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These 8th graders are ukulele pros thanks to high-tech help

By: Kendall Swenson
See how middle schoolers in Maui are using tablets to learn music.

Three Hawaiian middle schoolers are using modern technology to master classic tunes.

The trio from Makawao, Maui, are only in the 8th grade, but they’ve quickly become strumming sensations on the ukulele. Ayvin Vargas-Ixcotoyac, Zander Kubo and William Kahalekai learned their string-instrument skills in Mr. Uyetake’s ukulele class at Kalama Middle/High School, but they’ve also found inspiration in an unlikely place: tablets.

This boy band has used apps and YouTube tutorials to master their craft and, since forming the group, shared their melodies by uploading their performances online.

“I’ve learned songs I didn’t know. I can watch other people play it, and see if I can learn it from there,” William said.

They got the high-tech help from Verizon Innovative Learning, the education initiative of the Verizon Foundation. The program provides mobile technology like tablets with 24/7 data plans to schools across the country, including the students and teachers at Kalama.

Not only does the technology help Ayvin, William, Zander and more than 150 other Kalama kids become better musicians — it also helps prepare them for college and future careers. Thirty-seven percent of students in the program improved in problem-solving, a skill that will help them be successful in the future.

And the practice has already paid off. Last year, the trio has already played at Disneyland, as well as at events and schools across Maui.