Maui News

Kamehameha Schools and Microsoft Enter Technology Partnership

October 26, 2018, 11:38 AM HST
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Kamehameha Schools has entered into a technology partnership with Microsoft called a Memorandum of Understanding in order to help its students gain skills to prepare for a highly competitive work environment.

The goal of the partnership is to better prepare Kamehameha Schools students for technologically oriented work environments by introducing personalized and relevant learning experiences.

Microsoft will aid in this goal by incorporating next-generation teaching models and effective technology infrastructures to empower and inspire students to uplift their communities.

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An instructor guides Kamehameha School students through the Microsoft learning program. PC: KS.

A Kamehameha Schools student using the game Minecraft to build virtual worlds that help solve real world problems. PC: KS.

Two Kamehameha Schools students collaborating on the Microsoft learning program. PC: KS.

Kamehameha Schools instructors going over the progress of the Microsoft technology partnership program. PC: KS.

The classroom environment where Kamehameha Schools students use the game Minecraft as part of the new Microsoft technology partnership. PC: KS.

An instructor guiding Kamehameha Schools students through the learning process. PC: KS.

A Kamehameha Schools instructor overviews a student’s progress in Microsoft’s new technology partnership program. PC: KS.

“Establishing this partnership creates potential career pathways in the computer science and technology fields,” said KS Executive Vice President of Administration Darrel Hoke. “We teach students how to use the foundational elements, but they take this approach to learning to the next level by incorporating critical thinking, strategy and innovation, such as approaching issues through game theory. They learn in real time by searching online for answers and collaborating with their peers – it’s these efforts that will contribute to making the world a better place.”

One aspect of the Microsoft MOU that is already implemented integrates the popular game Minecraft. Seventh-grade haumāna at KS Kapālama Middle School are using the game to identify issues affecting the Native Hawaiian community. Students can use the game to virtually construct a world that resembles the communities around them and then alter certain structural and socio-economic factors to see how it can improve those very communities.

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KS’ Information Technology team has helped with installing and maintaining the “MinecraftEdu” platform, where students can “jump into the world” and build before taking kumu (teachers) on virtual tours where they can explain what they built and provide reasons and explanations throughout their building process.

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“The virtual world concept is not limited by physical constructs, so the students are excited because they can do anything with this platform,” said KS Microsoft Certified Educator Mark Nakayama. “Based on their research, students figured out what components would lead to the creation [of] a better world. We’re taking the fact that they know how to use these tools in a productive way and putting their imagination to work.

“With the new license that we have with Microsoft, the kids get an opportunity to explore without physical limitations and physical constraints of actual construction. They’re trying to impact their virtual environment positively on an island with natural features by picking real estate and building that world. This platform has led to greater engagement and kids even come in during recess to work on their projects!”

KS Kumu Gay Murakami incorporated the Minecraft exercises in her life skills class, which all seventh graders take over the course of the school year.

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“By adjusting the way materials are presented, the students are working more efficiently and really enjoying it,” said Murakami. “The project is too big for one Minecraft player, so this situation forces students to work effectively as teams.”

As one example, middle school student Rico DeMello focused on determining an adequate livable income. Within MinecraftEDU, he built small homes and explained that his team’s government will provide subsidies and affordable rent controls so workers can save money and eventually move into a larger home.

The virtual construction project involved excavating earth, arranging a foundation, building walls, installing roofing, and placing doors that open by stepping on a panel. Haumāna also considered the natural elements, such as avoiding construction over caves that could collapse and situating the virtual city close to the ocean to provide access to ports and recreational activities.

“The process,” said DeMello of the three-plus hours spent in Minecraft on the project over multiple weeks “doesn’t take very long as long as you get it right the first time!”

The MOU also includes access to the Microsoft Imagine Academy Program, which helps students achieve industry-recognized skills and certifications on the latest technologies. The Academy provides resources that benefit students, faculty and staff, and aims to bolster the skills of college- and career-bound students to become better communicators, critical thinkers, innovators and problem solvers.

The partnership will also help Microsoft incorporate ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) through its Artificial Intelligence program, which will create a more seamless integration of the Native Hawaiian language across multiple digital platforms.

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