Jennifer Coccaro Pons

Degree: Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

College/School: School of Education and Human Development, College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Jennifer Coccaro Pons is making good on a childhood promise she made to her maternal grandfather: she is following in his footsteps and earning a Ph.D.

In 2010, Jennifer enrolled at FIU’s doctoral Curriculum and Instruction program and chose to focus her studies on learning technologies. It was a natural fit for the mother of two. She developed educational toys and apps to help children learn Spanish. And, along with her husband, she co-wrote two technology-inspired young adult novels.

Before she could finish her studies, Jennifer faced some challenges. She first had to schedule her classes around cancer treatments for her ailing aunt who passed away in 2015. Then her husband needed two surgeries to treat a heart condition. After he recovered, Jennifer focused again on her studies and her dissertation on the proliferation of hoax websites.

Jennifer’s findings show students entering college lack critical thinking skills that could help them weigh information on legitimate sites more favorably than questionable online content. All too often, Jennifer discovered, these undergraduates accepted questionable information because it supported their beliefs or solely because it was published online. She is advocating for teaching critical thinking skills for children in elementary school.

After commencement, Jennifer plans to publish a children’s book based on her dissertation. She also wants to open her own non-profit school where the curriculum will focus on technology and will develop these much-needed critical thinking skills in students.

By Chrystian Tejedor, Account Manager
College of Arts, Sciences & Education