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Alan Tamayose, with Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Services, dons the Wings of Innovation, a hallmark of the 2024 KS Education Technology Conference.

After 5-year pause, KS EdTech Conference spreads its wings again

June 10, 2024

Hundreds of educators, techies and volunteers converged on the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, June 4-5, for the triumphant return of the KS Education Technology Conference. The event, with a “Ted Talk” kind of feel, is a chance for kumu to explore new advancements in education technology, share innovative ideas and further their professional development. 

The conference started back in the 2000s up on the Kapālama campus. Over the years, its popularity expanded in its locale and reach as teachers across Hawaiʻi, in addition to KS kumu, were invited to attend.  

However, as Darrin Sato, a director with KS Enterprise Technology Education Services explains, organizers have remained focused on delivering a meaningful experience, tailor-made to maximize learning for all who attend. 

“The intention was to create a national caliber conference in Hawaiʻi and keep it pretty intimate so that people could network and make meaningful connections with each other. There are some things that you can do in a smaller conference that you couldn't do when it's huge.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic put the conference on hiatus for five years. Returning to the Blaisdell this year, organizers came up with an apropos theme: “Deviate & Amplify”, a nod to the radical adaptation and innovation by teachers during the pandemic. 

“Anything that we do, whether it be technology integration or instructional practices, let's try to do something even greater or grander than what we've done in the past,” said Sato. 

The conference also delivered riveting keynote speakers with Nainoa Thomspon, Pwo navigator and CEO of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, delivering the day one address. 

Hundreds listened intently as Thompson explained how Hōkūleʻa would not have happened if not for teachers and innovators who were willing to deviate from the norm and amplify what they believed to be the right path forward.  

Nainoa Thompson
“The best way to forecast and predict tomorrow is what you teach your children today.” — Nainoa Thompson

Thompson shared stories of Herb Kāne, Ben Finney, Eddie Aikau, Snake Ah Hee, Lt. Col. Lacy Veach, Bishop Desmond Tutu and his makua kāne, Myron "Pinky" Thompson. But today's robust state of Polynesian seafaring couldn't have happened without master navigator Mau Piailug. He broke with tradition in the late 1970s to teach traditional wayfinding to Thompson. 

“Mau was the teacher breaking all the rules...deviating. Navigation is so protected in Micronesia, that one island doesn't give knowledge to the other. And even within the same island, Satawal, one family doesn't give it to another family. It's very deeply tied to the genealogy of who you are,” Thompson said. 

Piailug’s deviation from the norm has brought traditional wayfinding back from the brink of extinction and has amplified connections and voices across Moananuiākea.  

“Ultimately being a navigator at the highest level is not how well you sail, it’s how well you teach,” said Thompson, who also shared this manaʻo about the importance of kumu: “If you want to look at what's going to amplify the future the most, it's teachers. The best way to forecast and predict tomorrow is what you teach your children today. Teachers have the most underrated job, the most important job in society.” 

Amped up by Thompson’s speech, kumu fanned out to breakout sessions covering a vast array of topics including digital storytelling, AI, weaving voyaging and navigation into math lessons, eSports and even using 21st century methods to preserve Hawaiian moʻolelo. 

Ruby Redona, a library media specialist at KS Kapālama, has attended several EdTech conferences and says she relishes the opportunity to gain new skills and ʻike. 

“I like being inspired to try new and different things so I can bring it back and teach it to the kids. They love technology, but I want to be one step ahead. See what I can do to make my curriculum better.” 

There was also plenty of time for leʻaleʻa and pilina. A DJ spun tunes while people ate and talked story, the breakdancing troupe, Keiki Breaks, showed off their sweet moves and there were drawings for big prizes. Participants could earn more prize drawing tickets in several ways including taking selfies with the conference's signature Wings of Innovation. 

Keiki Breaks
Keiki Breaks, led by Jeff Wong from KS’ Budget and Awards Department, wowed the crowd on day one of the EdTech Conference.

Wings of Innovation
KS Enterprise Technology Division staffers Melissa Chang, Reid Kaneshiro and Anjanette Gilding sport the Wings of Innovation.

Some KS Kumu also had a chance to amplify their careers through the Kaʻapeha B Credit program. Kumu who signed up are tasked with reflecting on what they've learned and then coming up with a design plan for a lesson, activity or assessment that can be implemented in the classroom. The kumu received guidance from KS education technologists at the conference’s Coaching Corner, who expertly weave Hawaiian culture-based education and cutting-edge teaching tools.  

Coaching corner
Tye Deal and Jeannette Torres, from KS Enterprise Technology, help mentor kumu at the Coaching Corner.

“That’s what our processes and strategies are grounded in; the relationship between HCBE and technology. And it’s really driven by the kumu, it's a grassroots effort. As we're working with them, we're learning and growing together,” said Tye Deal, senior design instructor for KSʻ Information Technology Department. 

Lehua Rowland, a lead kumu at KS Preschool - Hōnaunau explains why she signed up for the B credit program. 

“I'm a lifelong learner. I want to keep up with the trends in early childhood education. I believe in integrating technology in preschool because it’s the vision of what Pauahi's asking us to do, to take kids into the 21st century.” 

Buoyed by a small army of volunteers, the post-pandemic return of the KS EdTech Conference was a huge success by all accounts. Kumu across Hawaiʻi pae ‘āina have been equipped with ideas and innovations to take learning to the next level in their classrooms. 

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