Integrating digital media into classrooms in a way that supports
culture/place based language arts and STEM education

An offshoot of the Growing Pono Schools initiative and starting in 2014, Literacy through Digital Media and is a collaboration of the University of Hawai‘i, ALU LIKE, Inc., and the Hawai‘i Department of Education which aims to improve the academic outcomes of Native Hawaiian and other elementary school students by:

  • Introducing literacy-rich and culturally-relevant technology lessons in grades K-6, and
  • Training educators to enhance the language arts experience of students by integrating culturally relevant technology lessons into instruction.

Goals include:

  • Schools having access to culturally relevant and engaging instructional resources
  • Educators being able to align their culturally relevant instruction with DOE Common Core State Standards
  • Students meeting proficiency standards in reading, writing, and technology

Funded by the federal USDOE Native Hawaiian Education Program, Literacy through Digital Media animates learning through culturally relevant education materials and hands on video production. The idea is to provide resources schools can use to implement culture-based education, a strategy researchers have found effective for academic achievement and which adopts teaching practices and curricula that link schooling to the surrounding cultural and physical environment. As an example, video production activities allow students to present their work to a wider public audience, which can motivate them to achieve at a higher level. Lessons can be generalized to schools beyond Hawai‘i, specifically schools with high concentrations of indigenous youth.


Improve Native Hawaiian student engagement and motivation to learn through culture/place based literacy & digital media lessons.


Train DOE teachers, educational assistants, and Kupuna

Delivery of literacy & technology-rich culture/place based curricula


Increased student engagement

Increased student motivation to learn

Increased ability of Kupuna to align their instruction with core standards

Increased school access to culturally relevant instructional tools

The initial 2014-2017 project partnered with three Hawai‘i Department of Education (DOE) Elementary Schools (Blanche Pope, He‘eia, Kipapa) and the DOE Kūpuna Program in developing and piloting classroom lessons and kūpuna trainings. Classroom lessons focused on grades 3-6 and integrating language arts and digital media. Kūpuna trainings built DOE Kūpuna Program capacity to support place-based language arts and STEM education by introducing kūpuna to innovative place-based strategies and content and providing step by step instructions on integrating technology and digital media into their classroom lesson plans. Lessons were implemented in 12 DOE Windward and Central District elementary schools by project staff and by project-trained DOE kūpuna and reached 3,300+ students. Data collected in the three pilot elementary schools showed increases in student engagement, team work, cultural identity, and understanding of digital media.

Positive student outcomes demonstrated in the pilot schools, as well as continued interest from DOE principals, teachers, and the Kūpuna and Kahua Teacher Induction Programs, led to the current project. We continue to work with the DOE and the pilot schools and have the goal of supporting sustainable lesson implementation by:

  1. Developing step-by-step instructional guides for educators, and
  2. Training more educators, including kūpuna, teachers (new and veteran), and teaching assistants (para-educators).