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Computer science leads to child’s te reo play

Computer science leads to child’s te reo play

Giving up your job to follow your dream is never an easy path, but for Massey University alumni James Porter,Te Ātiawa/Ngāti Kahu/Ngāpuhi, the opportunity to help his children and thousands like them has proved too good to give up on.

The computer science and information systems graduate recently launched a te reo Māori app for under 5’s called ‘He aha tēnei?’, which translates to ‘what is this?’.

The app allows children to explore te reo Māori at their level and plays on children’s natural curiosity about the world around them.

Mr Porter says he and his wife, Massey University lecturer Veronica Tawhai, noticed when their first daughter was two that there were few apps catering for young children in te reo Māori. After their second daughter was born, they decided to do something about it. “It came down to determining what was important and while work was important, it wasn’t the biggest contribution I could make with the skills that I had.”

Mr Porter quit his job and with the help of fellow Massey alumni Alan Nasario devoted the next two years to developing the app which is a basic introduction to te reo for children and their caregivers. “We wanted it to be something caregivers can do with their children to acknowledge that bond between them and because a shared experience of te reo brings it to life a bit more.” The colourful app allows users to build up the syllables of a word using drag and drop gestures, and to listen to the word sounds as voiced by children.

Within weeks of it’s launch the free app is already generating positive feedback from early childhood centres and whānau with some parents sending videos of children playing the game. “We had one family in Australia that told us their daughter surprised them by getting her star pillow and then repeating what she’d learned from the app - “He whetū tēnei” It’s this sort of reaction that has made the the sacrafices so far worth while.

“For me, the reach of it and the meaningfullness of what it’s contributing, that’s what is awesome for us. It’s cool that we’ve been able to use our particular skills and make a contribution.”

There are three more apps in development that will build on expanding people's breadth and depth of te reo Māori.

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