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Preschoolers (tamaiti) create Samoan language apps

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 12 June 2018, 9:00 am
Preschoolers (tamaiti) create Samoan language apps

They may be too young to enter Tahi Rua Toru Tech - the national competition to support the new Digital Technologies & Hangarau Matihiko curriculum in schools - but pre-schoolers (tamaiti) from Tino e Tasi Preschool are well on their way to becoming digital champions.

Students at Tino e Tasi Preschool's two schools, in Dunedin and Christchurch, have created two Samoan language iOS games, which have been produced in house with assistance from Kiwa Digital - a development company that specialises in technology to support indigenous languages globally.

The O luga o le Motu app, which names the objects that remind the children of Samoa, was produced in Christchurch. The Tatou ō ile Maketi app is about the things you might find in a Samoan market, and was produced by the Dunedin children.

The children have been key contributors in the project, which was broken down into phases such as brainstorming, design, sound design, development and the launch phase.

At the launch event Zohar Marshall from Tino e Tasi described how some of the children came up with ideas for games. Four-year old Kingston Anapogi created a game about fast cars and held the piece of paper in his hands as if was an iPad and began to steer the car. Three year old Auteletoa Fasi drew blocks of the colour purple on her tablet and the object of her game was to change the purple colour into a new colour by dragging the purple down the screen to change to the colour yellow.

Marshall describes how during a planning phase, one of the children was concerned that there was no sound. So they created a script and took the children to the sound studio. "Our friend Dean Smith, a sound engineer from MediaWorks, helped to record our voices. Even though it was a new experience, our kids were blown away when they listened back to the audio and heard themselves," Marshall says.

The language apps can even be applied offline. "They learnt a simple game that does not need any digital technology. It's played with two players, where someone becomes a computer who needs to follow the instructions of the coder. You draw a 3x3 square grid on the floor. The coder places directional instructions using arrows, so the computer can "run" to the end."

As Marshall points out, "code is a written language which gives instructions to a computer to do something. That's it!"

"Given that digital technology will be integrated into the future of our children, digital literacy is just as important as learning to read and learning maths," says Marshall.

"So let us not wait for our children to reach high school or adults to become digitally literate. Let us teach our tamaiti how to write the programmes that make computers work. Let us teach our tamaiti there is more to a game than just an icon on a table or a game on a screen."

In true start-up style, the children were also involved in pitching for the funding for the apps. Alpha Valavala-Leitch (4yrs at the time), and Misha Luamanuvae-Sua (4yrs at the time) played a crucial role in the pitch to the Ministry for Pacific Peoples' Toloa Community Fund, which aims to increase the number of Pacific people employed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio visited Tino e Tasi Preschool in Dunedin last week to meet the children who had produced the Tatou ō ile Maketi app. "This is a fantastic example of an innovative tool that helps our children learn to be thinkers in two languages and as they grow up they can become innovators, creators and navigators all the way through their educational years," he says.

The process to develop the apps took around six months, and was officially launched during Samoan Language Week earlier this month.


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