Maui students are learning modern skills in a contemporary program designed in Hawaii, and the nation is taking notice. HIKI NŌ, the nation’s first student news network, is groundbreaking not just in its approach of embracing technology tools for students, but also how it’s using media to teach students life skills that will help them become active members of the workforce.
With two seasons completed, it received the 2012 EDGE Award, presented by the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) at its annual Public Media Summit in Washington, DC. This award recognizes a public television station that uses digital technology and partnerships to bring something innovative to their communities.
MauiTime asked PBS Hawaii President Leslie Wilcox for her insight into the program and what the recent national recognition means for their students:
MAUITIME: You must be thrilled with the national recognition. Did you expect the project to be successful and recognized on a such a level?
LESLIE WILCOX: Our seed money, a $200,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, calls for us to provide a toolkit so this type of program can be replicated by other PBS stations on the Mainland. We did think there would be interest from other jurisdictions, because this program builds 21st century workforce skills and fills a widening gap of community information and local news. And we had a great deal of belief in the dedication and smarts of Hawaii’s students and teachers. But certainly, we weren’t gunning for a national award—and we certainly never expected the program to win a national award at the beginning of its second year! We did not apply for this recognition. Since the program is online as well as on-air, it was noticed an ocean away…
MT: Are there any other programs like this in the nation?
WILCOX: We’ve been told by digital media experts that this is by far the biggest and most ambitious student digital media program in the country. Nobody else has tried to go statewide and chosen to be so inclusive in welcoming all middle and high schools. I think many observers are quite surprised and impressed at the quality of the work being done, even by small schools in under-resourced rural areas. And sometimes the middle school students do every bit as good, or even better, a job than high school students.
MT: What does this award mean for the future of HN?
WILCOX: Even if we hadn’t received this award, we would have joyously pressed on with it. Students and teachers tell us it’s been a life-changing experience. And viewers tell us they’re hearing from fresh voices in diverse communities that were invisible in Hawaii media. The program is growing exponentially, with 73 public and charter schools participating at no cost to the schools. It’s open to all middle and high schools in the state, and two grade schools have even applied and been accepted.
MT: What kind of impact will it have on the program?
WILCOX: We hope the national award will translate to more interest from more funders. We’ve had the good fortune to be fully funded for three years, by local foundations and individuals and Mainland institutions (including the first-ever Knight Foundation grant in Hawaii). However, time is passing and there is far more demand by schools than initially expected.
MT: What do the schools have to do to participate?
WILCOX: The schools apply with our HIKI NŌ Managing Editor, Susan Yim at email@example.com. We provide mentorship to the teachers at no cost. If a school doesn’t have equipment, they may borrow key equipment from a “lending library” we’ve set up in every county with the help of the Atherton Foundation.
MT: How can the community support HIKI NŌ?
WILCOX: The community can help by watching this weekly newscast, on-air or online, and encouraging the students in their area! Also, our nonprofit organization welcomes monetary gifts to maintain and improve this educational program, at pbshawaii.org/support. Just note that you want your gift to go to HIKI NŌ.
MT: What kind of benefits for the students are being seen in the program?
WILCOX: The 21st century skills being learned in this program help in virtually any career field. HIKI NŌ meets all of the required General Learner Outcomes (GLOs) in the Department of Education; and it satisfies every one of the respected author and educator Dr. Tony Wagner’s skills and habits-of-mind for the Global Age of Knowledge: critical thinking, curiosity, oral and written communications, networking, etc.
Students enjoy creating, collaborating and connecting—and they enjoy this real-world training. Traditional journalism seems fresh and novel to them after growing up as digital natives with the opportunity to rant on the web or listen to opinions-masked-as-fact on some cable shows.
MT: Is it open to any student?
WILCOX: All middle and high schools in Hawaii are eligible. There just needs to be a teacher willing to guide a student media team. We work directly with teachers.
MT: I noticed that you received a grant from the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) for $5,000. Where are your other sources of funding?
WILCOX: The MEDB is making possible additional training for Maui County school participants on Maui, Lanai and Molokai. Very exciting! By the way, teacher Clint Gima from Maui High School is a key member of HIKI NŌ’s statewide Teachers Steering Committee, and has been on the steering committee since the start, giving valuable counsel. We’re on every main island. In addition, students on the private island of Ni’ihau who commute by boat to a Kauai school also participate.
Program funding has come from the people of Hawaii, The Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation, Hawaii Community Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and others. Right now we’re trying to match a $10,000 challenge grant from the George Mason Fund. He was the publisher of Pacific Business News.