Pilot Program Gets Computers To Students

Kidani’s Korner…Sen. Michelle Kidani

Many parents and grandparents must surely shake their heads in amazement at the way today’s youngsters embrace technology. That’s certainly true in our family, as youngsters still approaching kindergarten display a familiarity with computing resources that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

In this new reality, it is heartening that the state Department of Education plans to place tablets or laptops in the hands of every student and teacher in eight Hawaii public schools in the first phase of an exciting new initiative. We also are so pleased that two of those schools are right here in Mililani, with students receiving their new learning tools as the 2014 school year begins.

MidWeek‘s Central Oahu Islander rightfully put the story on the front page two weeks ago; this is a big deal. The leadership at Mililani Waena and Mililani Mauka Elementary are to be congratulated for their plans that have been accepted as a part of the digital curriculum pilot program.

The Legislature’s decision to allocate $8 million for this program’s initial phase was influenced in part by the experiences at Keaau Elementary on Hawaii Island, where all 800 students have been using school-supplied tablets and laptops for two years. Principal Chad Farias reported improved test scores, exceeding the state standard in math, and huge improvements in reading skills and readiness. He cited significantly decreased absenteeism at Keaau and a “true love for learning” as the prevailing environment since the technology program was introduced.

With the implementation of the program, Hawaii joins several other states with programs aimed at finding better ways of engaging students and nurturing learning. The National Conference of State Legislatures is monitoring the varied approaches, and is a valuable resource in encouraging states to share their experiences.

Here in Hawaii, legislative oversight of the DOE is the responsibility of the Education Committees in the House and Senate. I serve as vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, and we made a bit of history during the last session, pioneering the use of our own brand-new digital resources.

In late January, during a hearing on the state’s progress with the “Race to the Top” education grant, we heard testimony from Hawaii Island using the new Neighbor Island Video Conferencing System for the very first time. The system – long championed by our Education chair, Sen. Jill Tokuda – has the potential to greatly expand dialogue between lawmakers and residents on the other islands who are not able to travel to Oahu for hearings.

All of us – students, parents, teachers, administrators and legislators – are learning about the enormous potential of technology in the classroom and in our Capitol hearing rooms.

Contact Sen. Kidani at her Capitol office, room 228, by phone at 586-7100, or