In these uncertain times, schools island-wide had to quickly adjust to remote learning for their students. As the school year winds down, we talk to Emily Lupu of Hawaii Technology Academy about how the school, parents, and the children are responding to this new world of education. For enrollment information, visit https://hi.myhta.org.
How are you translating your education model into a remote learning experience?
While the sudden shift to a fully virtual setting was indeed unprecedented, Hawaii Technology Academy’s unique blended learning academic approach equipped us with a level of preparation for a situation that no one could have anticipated.
Typically, HTA offers a five-day-a-week program for students that incorporates a combination of face-to-face instruction, virtual instruction, and independent learning. This model promotes academic independence and accountability and allows our learning coaches to be highly involved in their child’s education while having ongoing support from a certified teacher. A learning coach is the HTA term for the adult/parent in the household who assists the student in completing their daily academic tasks.
Our innovative blended learning model also means that our teachers, students, and parents are familiar with virtual learning practices, as it is an inherent component of how we do school differently. Undoubtedly, our existing experience with virtual learning helped our teachers and families transition to a completely remote learning environment.
That being said, one of HTA’s distinguishing aspects is our emphasis on work-based and experiential learning. We provide our students with real-life work experiences that allow them to apply both academic and technical skills. This is done through field studies, internships, and various community projects. We communicated with various organizations on strategies to ensure our students continue their education and have access to virtual work-based learning opportunities.
One of the most exciting recent opportunities we have encountered is a unique collaboration with Oceanit. Our students and teachers partnered with this groundbreaking company – as well as various community leaders – on a special project with Aloha AI. This project was launched as a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, with the purpose of developing solutions using artificial intelligence (AI).
How are the students responding? What has been the most successful aspect of the evolving programs?
Given the stressful circumstances, our students and learning coaches have been incredibly resilient and understanding. It has been a true testament to our strong HTA ‘Ohana spirit.
Although we are a blended learning school, it was imperative to understand that our students mourned the loss of social interaction with their peers and teachers that traditionally occurred during regular face-to-face classes. The emotional and social repercussions of the transition are not something we took lightly. Our teachers were quick to set up virtual support groups, virtual lunch bunches, and held virtual office hours to regularly check-in with students. Maintaining a sense of community in a virtual space is very important. To do so, teachers created virtual event days where they hosted different activities in each “Zoom room” such as trivia, arts/crafts, etc. Several HTA high school students even started their own “HTA Helpers” support group in an effort to provide academic tutoring and emotional comfort to fellow students. Academically, we continued to provide enrichment activities that helped students maintain what they had learned thus far and allowed them to regularly engage with their teachers.
We also implemented an HTA Spirit Week that included different prompts (academic and recreational) for Elementary, Middle and High School. We encouraged our students to embody their five HTA Core Values of Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Character. The response we received was outstanding and was highly successful in connecting the students to their peers and school.
What are you hoping students will gain from this unique experience?
In the words of our Associate Director, Matt Zitello, “At HTA, we talk about being leaders in our school, in our community, and in our families. Oftentimes, a leader needs to think innovatively and creatively. What’s important to remember is that innovation typically occurs as a result of a disruptive event. A disruptive event has the power to change minds and entire systems.”
We hope our HTA students will learn to flourish in the face of adversity. We hope they will continue to think critically, ask questions, and develop solutions. We hope they continue to think outside the box and do things differently.
How can parents support teachers and their schools?
HTA could not be what it is without the support of our learning coaches. We deeply value our parent-teacher relationships. If you would like to help support HTA and our teachers, there are various ways to donate through our Friends of HTA Foundation, a non-profit organization created to financially support the mission, vision and strategic initiatives of Hawaii Technology Academy.
In one sentence, how would you describe what makes your school unique?
At HTA, we do school differently by encouraging our students and teachers to think differently.
Hawaii Technology Academy is now enrolling.
Enrollment for school year 2020-2021 will open on February 10, 2020 for the following locations/grade levels: Oahu grades K-12, Hawai’i Island grades K-12, Kauai grades 6-12, and Maui grades 2-12. Enrollment will remain open until July 1, 2020 or until space is filled. Register for an Information Session today! https://hi.myhta.org/enrollment-information.html