REPORT FROM THE DOE – KEAAU, HI – From the Keaau Elementary School cafeteria, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today proclaimed Feb. 6 “Digital Learning Day” in Hawaii and commended Keaau students, faculty and staff for leading the state’s progress in the adoption of a common core digital curriculum.
This January, Keaau students in kindergarten through grade 8 began working under a digital curriculum that includes a digital device, such as a laptop or tablet, assigned for their personal use.
“Use of common core digital curricular materials and devices empowers our teachers and students with instructional innovations, engages our students in learning, and helps them to graduate with knowledge and preparation necessary to apply these technological tools in college and the workplace,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Moving toward a digital curriculum also eliminates practical issues such as obsolete or an insufficient supply of textbooks, while providing opportunity for students to become familiar with technology and tools of college and the workplace so they are college and career ready.”
In his 2012 State of the State address, Gov. Abercrombie called for digital devices for students to access technology for learning. Partners such as Hawaii Electric Light Company stepped forward to jumpstart the initiative with this signature project and build upon progress by early adopters such as Kalani High and Benjamin Parker Elementary Schools on Oahu. More recently, in his 2013 State of the State address, the Governor further promoted the state Department of Education’s initiative to move statewide to common curricular materials on digital devices within three years.
“Keaau Elementary is able to pilot digital learning because of the public-private partnership by those who saw the need and understood the investment,” stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Digital learning is critical in preparing our students for their future in this 21st Century.”
“We’re very grateful for the devices but also the training for our teachers,” added Principal Chad Keone Farias. “The training for the teachers was imperative for structuring productive learning assignments as well as empowering students.”
Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (HEI) and subsidiary Hawaii Electric Light Company were lead partners in directing $325,000 of their Aloha United Way corporate contribution to the demonstration project, known as the Makana Connection, which include providing 975 digital devices to Keaau Elementary and Middle Schools. HEI also provided training funds for teachers at Keaau schools, as well as Kalani High School on Oahu.
“More than a donation of digital learning devices, the Makana Connection is a public-private partnership that aims to prepare Hawaii’s diverse student population to thrive and excel in a 21st Century learning environment,” said Jay Ignacio, president of Hawaii Electric Light Company. “We encourage more companies and businesses to support this innovative education initiative. It’s an investment in our children, the educators, our community and the future of our state.”
To ensure the program’s success, Ignacio said that the company will also cooperate with the schools to offer opportunities for students, teachers and administrators to observe how 21st Century skills are used in the workplace. “This is all part of our ongoing partnership with our schools,” Ignacio added.
Hawaii 3Rs and Hawaii Electric Light Company coordinated transportation of devices from Honolulu to Hilo and from Hilo to Keaau, respectively. Hawaii Community Foundation provided planning support for Keaau teachers to attend the Schools of the Future Conference. Aloha United Way served as fiscal agent for the project. And, Punahou School assisted in imaging the devices (ensuring they had the right software) and providing onsite training on use.
Digital Learning Day is a national effort coordinated by Alliance for Excellent Education involving more than 35 states to promote digital learning opportunities for students. Hawaii is participating with other states in the second annual national Digital Learning Day (also Feb. 6).