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Special Episode: Enabling a New Generation with Technology and Hawaiian Cultural Values
Apr 15, 2020
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Blaine Kaho`onei is an Alliances Director for Heroku; he also sits on the board for Purple Mai`a, an online learning platform bringing technology skillsets to the native Hawaiian community. He's joined in conversation by David Pickett, a software developer and lead instructor with Purple Mai`a, as well as Jennifer Hooper, Heroku's Technical Product Marketing, Content, and Brand Director, who has also volunteered at Purple Mai`a. Blaine begins the dialog by talking about his interest in bringing together Hawaii's rich history of innovation and technological development with its indigenous culture. There aren't many economic opportunities for native families in Hawaii, nor are they programs designed to provide the youth with a valuable technical skill set. Most people with coding or design skills have felt the need to move away, furthering splintering the Hawaiian community. Blaine and David are keen to establish a tech hub in Hawaii.

Blaine Kaho`onei is an Alliances Director for Heroku; he also sits on the board for Purple Mai`a, an educational non-profit, whose mission is to educate and inspire the native Hawaiian community through cultural, social and enterprise technologies. He's joined in conversation by David Pickett, a software developer and lead instructor with Purple Mai`a, as well as Jennifer Hooper, Heroku's Technical Product Marketing, Content, and Brand Director, who has also volunteered at Purple Mai`a. Blaine begins the dialog by talking about his interest in bringing together Hawaii's rich history of innovation and technological development with its indigenous culture. There aren't many economic opportunities for native families in Hawaii, nor are they programs designed to provide the youth with a valuable technical skill set. Most people with coding or design skills have felt the need to move away, furthering splintering the Hawaiian community. Blaine and David are keen to grow the tech hub in Hawaii.

To accomplish that mission, Purple Mai`a's main focus is on middle school-aged students in classrooms. Volunteers and staff teach students on a range of topics, from coding and computer science fundamentals to user experience design and graphics design. In order to work towards assisting as many students as possible, David saw the need for incorporating a learning management system. Unable to find one that was centered on the student, they built their own platform called Haumana in 2017. They wanted it to be a tool for students to learn through what they're motivated about. This platform was in-use for in-person classes and is now being used for remote-only classes. Jennifer became involved in the program by volunteering her time answering questions on what a career in tech looks like. She also provides feedback on students' projects, and teaches them ways outside of the classroom to work on themselves, such as maintaining a LinkedIn profile. She has also provided insights into how Haumana can better achieve its goals with the critical perspective of an outside user.

Many more classrooms are moving their curriculum online, whether by choice or circumstance. Purple Mai`a's ability to adapt, innovate, and embrace change on the fly have served Hawaiian teachers and students well over the years. Their emphasis on bridging Hawaiian culture with a valuable education provides them with a unique opportunity that they've ultimately succeeded at.

Links from this episode

  • Purple Mai`a is a technology education nonprofit whose mission is to teach coding and computer science to Native Hawaiian students.
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