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Apple profiles how New Zealand students prototyped an iPad app to learn their native language

Apple has shared a new story on its Newsroom website today detailing how the iPad is being used by students in New Zealand to create an app for students. The story explains that students in New Zealand used an iPad and Keynote to create a prototype Samoan language app for younger learners.

When kids from Bromley School, a primary school that serves some of Ōtautahi Christchurch’s underprivileged communities in New Zealand, saw their Samoan language teacher move to a local high school, students decided that they wanted to continue to learn Gagana Sāmoa — the language of the Samoan Islands — but no replacement teachers were available.

Then, a group of students, aged 8 through 11, asked their Principal if he could help them find a way to continue their lessons, and they started using technology to search for another option.

“A lot of our students’ parents or grandparents are fluent in their home language, but some of our students just know the basics — I had the same experience growing up,” explains Mele Togiaso, a teacher at Bromley School. “I’m part Māori and part Samoan, and I’m only now learning my family languages as an adult, thanks to a passionate group of kids!”

Luckily, at Bromley School, every teacher and middle school student has their own iPad. There’s an Apple TV in every classroom and a fleet of Macs for coding. With the help of technology, the group of students started an inquiry group, the Digi Navigators, and began to look for solutions.

First, they explored apps, books, and websites they thought might help, but some of them relied too heavily on text for younger learners, some didn’t provide audio to help with pronunciation or images to help with comprehension, and some didn’t include fun games to keep students engaged and on track.

This is why the Digi Navigators started their own prototype of an app to start learning Samoan language.

“We decided to create a prototype for an app called ‘Let’s Learn Samoan,’ because all of the kids at our school have access to iPad and we wanted it to be accessible to everyone,” says Jeremiah Laufiso, a year 5 student.

They used the app Keynote to start. It allows them to combine text, drawings, audio recordings animations, and hyperlinks in one place. The teacher Togiaso used the App Design Journal, from the Everyone Can Code Curriculum, available as a free download from Apple, to help guide the group through the app development process.

After brainstorming ideas and creating wireframes for their app, the students divided into teams to create the app. With a lot of testing and some help from a Gagana Sāmoa expert from their community, in September 2020, the Digi Navigators were invited to pitch their idea at an event designed to increase opportunities for the next generation of Pacific nations tech innovators.

In front of an audience of 50 local tech experts, investors, and teachers, five Digi Navigators presented their business case, demonstrated the app prototype, and answered questions from the crowd. They also received feedback from a local angel investor that has promised to provide continued support and mentorship to grow their idea.

Back in class and at home, the Digi Navigators’ teachers and parents started to notice the deeper connection the students have forged with their culture.

“In Pacific cultures, we achieve together,” says Togiaso. “It’s not about any one individual’s success — nobody is left behind. This experience showed our students that it is not enough for a smaller team to excel. For everyone to achieve, they all had to collaborate and make sure everybody was doing well.

If you want to discover how these students created an app prototype to learn the Samoan language, you can watch their pitch video down below:

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Avatar for José Adorno José Adorno

Brazilian tech Journalist. Author at 9to5Mac. Previously at Rede Globo, the main TV broadcaster in Latin America.

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