Staffer, alumnus Gavon Wong aligns passion with purpose to give back

Jun. 7, 2018

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

Earlier this year, Education Technology Services – Training Instructional Designer Gavon Wong decided to use a hobby and a passion for language to create an interactive fishing game that teaches Japanese adjectives.

Wong is a 1994 alumnus of KS Kapālama and took four years of Japanese as a student at KS. As a hobby, he creates interactive educational games in Adobe Flash, ActionScript, JavaScript and HTML5. He spent two years in Japan on a church mission, and even earned a minor in Japanese from Brigham Young University.

Upon returning home after a decade in Utah and California working as a graphic designer and web developer, Wong continued to use his Japanese to work at several jobs in the tourism industry and sales and marketing. But after deciding to earn a master’s degree in educational technology/learning technology at UH Mānoa, Wong was able to return to KSK, working in the IT Department since 2013.

Ever since he started working for KS, he’s been looking for an opportunity to blend his prowess for Japanese, with his passion in designing digital games in a way that could benefit the institution. Growing up, his parents fostered a lot of emphasis in education and entertainment.  Wong’s mother, Yvonne Wong (Kukahiko) – a KSK 1958 graduate – was a teacher, librarian and hula dancer.  His father, Gary AhVah Wong, was a behavior specialist, training and development specialist, producer and singer.

“For me instructional design was the perfect job for me because it combined education and entertainment,” shared Wong. 

“You not only have to educate learners, but do it in a way that is effective and engaging so the learner will retain the information and enjoy ingesting the content. That’s where making the delivery of the content entertaining is important.

“Now that I found instructional design and educational game development as new passions in life, being able to work in education for Kamehameha Schools is paying tribute to my parents, especially to my mother, who passed away when I was 10 years old. Her hope for me was that I would attend Kamehameha like she did.”

In pursuing his game idea, Wong asked for and received advice from Director of Educational Technology Services Darrin Sato and worked with Senior Instructional Technology Specialist Alan Tamayose who helps the language departments on KS Kapālama  with their technology needs. Tamayose then made the connection to Japanese language kumu Masahiro Yamaguchi, who agreed to serve as a subject matter expert for the project Wong had in mind.  

In addition to Education Technology Services staffers Sam Nihipali, Edmond Mak and Raleigh Maupin, who provided some feedback and consultation, Wong collaborated with his wife, Dr. Kathryn Taketa-Wong, who provided the Japanese voiceover for elements of the game.  

The project took roughly about 450 hours to complete.

“So I got to use my skills in Articulate Storyline 360, graphic design, instructional design and web coding to create an interactive educational game for KS students,” said Wong. “When it comes to utilizing my talents to make something that I enjoy doing for the organization that gave me so much as a student, that is the formula for great job satisfaction.”

After completing the game, he was able to demo it with Japanese language students at KS Kapālama. He was invited to present to Yamaguchi’s class where he shared more about his life as a KS student, experience with web development, graphic design and Japanese language.

“After creating this game and having sensei Masahiro Yamaguchi incorporate it into his curriculum, the feedback from his students and faculty has been great,” shares Wong.

“Mahalo to sensei Masahiro Yamaguchi for the opportunity to share some time for Pauahi’s children. And mahalo KS for providing students and alumni with the tools and knowledge we need to prosper.”

But for Wong, he knows it’s just the start as he looks to continue to develop games in other languages.

“I love learning languages whether it’s coding or cultural,” says Wong. “I still have a lot to learn and always look forward to improving my coding knowledge and game development skills.”

Wong is currently working on another language project with Chinese language teacher I-Ling Ogawa on a Chinese verb interactive action game that will incorporate martial arts and punching the correct boards and punching bags that have Chinese characters written on them.  

“I am also traveling with my colleagues in IT ETS-Instructional to some of the charter schools to see how creating interactive educational games can benefit their curriculum and reinforce the learning of the Hawaiian language,” says Wong. “I am looking forward to designing those games in Hawaiian language for sure.”

Try your hand at Wong’s interactive fishing game, Aqua Adjectives.

KS Training Instructional Designer Gavon Wong (center) created an online interactive fishing action game that teaches Japanese adjectives. Above, Wong huddles with his KS Kapālama Japanese language students.

Wong shares his experience as a KS student and web development and graphic design career information with KSK sensei Masahiro Yamaguchiʻs class.

Sample Wongʻs game Aqua Adjectives at by following the link above.