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a child wears a mask while sitting in front of a laptop for a Hawaii Technology Academy class

Hawaii Technology Academy: Leaders in Distance Learning During a Pandemic

Get to Know Hawaii Technology Academy

The sudden shift to virtual instruction in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic left schools across the world scrambling to effectively deliver instruction to students of all ages and needs. Students, teachers, and parents had to adjust to the new normal: distance learning. While this change was certainly unprecedented, it presented Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA) — a tuition-free, WASC accredited, DOE public charter school serving more than 1,200 students across the Hawaiian islands — with a unique opportunity to showcase its extensive experience with virtual instruction. In fact, HTA has operated as a blended learning school (face-to-face, virtual, and independent instruction) for more than 12 years. Because of this innovative academic approach, the use of technology and online learning are intrinsic characteristics of their curriculum. Consequently, when the pandemic struck, they were equipped with a distinctive preparedness to take on distance learning.

Traditionally, Hawaii Technology Academy has offered a five-day-a-week educational model. Teachers conduct online lessons during virtual class days, students study on their own during independent instruction days, and Learning Coaches (HTA’s term for parents and guardians) are highly involved in their student’s academic journey every step of the way. To help support parents and guardians success in their important roles, HTA provides Learning Coaches with thorough training sessions throughout the school year that cover their responsibilities, offer technical support, and help navigate HTA’s online curriculum platforms.

 

While students, teachers, and families are inherently well-acquainted with virtual learning at HTA, the loss of face-to-face classroom days — and the subsequent loss of social interaction — would surely affect all. To ensure students remained connected and engaged while transitioning to a fully virtual setting, teachers initiated virtual group meetings where students were able to check in and receive both academic and socioemotional support. Students even created virtual peer support groups and HTA’s administration team put together a statewide Spirit Week — in addition to a plethora of online activities.

You see, although HTA’s academic program encompasses remote learning, the school is well-known for providing students with a variety of project-based learning opportunities. This method of learning takes students beyond the walls of the classroom — whether through the use of technology or by physically walking outside of the school doors. This way, students gain deeper content knowledge, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills. At the high school level, HTA’s successful Work-Based Learning Program allows students to work with various community partners, experts, organizations, and companies to learn and apply their technical and academic skills in real-life situations. This program exposes students to various career pathways, so whether they know what they want their future to look like or are still unsure, they have plenty of opportunities to explore their passions and interests.

A masked student sits in the cockpit of a plane during a Hawaii Technology Academy learning event

Even though students could not meet face-to-face and visit sites in-person during the pandemic, Hawaii Technology Academy offered a variety of statewide virtual opportunities hosted both internally and by community organizations. Students took virtual trips to Costa Rica, attended online entrepreneurship workshops, and participated in innovation contests with peers both in Hawaii and abroad.

Through it all, the safety of HTA’s students, families, teachers, and staff remained absolutely paramount. Reopening safety guidelines were strictly set in place, campuses were deep-cleaned and stocked with proper sanitization materials, and face-to-face interaction only occurred while taking all necessary precautions.

Yet, quite recently, HTA’s Governing Board voted to introduce more face-to-face opportunities on the campuses/islands that can effectively maintain social distancing requirements. Students have already engaged in various outdoor activities, and, depending on their campus/island, have come to class for small group instruction. The school remains optimistic and hopeful for what the future holds.

A child in a mask hugs a rainbow eucalyptus tree as part of Hawaii Technology Academy's hands-on learning programs.

Open Enrollment for Hawaii Technology Academy Coming Soon!

HTA’s open enrollment begins on February 8, 2021 for the following locations/grade levels: Hawai’i Island K-12, Maui 2-12, Oahu K-12, and Kauai 6-12. Parents can sign up for Information Sessions as soon as January 19, 2021. Please note that attendance at an Information Session is mandatory to begin the enrollment process. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the enrollment website.

Enrollment will remain open until June 30, 2021 or until spaces are filled.

 

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