Mathieu Williams is a Technology and Digital Media Teacher at Kealakehe Intermediate Middle School in Kona, Hawai'i. He was recently named the 2019 Hawai'i State Teacher of the Year. Mathieu is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others through technology education. He uses Applied Digital Skills as an integral part of Kealakehe School’s digital media program.
Which Applied Digital Skills lessons have you used with your students?
I always begin my Introduction to Technology class for 7th and 8th graders with Create a Presentation About a Topic. I use it to help students introduce themselves, and explore and share their identities. And me too—I always share my presentation first. I try my best to create a safe space in which learners can understand and accept others. If kids don’t feel like they belong, they can’t learn. The lesson helps promote a culture of belonging in the classroom.
The lesson helps promote a culture of belonging in the classroom.
What specific benefits or skills do your learners gain from the curriculum?
Learning how to work together. The lessons offer so many opportunities for collaboration and communication, from sharing a document to presenting research to the class. And they encourage students to organize their thoughts in a systematic way, so they can communicate them to teachers and peers. This also helps prepare students for their professional future, where many of them will be using digital tools to work alongside other team members.
How does the curriculum fit with your teaching philosophy?
The curriculum frees me up to be the teacher I want to be. In general, I think we place too much emphasis on assessment in the sense of judgement or evaluation. The etymology of the word “assess” means to sit by or beside. For me, assessment is all about finding intentional opportunities to teach—and learn—beside my students every day. The Applied Digital Skills lessons allow me to learn alongside my students, and models that learning is shared and isn’t just run by a single person standing in front of the room.
The Applied Digital Skills lessons allow me to learn alongside my students, and models that learning is shared and isn’t just run by a single person standing in front of the room.
Can you share a specific student or educator success story?
Last year, in my Introduction to Technology class, one of my students expressed his sense of belonging in the middle of a project about identity. In Hawai'i, we have a socioemotional framework called HĀ: Nā Hopena A‘o that’s meant to honor the qualities and values of the indigenous language and culture. This student came up to me and said, “Mr. I really feel that I belong.” It made me reflect on the responsibility I have as a teacher to make sure that every kid has that sense of belonging—not just in the classroom, but in the world. Applied Digital Skills helps my students prepare for their future while also strengthening their skill sets to connect them to their self, place, and each other.