, poverty and environmental concerns.

Contact: Dr. Janette Hughes

Adolescents, Identity and Digital Literacy

This Social Science and Humanities Research Council-funded research examines the intersection of adolescents’ out-of-school new media experiences with digital literacy education, in classroom settings in Ontario and Newfoundland where students in grades 6 to 8 have ubiquitous access to personal mobile devices as well as tablets and more traditional laptops and desktop computers. Using a mixed methods research approach of qualitative case study analysis and quantitative surveying, the proposed research investigates the relationship between a multiliteracies pedagogy and the development of adolescent digital literacy and identity. More specifically:

How do adolescents’ digital literacy skills develop over time while immersed in a rich media setting?;

How is adolescent individual and collective identity shaped and performed, as adolescents use new media tools and affordances to present themselves to the world?; and

How does ubiquitous access to mobile devices and tablets transform teaching and learning literacy practices? 

For more information on these research projects, see these videos from the UOIT Virtual Seminar Series.

Virtual Speaker Series: Exploring Social Justice Through Digital Literacies — The Impact of War on Children

Virtual Speaker Series: Exploring Social Justice Through Digital Literacies — Indigenous Issues

Virtual Speaker Series: Examining the Impact of Digital Media on Adolescents

Virtual Speaker Series: Performing Digital Literacies Research 

Research Funding:

SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, 2015-18, (Co-I):  Improving our Schools

SSHRC Insight Grant, 2011-2014 (PI): Adolescents, Identity and Digital Literacies

SSHRC Public Dissemination Grant, 2011-2012 (PI): Performing Digital Literacies Research

Early Researchers Award, Ministry of Research and Innovation, 2011-2014 (PI): Fostering Globally and Culturally Sensitive Adolescents: Social Action Through Digital Literacies

SSHRC Standard Research Grant, 2008 – 2011 (Co-Applicant): Students as Performance Mathematicians

SSHRC Standard Research Grant, 2007 – 2010 (Sole Applicant): Students, Poetry and New Media

SSHRC ITST, 2007 (Collaborator): Video-Based Case Studies