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Fulbright scholar reflections: Professor forges new connections in Indonesia

Fulbright Scholar reflections- Professor forges new connections in Indonesia

By heading to a far-flung part of the world, to a culture and context very different from her own, Jayne Lammers was able to step outside her comfort zone and begin to see the world as her classroom through her recent experience as a Fulbright scholar in Indonesia. The combination of her digital literacies research, which hones in on the global connectedness that the Internet presents for literacy, coupled with her wanderlust and ardent curiosity for learning more about her students’ international experiences, fueled her drive to think more globally.
“This Fulbright experience so profoundly shifted my thinking personally and my ideas for my career and what I want to do,” says Lammers, an associate professor in teaching and curriculum and associate director for the Center for Learning in the Digital Age (LiDA) at the Warner School of Education.
And the Fulbright experience far exceeded her initial career goal, she notes.

Jayne Lammers and Warner alumna Puji Astuti ‘16W (PhD),Last fall, Lammers traveled to Indonesia to State University of Semarang/Universitas Negeri Semarang (UNNES), where she spent five months conducting research on the digital literacy practices of Indonesian students through the Fulbright U.S. Scholars Program. As part of her Fulbright research experience there, Lammers continued an ongoing collaboration that she initially developed back home in the U.S. with her former advisee and Warner alumna Puji Astuti ‘16W (PhD), an Indonesian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) researcher and faculty member at UNNES. Together, they collected data through surveys and focus groups, seeking to learn more about students’ digital literacy practices in their everyday lives.
From a research perspective, Lammers’s goal was to learn from the youth to inform Indonesian teachers’ work in the classroom. It is a research model that she and other scholars implement in the U.S. to help shape literacy instruction.
“In order to inform teachers, we needed to know what kids are doing with technology,” says Lammers, who directs the English teacher preparation program at Warner. “I wanted to uncover how students might be using technology creatively and in productive ways so that we could then give this information to teachers and teacher educators to help them meet the curriculum mandates about integrating technology for learning.”
In Indonesia, Lammers found that adolescents use Internet-connected handphones—or Smartphones—as their primary device. They also learned that both kids and adults rely on two popular multi-service online platforms/apps:  Gojek, which was co-founded by Indonesia’s new Minister of Education and Culture, Nadiem Makarim; and Grab, a transport app used throughout Southeast Asia. Additionally, the most popular handphone apps for kids are:  WhatsApp for communicating with friends, families, classmates, and teachers; Instagram and YouTube.
Through the surveys, the scholars also found that students expressed worry that technology could potentially make them more individualistic or more consumptive. The researchers then followed up on some of those concerns during the focus groups.
“This younger generation is trying to stay true to the collectivist culture that they live in,” Lammers explains, “while also realizing that technology is a means of advancement for their country. They are trying to figure out how to navigate that tension.”
Indonesian teachersWhile conducting their research with the students, Lammers and Astuti also had the opportunity to speak with Indonesian teachers. From them, they learned that teachers use technology primarily for assessments or to look up information. The Indonesian national curriculum brands technology as a tool for finding information and consuming content. Teachers then, due to their strong allegiance to instructional guidelines and the use of standardized curricula across the country, rarely position technology as something that can empower children to be creators of knowledge or producers of online content.

“If teachers keep using technology the way they have been, they may miss helping the younger generation grapple with how the country can benefit from technology’s affordances and what it might help disrupt,” she says. “But changing attitudes and perceptions by giving teachers and students experiences with production with technology and creating knowledge and experiences online can have potential."

