Category Archives: alia wong

Obstacles or Opportunities?

Kids are learning a distorted view of the digital world “that reflects the fears of adults rather than the aspirations of youth.”

This quote has stuck with me since I read this article, “Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web” by Alia Wong.  It is not only in relation to our use of technology, but how this statements connects to leadership.

Think of the difference between these two questions:

  1. How do we deal with students who are so addicted to these devices?


2. How do we take advantage of the opportunities that we have for learning with students having access to all of the information in the world at their fingertips?

In some ways they are the same question, both dealing with mobile devices.  It is the framing of the question that is different. One is looking at the obstacle, and the other is looking for the opportunity.  This is not about technology, but about leadership.  Are we moving people forward, or are questions sometimes holding them back?

The most untapped and valuable resource in our school is our students.  They have an enthusiasm that sometimes, we do not only fail to utilize, but maybe sometimes even squash. Questions to move forward are crucial, but we have to recognize when the way we ask them holds us back.

Are we framing obstacles or looking for opportunities?

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Protecting or Ignoring?

Kids are learning a distorted view of the digital world “that reflects the fears of adults rather than the aspirations of youth.” Alia Wong

There is this notion that ignoring social media in schools is a way of protecting our kids from the dangers of the web. Blocking sites like YouTube shields are kids from the inappropriate content they may find, and blocking kids from services like Twitter or Instagram will preserve them from online bullying. The reality of this mindset is that “ignoring” is protecting. It’s kind of like saying, we do not want kids to get in an accident in a car so we won’t teach them to drive. It doesn’t make much sense.

If we are really protecting our kids, we would teach, not ignore. In a world where being “googled” is more the norm than the exception, not guiding our students seems almost like the opposite of protecting. It seems like we are saying, “not our problem”.

Not good enough.

Never mind the power we have to connect, learn, and help kids create opportunities for themselves.  In a great article by Alia Wong titled, “Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web” (you should read the whole thing), the author quotes Danah Boyd on the need to educate on the intricacies of the web:

“Teens will not become critical contributors to this [Internet] ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive.

Neither teens nor adults are monolithic, and there is no magical relation between skills and age. Whether in school or in informal settings, youth need opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to engage with temporary technology effectively and meaningfully. Becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age.” Danah Boyd

Am I saying that there are not dangers out there? Absolutely not. But helping our kids learn to navigate the messiness and complexities of our world is more likely to protect our students than pretending the Internet doesn’t exist in the first place.

(If you want to explore further, check out this in depth document on “Digital Citizenship in Education” created by Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros for Saskatchewan Education, that offers a “roadmap for building appropriate school division policies and school-specific digital citizenship guidelines and procedures” as well as several ideas on implementation for digital citizenship education.)