January 30, 2019

Lanai Teachers Learn to Code

Coding was once a specialized skill reserved for computer programmers, but today, it’s being introduced to students at an early age. Through coding, keiki as young as elementary school learn valuable skills that enable them to thrive in a technology-driven workforce, and makes them more creative problem solvers, too.

Before students can learn to code, teachers must get the training they need to teach these hands-on lessons. On Jan. 19–21, Lanai High & Elementary School (LHES) teachers got the chance to learn coding basics taught by Ian Kitajima, director of corporate development and tech sherpa at Oceanit.

5000 Coding Teachers in 5 Years

Oceanit created an initiative to train and certify 5,000 DOE educators in the Altino Coding System in five years. The Altino System, created specifically to train non-technical teachers, is a three-credit course structured over three days and two online sessions.

By the end of 2018, Oceanit trained nearly 200 teachers from 58 different schools in the Altino System. Each teacher trained has the potential to reach 50 students.

LHES principal Elton Kinoshita attended one of the first workshops held by Oceanit in 2016, and remains a supporter of the program. With the help of Principal Kinoshita, Dr. Patrick Sullivan from Oceanit, and Kurt Matsumoto from Pulama Lanai, Oceanit scheduled a training for teachers on Lanai over the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Coding Cars, Solving Problems

16 teachers and community members participated in the hands-on course, which taught C language programming using Arduino, an open-source electronics platform.

“You learn a function or command, code it, upload it to the car and see what the car does,” explained Kitajima. “The real learning happens when the car doesn’t do what you want!”

Over three days, teachers learned dozens of functions, problem-solved coding challenges and created lesson plans.

Many of the teachers had never taken a computer programming course before. Through the interactive lessons, they picked up the skills they needed to bring coding to their own classrooms.

“Everyone always comes in thinking they can’t do computer programming. They say, ‘I’m not a math person, I can barely make my computer work, I don’t know if I can do this,’” said Kitajima. “In about one hour, they write their first program and they are coding.”

The teachers coded their cars to flash lights in different designs and turn in circles on the ground before coming to a stop. The classroom was filled with smiles and excitement as the cars zoomed around on their programmed paths.

“The pride, the confidence — when our teachers feel that, you know they are more likely to bring that same great feeling to their students,” added Kitajima.

Thanks to Oceanit and our LHES teachers, students on Lanai will soon be able to experience coding for themselves.

Watch Ian Kitajima talk about his time on Lanai and how to make learning fun during his Hawaii News Now: Sunrise appearance.

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