How and why did you come to be involved with Taitokerau Education Trust?
It goes back to a Northland community leaders seminar in 2012. At the time I was working for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, one of the three Iwi who had built and commissioned a fibre optic network to directly connect Whangarei to Auckland and provide the means to specifically open up rural Northland. A key aspect of Taitokerau Iwi involvement in the investment was acute focus on long term socio-economic growth. Everything was geared at improving education, improving health, creating sustainable employment opportunities and contributing to the economic prosperity of Taitokerau. I was invited to speak at the seminar on what we had just done.
The common theme that emerged from the seminar was that education was a number one priority in Northland. I was then invited to a meeting of people who were interested in forming the trust, which led to the establishment of Taitokerau Education Trust.
Education was a high priority for the iwi I was working for, and for other iwi, so being involved with the trust was a logical step, and seemed to be quite a useful link between the construction of the network and the social uplift that we were looking to achieve.
What is your role or relationship with the trust?
I’m a trustee. I was part of a consortium with other iwi chief executives that met monthly to look at issues we have in common and try to find solutions to those issues. So, as a consequence, I had a fairly healthy understanding of the iwi environment to bring to the the trust.
Are there any particular highlights or achievements of the trust that stand out to you?
The fact that it got up and going with good trustees who are committed and au fait with current issues. That means discussions are robust, planning is good and the commitment to getting things done and moving is what I enjoy about it.
What would you say to parents who are considering enrolling their child in the Digital Immersion Programme?
I would encourage them. It is the programme’s commitment to pedagogical change that makes the difference to other initiatives that in the past have simply involved the acquisition of digital devices for students. The fact that the programme requires the commitment of the parents, the teachers and the school community is the clincher for me.
While there is a cost involved that can place added burdens on families the trust has maintained very effective links to the families through regular contact and sound relationships within each school.
Why do you think the programme is so successful?
In the short term it’s allowed children to learn at their own pace and parents to get more engaged in the child’s learning. We’re dealing with communities where parents’ experience of the education process has not been positive, therefore they don’t buy into it as much and they don’t look too deeply into the reports. Our programme provides on-the-spot, instant results, and our research is showing great improvements, which is fabulous. That’s key.
I recently heard from a parent whose child had a device but wasn’t on our programme. The parent threw the device away because he thought his child was spending too much time on the device. He failed to understand its value and potential. He did not understand the value of digital learning and the advantages of digital connectivity to his rural community. In his eyes, the dangers and risks of his child accessing the ‘dark net’ and adopting anti-social behaviours overrode the benefits and advantage of what the ‘bright net’ had to offer. There is that risk. Our programme limits access so children don’t wander off and go to undesirable sites, that’s what makes this a good programme.
Fun digital fact: What is the last thing you searched for online?
Probably something to do with the All Blacks or the Education Conversation survey.