Dan Hoffman and Wist Hall
Dan Hoffman

To provide Hawaiʻi educators with the skills needed to integrate computer science (CS) into their instruction, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor Dan Hoffman is researching the role of culturally-relevant computing. Hoffman, of the College of Education (COE) Department of Learning Design and Technology (LTEC), was awarded nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his three-year grant program, Advancing Research and Practice in Culturally-Relevant Computing.

“This is an opportunity to collaborate with teachers in ways that open up the world of CS while promoting and sustaining Hawaiʻi’s unique place, history, culture and language,” said Hoffman. “By adopting an interdisciplinary stance, we hope to move beyond brief, standardized CS experiences toward something deeper and more personally relevant for learners.”

Co-directors of the program include LTEC Associate Professors Peter Leong and Seungoh Paek, and Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies Associate Specialist Rochelle Kaʻaloa.

“For me, this grant represents our commitment to bringing CS education to more elementary students in Hawaiʻi by making it culturally relevant to our keiki,” said Leong. “Traditionally, most STEM topics have been taught from a western culture perspective, making it more difficult for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island students to relate.”

A partnership between UH Mānoa and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE), the project will provide 230 elementary educators professional development in how to promote CS and valued culture-based outcomes. In addition to providing resources and training to teachers, the project will explore how culturally relevant, sustaining pedagogy can be leveraged to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM-related fields more broadly.

“As a Native Hawaiian educator, who has spent more than 20 years advocating through my teaching and research for increased access and opportunities for technology use by our haumana (students) to tell their stories and dream their futures, this grant provides a rich opportunity to open spaces through culturally relevant pedagogy to increase diversity and equity in student experiences in CS education,” Kaʻaloa said.

The Advancing Research and Practice in Culturally-Relevant Computing project team acknowledged COE’s Mike Menchaca, Kitty Hino, Val Shearer and Keith Tokuda for their ongoing support as well as the HIDOE’s Brett Tanaka and the Computer Science Working Group for their commitment to high quality computer science education in Hawaiʻi.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), and Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF) two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

By Jennifer Parks