Teaching computer science in Hawaii is vital to our future

10-Dec-2015

For Hour of Code week, Momilani Elementary School teacher and Code.org affiliate, Shane Asselstine wrote the following piece that was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "The evolution of technology is inevitable and will only become further integrated in our home and work life. By teaching literacy in computer science and technology to our keiki now, we are preparing them for the future and careers that don’t yet exist."

Momilani teacher Shane Asselstine and students at the “Believe -- Kükulu Kaiaulu: Building Global Communities” conference.

Photo Credit: Shane Asselstine

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The evolution of technology is inevitable and will only become further integrated in our home and work life." 

— Shane Asselstine


Computer science is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. I love teaching it because it touches so many aspects in our lives.

Pick up something from your desk, look through your bag or around the room — chances are the majority of the items you see were influenced by computer science in one way or another. It might have been in the marketing, manufacturing, or selling of the item, but one thing is for sure: computer science was involved.

Computer science goes beyond programming language skills. My students learn persistence, logical sequence, problem solving and complex thinking — skills needed to navigate the digital age.

For some, computer science and technology can be intimidating. Today's educators need to view technology as a tool, and computer science as a new literacy used as an engaging outlet for creativity and deeper thinking, rather than an added subject and workload.

To assist teachers with embracing and effectively implementing technology, the state Department of Education is increasing professional development. From hosting free workshops to presenting at conferences, my fellow tech educators and I are networking and building supports to help end apprehension of computer science and technology.

DOE is also collaborating with schools to ensure all students are becoming future-ready learners​. This means having high-speed broadband in all schools, tech support for educators with digital and blended learning, and assistance with a 1-to-1 device pilot, now in its second year.

As the department works with a limited budget toward getting more devices into the classrooms, some schools are moving forward with assistance from outside resources.​

At Momilani Elementary, where I teach, we raised funds to turn our campus into a 1-to-1 school through a variety of activities, including school-business partnerships and donations through parent engagement. Moving forward, we look toward a system where we can refresh our technology on a five-year cycle.

Many students have access to technology at home on a regular basis, but there are some who do not. Providing students with learning devices in classrooms allows us to level that playing field and change the learning dynamic. Of course, having devices alone isn't what makes a 1-to-1 program.

We use the technology at our school with programs such as Wonders, Stepping Stones and Go Math, but also in various other ways.

At Momilani, students enjoy using the popular video game Minecraft to create, explore, develop and design in a variety of scenarios such as creating efficient farms, roller coasters and even cakes — all while learning about budgeting, physics and entrepreneurialism.

Students are also given the opportunity to explore coding through the Code.org curriculum, Code Studio. They learn about concepts such as functions, events and conditionals in efforts to solve puzzles, create artwork, design games or tell a story.

Getting computer science into our classrooms is vital, and as the Code.org affiliate for Hawaii, I provide free training for teachers across the state. During the workshop, they learn the foundations of computer science and how to utilize the tools within Code Studio in the classroom. To date, more than 100 teachers have been trained to facilitate computer science with students.

The evolution of technology is inevitable and will only become further integrated in our home and work life. By teaching literacy in computer science and technology to our keiki now, we are preparing them for the future and careers that don't yet exist.


Dec. 7-13 is Computer Science Education Week, the time during which communities worldwide are encouraged to try an Hour of Code. Learn more: hourofcode.com/us. ​​

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