Putiki Marae – Lifting Digital Literacy
Putiki Marae in Wanganui has all the visible adornments associated with ‘traditional’ Māori culture including a carved meeting house and woven tukutuku panels on the walls, but this community hub for Ngāti Tūpoho people of Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi iwi also has some very 21st century trappings. Thanks to the People’s Network this marae has a ‘Cyber-whare’.
Judd Bailey, Manager of Digital Initiatives at Putiki Marae, has been promoting the service amongst the community since April 2010 when APNK PCs, a printer, a scanner and wifi were installed in an old classroom that has since become the Cyber-whare.
Not everyone could see the benefit of the service to start with but Bailey has seen a real change of attitude, particularly from the older members of the community.
Some of our kaumatua (elders) couldn’t see the point of having APNK but now that they can Skype with their mokos (grandchildren) over in England and Australia, they’re on board with it. They’re now some of our most avid fans.”
Digital literacy for young and old
Indeed, learners of all ages are making use of the equipment provided by APNK, with several different programmes on offer in the Cyber-whare, from after school beginner courses that encourage youngsters to gain familiarity with equipment and software, and build confidence in using it, to more advanced, specialised classes looking at image manipulation, and the ever-popular Skype option for Seniors.
The People’s Network equipment is also being used by children for homework assignments, and in some cases to earn extra pocket money. In days gone by kids might have earned a few extra coins for cleaning the family car but Putiki kids are instead cleaning old, sometimes damaged whānau photographs using APNK scanning equipment and image manipulation software. New generation tools and skills applied to an older generation’s memories may well be paying for popsicles.
This is not the only example of digital technology illuminating the stories of earlier generations at Putiki, where mind-mapping software is also being used by whānau to document whakapapa (Māori family history).
The inter-generational theme also runs strongly through the learning environment of the Cyber-whare. Older kids are encouraged to help younger, less experienced learners and the younger generation are roped in to help kaumātua, who are initially “frightened” of the technology. And as Bailey points out, this has added benefits.
“The kaumātua get helped by the younger ones and they also bring a decorum into the suite, so there’s not so much rowdiness”.
Looking to the future
Bailey is enthusiastic about what access to broadband and digital technologies can do for his community and has plans for further “spreading the word” of what the Cyber-whare can offer by connecting with teachers at the neighbouring school. Bailey also admits that he hopes that the interest that the younger members of the community have for the People’s Network service will filter up.
“If the kids come, then the parents will come along too, so we’ll spread the word”.
It’s all part of Bailey’s aim to “lift the digital literacy of our people and bring them back to the marae” and he’s already seeing that some in his community are benefitting from the exposure to technology that APNK is providing.
“My biggest buzz has been to see people empowered - who’ve come in with very little skill and now they’re Skyping mokos, sending emails, using Facebook. It empowers them to grow and start thinking of career possibilities outside of physical labour”.