How One School is Creating a Beautiful Future

Their leader began with a simple objective. It changed their entire vision of technology.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paul Turnbull

A WIDER VIEW. Mid-Pacific Institute is an independent, co-educational, college-prep school for preK-12. Founded in 1908, it is considered one of Hawaii’s most dynamic and forward-thinking schools. To stay that way, President and CEO Paul Turnbull and his leadership team take a student-focused approach, while curriculum is future-oriented, anticipating a landscape that doesn’t yet exist. “We believe that technology is not a discrete field of learning unto itself. Rather, technology is one of many languages students learn to use in their lives as they grow,” says Turnbull, who authored this article for EdTech Digest after meeting Editor-in-Chief Victor Rivero at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai, where leaders gathered from around the globe to discuss the future of education. 


Worldwide, artificial intelligence has the potential to replace hundreds of millions of jobs by 2030.

If one of the goals of education is to raise up an able, informed, ethical, and employable workforce, so imminent a shift in demand for number and type of workers creates a tremendous urgency in the field:

Today’s schools must provide students with a wide range of technological expertise and problem-solving abilities as soon as possible.

Here’s how one school (mine; I’m president and CEO) is responding to this emergent need.

During the late-twentieth century tech explosion, Mid-Pacific Institute, a preK-12 school in Hawaii, took an iconoclastic and future-oriented position regarding technology.

Technology’s Role in Education Reconfigured 

Seeing a rapid rate of invention and subsequent impacts, Mid-Pacific decided it would not be enough to simply incorporate existing tools into the traditional learning environment.

Anticipating an ever-evolving tech landscape, the school created curricula reaching all the way into the youngest grade levels based on the belief that technology ought not to be a discrete field of learning unto itself.

Instead, it was decided that different forms of tech should be ubiquitous, as they became available, across campus and across academic disciplines.

Such an aspiration required a complete reconfiguration of the previous role of technology in education. Change began with a simple objective: to move students away from content consumption and toward content creation.

At the same time, Mid-Pacific adopted a deeply philosophical approach to tools and learning, asking, “How can technology amplify the human experience rather than drive it?”

This far-reaching approach led to the development of a Technology Vision reflective of the skills and abilities students would need over the next 20 years and more — not just to become productive members of society, but also to be fully actualized human beings.

“At the same time, Mid-Pacific adopted a deeply philosophical approach to tools and learning, asking, How can technology amplify the human experience rather than drive it?'”


Today, it is assumed that all Mid-Pacific students – no matter their areas of academic, artistic, and athletic interest – will graduate as Digital Storytellers, Computational Thinkers, and Engineers.

Mid-Pacific need not be alone.

Many other schools can make similar transformations to existing programs by taking advantage of the simple precepts of the Mid-Pacific Technology Vision.

Digital Storytelling

Storytelling is as old as humankind.

People build narratives to persuade, entertain, and enlighten.

Mid-Pacific digital storytellers go beyond traditional digital media, leveraging increasingly sophisticated platforms such as computer simulations, game engines, and interactive wearable technology.

The result?

The use of tech is ubiquitous in Mid-Pacific’s curricular and extracurricular program, and the result is a seamless comingling of art and science.

SMART BUILDING BLOCKS. These Kindergarten students are learning to code using Cubelets, specially designed blocks that combine in a variety of ways to form robots. “We don’t tell them how to build a robot, but rather allow the children to discover this for themselves,” says their teacher Jennifer Matsumoto. “They learn how to be scientists who experiment and find things out.” Read Julie Funasaki Yuen’s FULL STORY.   

Computational Thinking

Mid-Pacific teaches a variety of computer programming languages without focusing on coding per se.

Instead, the school embraces computational thinking as a model of deliberation and problem solving applicable to students’ lives in myriad situations.

As a result, Mid-Pacific students are computer programming language “agnostic” and possess the ability to quickly learn new languages because they can think programmatically.


READY TO ROLL. A lot of Engineering Systems students at Mid-Pacific have no previous experience and are taking their first academic coding course. Learning the C programming language to code Altino cars, the priority isn’t on coding, rather it is on computational and programmatic thinking as an essential component of learning. “The first step is the students learn how to make the car move,” says Engineering Systems teacher Weyland Bailey. Read Julie Funasaki Yuen’s FULL STORY.

Mid-Pacific students learn to apply engineering principles and processes in developing answers to all manner of questions. Using design thinking and similar methodologies, Mid-Pacific students solve real-world problems.

Some of these solutions have potential for commercialization and future entrepreneurial pursuits.

As a result, Mid-Pacific students understand the global impact and economic feasibility of their work, and they are inspired to effectively communicate their knowledge to others.

Immersive Technology Program

CREATING ANSWERS. In a world of evolving technology, faculty wholly embrace an evolving platform, transporting students into the future with immersive technology programs. As arguably the only K–12 school in the world using LiDAR for reality capture and historic preservation, Mid-Pacific provides students at all levels with the ability to use innovative and robust reality capture techniques to create digital content in the Humanities, Creative Arts, and Sciences. To learn more, get the FULL STORY

The Immersive Technology program at Mid-Pacific places industry-grade tools such as 3D LiDAR scanning and 360-degree video directly into the hands of students.


Because the ability to capture, compute, and contextualize objects as small as an extinct beetle and and as large as a WWII-era internment camp gives students new perspective on academic subject material even as these same students practice critical tech skills.

Digital records created by Mid-Pacific students have an even greater reach; local museum partners disseminate preservations to schools around the world, enabling peers to remotely study previously inaccessible objects.

Immersive Technology also offers courses in Animation and Game Design for Virtual Reality. Students with skills and ownership over their own learning in this new arena create compelling immersive digital content in the Humanities, Creative Arts, and Sciences – heralding an important cross-pollination between multiple disciplines and multiple industries.

INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING. The classroom is an environment where learning is fun and engaging; where students are challenged to question, inquire, and imagine. At this model school, curriculum is guided and continually renewed by the question, “what knowledge, skills, and dispositions are most relevant and useful for our students today and in the future?” FULL STORY.

Of course, new technologies emerge with increasing regularity, and current technologies will be used in ways we can’t yet imagine.

From digital entertainment to academic studies, from 3D game environments to human empathy, potential abounds.

By putting advanced technology into students’ hands, offering research-based guidance and instruction, and encouraging learners to take ownership of their own learning, today’s educators can help the employees and entrepreneurs of tomorrow create and thrive in a future of their own creation.

Paul Turnbull, Ph.D., is President and CEO of Mid-Pacific Institute, an independent, co-educational, college-preparatory school for Preschool, Kindergarten, and grades 1-12. It was one of the first schools in the U.S. to equip all of their students with iPads, and is consistently recognized for its innovative educational, technological, and artistic programs.


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