Examining African American Fathers’ Digital Literacy Practices
Tisha Lewis Ellison

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



The University of Georgia

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
Research focused on the digital literacies of African American fathers and their role and influence in their children’s education is limited. Much of the existing scholarship presents deficit views about these fathers as contributors to their families and children (Cabrera, Shannon, Jolley, & Tamis-LeMonda, 2008). Such images are also reinforced in popular culture and in the media. However in this proposed research, this study examines the digital literate lives of low-and middle-income African American fathers and how their practices and ideologies impact the lives of their children in an increasingly technologically driven society. More specifically, I will investigate: the ways in which these fathers utilize tools (i.e., iPads and cell phones), social networking sites (i.e., Facebook and Twitter), and how they use their digital literacies and the social practices associated with them to influence their children’s learning experiences in and out of school.Employing critical sociocultural, New Literacy Studies, and multimodality theories, I seek to find the link to what fathers do and how they use tools in their everyday literacy practices that produce, reproduce, and shape digital literacies, power structures, identities, and agencies in and out of their homes. This landmark and innovative study lays groundwork to explore the layers of African American fathers’ digital literacy practices and their contributions to their children’s education.Understanding the digital lives, practices, and stories of African American fathers through this work is groundbreaking and instrumental to the literacy development of African American children. This study comes during critical moments in educational and political history, when the achievement gap and the separate but unequal education structures separate African American children from their counterparts, and at a time when the descriptive ways in which African American males have been portrayed in mainstream media continually perpetuate myths about the (in)stability of Black people. These accounts are upsetting and disturbing to the educational field as well as to our national culture, but this study has the potential to address and deconstruct these myths by examining the interactions between African American fathers and their children via digital media and tools. I am committed to understanding the academic and social barriers African American fathers and their families face, the unique and complex digital literacy practices that may arise in fathers’ interactions with their children, and the structural and institutional constraints that shape outcomes for their children despite their fathers’ positive role modeling. Such an understanding could potentially provide children with the tools needed to become active and dominant forces both in and out of school, and together with their fathers and the researchers who chronicle their lives, we could create a new narrative about African American families in general.
About Tisha Lewis Ellison
Tisha Lewis Ellison, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. Dr. Lewis Ellison’s research takes a critical perspective on how agency, identity, and power among African American families and adolescents are constructed as they use digital tools to make sense of their lives. As a recipient of the National Academy of Education/ Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr. Lewis Ellison examined the digital literacy practices of African American fathers, their ideologies of digital use to support their children, and the relative effects of their digital learning on their children’s education. Dr. Lewis Ellison was a fellow for the Organizing for Action, Digital Content Production Fellowship Program, a recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE) Research Foundation Grant, NCTE Promising Researcher Award, and the Literacy Research Association (LRA) J Michael Parker Award. She was also a finalist of the International Literacy Association Outstanding Dissertation Award, a fellow for the LRA Scholars of color Transitioning into Academic Research and the NCTE Research Foundation’s Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color Program. Her work has appeared in the Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, and Journal of Education. Dr. Lewis Ellison holds a Ph.D. in Reading from the University at Albany, State University of New York.

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