New Zealand’s High Tech Youth Network—Connecting the Pacific Region

High Tech Youth Network (HTYN) is a learning community focused on empowering young people in hard-to-reach and underserved communities throughout the Pacific. The goal is to help them become more confident, resilient, and creative lifelong learners by linking their unique cultural knowledge with technology.

Studio Shaka, at Connections Public Charter School in Hilo, Hawaii, is the first HTYN site in the U.S. As shown in Tuesday’s blogpost, Studio Shaka is already transforming young lives. I can only hope there will be many more sites just like it.

HTYN originated in New Zealand in 1998. CEO Mike Usmar, a New Zealand native, was in Hawaii during my May visit working with Hawaii state director John Corey to expand HTYN to other sites in Hawaii. According to Mike, “The digitally connected world and high-tech tools do not discriminate against those who come from lower socio-economic communities. Indeed, what we have discovered is that young people as early adopters of technology are keen to be connected, are ready to share and create new content, and in the process, establish strong social and cultural capital.”

And network it is. Here are several Studio Shaka students skyping with New Zealand mentors during their after school day.

And in another Skpe session, I watched this young man play his newly-written song on his guitar for his New Zealand mentors who instantly engaged with him to create additional lyrics and harmonies. Pretty awesome.


Here’s what I observed at Studio Shaka: energized youth eager to showcase their skills. Supportive and engaged staff and mentors who participate in, rather than simply supervise, the learning activities. Caring and trusted relationships among students and staff. Students motivated to discover. Students taking ownership of their learning in project-based education. Students creating opportunities to show leadership and experience community service. Students who spoke fluent technology.

With the wide diversity of cultural communities throughout the U.S., why couldn’t the High Tech Youth Network be offered on the mainland as well? Why not offer it for tribal communities in Minnesota, for example? A great conversation for another day. Right now Hawaii, in partnership with New Zealand and other Pacific Islanders, is leading the way.

Could your school be the breakthrough school to bring the High Tech Youth Network to the other 49 states?