Ron examines how high school students of different class backgrounds in Vancouver develop diverse digital practices. His goal is to contribute to educational policies that enable equitable digital instruction for the new BC curriculum. Ron collaborates with the Vancouver School Board and is affiliated with the UBC Digital Literacy Centre. 

Research Description

Recognizing that technology has become critical in gaining social mobility in the 21st century, this research examines how the integration of digitally-mediated instruction in Vancouver high schools can shape new educational inequities. It challenges the idea of the “digital native” and its corresponding assumptions of today’s youth, and explores how students of different social class locations can develop unequal digital literacies. To understand these inequities, this research focuses particularly on recently immigrated Filipino high school students, the differences of their personal devices, home settings, mentors and social networks, and how these differences can shape diverse digital mindsets and practices. Because students learn these new literacies outside of school, this research asks: Who are acquiring the digital literacies that matter? Who are being left out? To what extent have schools expanded its conceptions of literacy to accommodate the demands of the knowledge economy and the perpetually shifting digital landscape? 

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

A public scholar is one who creates and shares knowledge that can empower others and enable action. For research to remain relevant, we need to communicate our ideas not just to fellow academics but also to diverse members of the community whose lives may be impacted by what we discover. A public scholar does not just impart knowledge, but engages with others in innovative ways, listens, collaborates, and facilitates meaningful action.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The Public Scholars Initiative is a brilliant way to steer scholarship towards meaningful engagement with the community. It challenges us to rethink traditional academic practices and expectations such as publishing in top-tier journals, presenting in conferences and finding tenure-track positions, and to find new, innovative ways to share knowledge and reach people whose lives are impacted by our work.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

Because of my research, I've been able to forge connections with various institutions, community organizations and non-profit agencies, with whom I hope to continue finding opportunities to collaborate.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My research has allowed me to partner with the Vancouver School Board to design and deliver programs for English language learning (ELL) students such as a digital storytelling workshop and after-school classes on developing reading comprehension skills for Math and Science. 

Through the UBC Philippine Studies Series, I have organized community forums to discuss the educational issues of Filipino students, and have hosted a radio program on Vancouver Coop Radio 100.5FM that focused on issues of integration of Filipino immigrants. Based on my research, I’ve written “Waiting”, a play about a Filipino caregiver mother and her teenage son that has been performed several times for teachers and administrators to serve as a springboard to discussing issues of long term family separation wrought by temporary migrant worker arrangements. Recently published in a literature textbook in the Philippines, this play is now being taught in high schools and enabling Filipino youth to discuss these issues. 

As a graduate research associate of the UBC Digital Literacy Centre, I have co-organized two conferences that brought together scholars, teachers, librarians, students and non-profit agency workers to discuss how digital inequalities are impacting the lives of people in the Lower Mainland, particularly in terms of their access to employment opportunities, government and medical services. I have also designed and taught a UBC Summer Institute on Critical Digital Literacy for teachers and librarians in BC. 

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

Through my work, I hope that high school students in British Columbia, regardless of their class backgrounds, will be able to develop the digital literacies that will allow them to find meaningful opportunities for themselves and for the world.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I was 25 when I decided teaching was my vocation, and after ten years as an educator, I wanted to discover new ways to contribute to learning, and to continue learning new things myself. As a political and personal project, my research represents my commitment to education and social justice, and the conviction that everyone has the right to learn what truly matters. It weaves together my experiences as teacher, Filipino, migrant, and lifelong learner.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

The work of my supervisor Dr. Bonny Norton intersects with my research in many ways and has inspired scholars and practitioners all over the world. I admire Bonny not only as a brilliant researcher and educator, but also as a mentor with an immensely generous spirit. UBC's Department of Language and Literacy Education is home to many who are committed to responding to very critical issues in education.


A public scholar does not just impart knowledge, but engages with others in innovative ways, listens, collaborates, and facilitates meaningful action".