Pre-schoolers launch Samoan language App

posted: 4:00 pm - 30th May 2018
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Tino e Tasi Preschool in Wainoni, Christchurch, has broken barriers with the launch of a Samoan Language App produced in-house and with the direct participation of its own pre-schoolers (pictured). 

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Zohar Marshall of Tino e Tasi says the O Luga o le Motu App was produced by asking the three to four year-olds at the pre-school to draw a picture of a game they like to play on a tablet or phone at home. 

“The kids were at the centre of the project from the very start and it’s their ideas that drove it,” Zohar says. 

The idea behind the App was to make learning a game and something the tamaiti would relate to. 

“It is interactive and has a real Sesame Street vibe. They just love it,” Zohar adds. 

The App is a language game that can be found on the iTunes store. 

It focuses on life in Samoa and the type of things found on the islands. 

The children are presented with a series of pictures and underneath each picture are some scrambled letters to match the audio and the picture. 

When they get the correct answer the children move on to the next level in the game.

“The marvellous thing is they hear the words in their own voices. 

“We did all the words and songs live in the studio with them and we involved them at every step of the way so they really feel this is their own work which of course it is,” Zohar says. 

The pre-schoolers were also taught about code and how code makes games and computers work. 

Zohar says while creating the App, the pre-schoolers learnt about code and the basic principles of digital technology.  

“Digital literacy can begin at pre-school. 

“It’s quite amazing as I never anticipated this – and it’s also really important because digital technology is their future and this empowers them,”she says.   

The App was funded through the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) Toloa Community Fund which aims to increase the number of Pacific people employed in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio says this is the sort of initiative he wants to support, as the Ministry aims to encourage young Pacific people to be interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

“I am committed to growing Pacific leadership at all levels, and I especially want to grow the number of our Pacific young people learning STEM subjects, so they don’t miss out on future opportunities that technology provides,” Minister Sio says. 

“All the better too when they can use modern technology to hold onto their Pacific languages and cultures.” 

Diane Fenika, Southern Regional Manager at MPP says when the Ministry received the application to develop a Samoan language game for an iPhone or iPad, the MPP team immediately recognised its potential. 

“Here we had an opportunity both to teach language and also create an awareness of digital technology,” Diane says. 

“It really was a winning combination.”

The children’s ideas were put into final form by Auckland-based KIWA Digital which specialises in the production of experiential digital books. 

Chief Executive Officer of Kiwa Digital, Steven Renata says the organisation has produced similar Apps for Te Reo but this is the first time the kids have generated the specific word-puzzle content. 

“That makes the technology truly child-centric,” he says. 

“It’s turned learning into a fun game and that’s really powerful in terms of engagement - you can’t get them off it,” Steven adds. 

Working with another Pacific community to help reinvigorate their language through the use of digital technology was also an added bonus, he says. 

“We are humbled and honoured by the experience.” 

Tino e Tasi officially launched the App on May 30, as well as presented awards to all the tamaiti involved in creating it. 

The event is being held as part of the Samoan Language Week, organised and supported by MPP. 

Visit Tino e Tasi for more information about the App;  KIWA Digital to learn about how they bring content to new life in compelling digital formats, across languages and cultures; and MPP for more information on the Toloa Programme.