According to Astuti, Indonesian parents and teachers were never truly prepared nor equipped for the challenges of COVID-19 on schooling. This, she believes, is the case not only for developing countries like Indonesia, but for the rest of the world. The global pandemic, she says, has brought Indonesian parents and teachers to a new realization that technology is supportive of students’ learning and personal growth.
“Technology provides students with the tools and resources for learning, as well as the platforms for production or display of the acquired knowledge, skills, and ethos,” explains Astuti. “While the discourses of the disruption era and industrial revolution 4.0 have been around in the country for a few years, it is today’s crisis schooling that has helped to lessen Indonesian parents and teachers’ fear of technology. Now, they see how technology-facilitated social connection and learning are practices and promises for a better tomorrow, and this understanding is great social and educational capital for Indonesia.”
While they are still in the process of analyzing their data, Lammers and Astuti have big plans for disseminating information from their research not only through publications, in Indonesian and international venues, but also through workshops and conference presentations in Indonesia and with teachers and teacher educators, with whom their research will have the biggest impact. Though the global pandemic has delayed plans for Lammers to return to the region in June for this purpose, they will present their initial findings at virtual conferences in Australia and Indonesia and have already submitted their first article based on their work together. 
Jayne Lammers and Indonesian studentsA goal of the Fulbright program is to promote international understanding and afford the opportunity for cross-cultural collaborations and the breakdown of stereotypes. Lammers believes that the program truly met this goal. “My Fulbright experience allowed me to look past my Western-based assumptions by going into schools and listening to students first-hand,” she explains.
As a Fulbright scholar, Lammers gained a better understanding of how the Indonesian educational system operates, how schools are structured, the ways in which others view technology as a means for advancement for their country, how a younger generation of students views their culture and the cultures of others, and how literacy practices in Indonesia compare to those in U.S. schools. And, aside from the Indonesian language learning, which she’s hoping to continue, her experiences abroad have expanded her understanding by helping her to continuously check her Western, U.S.-based assumptions.

Jayne Lammer with UNNES faculty members and international collaboratorsThe Fulbright program also gives participants an enhanced understanding of higher education systems and provides a platform for the exchange of ideas. During her stay, Lammers and Astuti planned, organized, and led academic writing sessions and camps at UNNES with the goal of creating a more collaborative, supportive scholarly environment for faculty. They based these camps on those hosted at the Warner School.

Upon her arrival back home, Lammers was pleased to learn that they are still implementing the writing camps in various departments across UNNES. Furthermore, Lammers and Astuti continue to host weekly writing support groups via WhatsApp for Indonesian faculty. One of her biggest accomplishments in Indonesia, Lammers says, was “the impact these writing camps had on the faculty writing culture there.”
Another impact Lammers had in Indonesia was the Literacy Research Centre that she helped launch. It stemmed from conversations she had with others there about the state of literacy education. The Centre now consists of four UNNES faculty members and three international collaborators, of which Lammers is one. Lammers remains in contact with faculty in the Centre, and they are planning cross-institutional conversations about critical literacy instruction and will be submitting a grant to study the implementation of the new Indonesian national literacy movement.
As for future international opportunities on the horizon, Lammers has plans to continue to push her literacy research and digital research to think more globally. Going forward, she would like to bring researchers from around the world together in a Global Digital Literacy Research Collective to help build the capacity for and amplify research in underrepresented countries that have a lot to contribute to what’s known beyond their borders. Additionally, she and Astuti are in the process of writing and submitting a commentary piece that argues for a necessary “global turn” in research in the literacy field. This shift, they believe, will help others to better understand what digital literacies matter, and how they support learning and identity development, for learners from across the world.
“Literacy researchers have long been acknowledging globalness, but we still have this very Western-centric thinking about how apps and online spaces get used,” Lammers explains, “but I want to continue to conduct research with those outside the United States, from different cultures, and bring us together in future conversations that will transform literacy education.”
Jayne Lammers with Indonesian faculty and students

And, as for advice Lammers would like to offer to prospective Fulbright scholars, she encourages them to leverage connections.

“Think about how your own research trajectories and research experiences can be put into conversations with international advisees,” she says. “Designing research that leveraged this special connection I previously had with Puji and bringing our backgrounds together proved to be very helpful and successful for us.”
And for Astuti, this global connection for and within the research process has accommodated her passion for continuous learning and identity development, particularly since the completion of her Warner doctorate in 2016.
“It is to live the Meliora spirit,” says Astuti, “that aligns with what my religion teaches me about life-long learning.”  
Back at Warner, Lammers is already seeing the benefits that her Fulbright experience and new connections in Indonesia will have on the school’s community, particularly through her research and advising. This fall, she will be welcoming two Indonesian doctoral students who received government awards to study abroad.
“I think I’m going to be a better advisor to international students coming to Warner for their graduate studies, regardless of where they are from, after this experience,” she adds.
Lammers has been blogging about her Fulbright experience, reflecting on many aspects of her stay in Indonesia and interactions both on and off campus. 

In May, Lammers joined other leading experts in education and psychology for a Fulbright-sponsored panel discussion about online teaching and learning. Watch the Fulbright Thought Leader Panel, titled “Fulbright Impact in the Field: Digital Education, COVID-19, and the Future of Teaching and Learning."
Learn more about opportunities in the Fulbright Scholars program.