Collaboration key to transforming lives of rangatahi through EdTech

Issue: Volume 102, Number 11

Posted: 24 August 2023
Reference #: 1HAbbt

Education Technology (EdTech) is inspiring and empowering rangatahi who attend Te Ara Poutama Alternative Education Centre in Manurewa.

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Digital changemakers in action! The goal is for students to leave Te Ara Poutama knowing they have the skills and knowledge to go out and do anything.

“Before, ākonga were aiming for factory jobs, warehousing, roading, that kind of thing, whereas now, their goals and dreams have changed so that they’re actually talking about tech-based jobs,” says Chantelle Foketi, general manager of Te Ara Poutama Alternative Education Centre.

The power of EdTech is evident as soon as you walk through the doors of the Makerspace at the centre.

The centre’s Makerspace gives young people access to industry technology, opening their eyes to the digital world and creating opportunities for the betterment of their future.

Fondly known as the Innovation Station, the Makerspace has been brought to life through powerful partnerships and engagement with many stakeholders.

There are CNC machines (motorised manoeuvrable tools involved in manufacturing), 3D printers and a range of other industry technology. Rangatahi there are not only engrossed in what they are doing, but they are taking the lead and teaching others the skills they’ve learned.

The centre, based in Manurewa, has long provided a safe learning space for young people who have left school.

“A lot of the students when they first come here, they have come from the schooling system that has let them down, mostly because it doesn’t fit the way they learn, or how they learn,” says tutor Dornae Rae.

But the Makerspace is a new initiative transforming learning, equipping young people with skills for the future, and changing lives.

Addressing the digital divide

The idea of Makerspace was born during the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, says Chantelle.

“Suddenly we all had to work from home, and our students weren’t able to, most of them had no internet. There were definitely no devices in the home.”

Chantelle says once lockdown ended, it was clear what they needed to do.

“Once we came back to class, we kind of got into the mindset that we had to get the kids ready, digitally ready, to work.”

And so, the Makerspace was born.

“We call it the Innovation Station because we want it to be a place where innovation happens,” says Dornae.

“It’s a space where you can come and have a go. You know, you don’t have to own any of this stuff. We’ve got it for you.”

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Students are learning technical skills which are opening doors to jobs in the digital future.

Collaboration is key

There are a diverse range of stakeholders involved in the creation of Makerspace including the Ministry of Education, OMGTech!, Google, Microsoft, and other organisations. The Ministry’s Te Mahau regional team have been key enablers in this mahi as part of their championing of digital equity initiatives through partnership with tech organisations and industry.

Zoe Timbrell is co-founder of OMGTech!, an initiative run by the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust. The charity supports the education sector, communities, and the public in exploring how the future of technology can change lives.

“Students face a lot of challenges with digital technology, like access and interest. Te Ara Poutama students face even more challenges as an alternative education provider,” says Zoe.

Te Ara Poutama have “a really clear vision for the future of their students” and know collaboration is a “critical” part of their success,” she says.

“They work really hard to find the right partners that are going to work with their students in the best way, and we are really fortunate to get to be one of those partners, and to work alongside them and others to achieve their vision with their students.”

Dornae says partnerships are “vital”.

“Partnering with OMGTech!, partnering with Microsoft, partnering with Google – any of the tech sector partnerships – to help build the students, help to build the community, because it’s not something that can be done alone.”

The importance of partnerships is highlighted in Connected Ako: Digital and Data for Learning which acknowledges the best digital approaches for education require contributions from diverse participants, enabling and encouraging innovation.

And innovation is exactly what is happening at Te Ara Poutama.

“We know that this isn’t just digital fluency, it’s not using social media,” says Zoe.

“The students here are being taught skills for the future, for jobs. They’ve got CNC machines, they’re going to be our digital manufacturers of the future, and it’s critical to have the right tools to do that.”

EdTech is a growing global industry – impacting the experience and opportunities for youth.

The Aotearoa EdTech Excellence Report shows US$404 billion was spent on EdTech globally in 2020. New Zealand’s spend on education software alone was $173.6m in 2020 and that figure is expected to almost double to $319.6m by 2025.

The report also noted EdTech provides many benefits for New Zealand including increased access to education, the ability to cater to students for whom traditional education models don’t work, magnified economic benefits for the EdTech sector and all of Aotearoa, and increased equity in education.

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Tutor Dornae explains how the Makerspace is enabling students to obtain skills for a digitally powered future

Transforming the lives of young people

It’s clear the rangatahi at Te Ara Poutama have had their lives transformed by EdTech.

Chantelle says it has opened the students’ eyes to the future of technology and the job prospects available.

Kaiha, a student at Te Ara Poutama, is an example of this.

“I’m doing a digital job right now. I’m a digital intern. It’s a place that’s helped me getting me a job, and helping me in my future plans,” he says.

“Before I came to Te Ara Poutama, I probably wanted to work with my dad. But after I came here, and started learning here and drawing more, I probably thought that animating and becoming an animator was my best option.”

Student Amethyst says many of the students who attend Te Ara Poutama either failed school or never started it.

She says alternative education gave them hope and a second chance, and through Makerspace they have learned skills for the future.

“We do a lot of 3D printing, a lot of coding. People should know computer literate skills. We’re getting into a generation where we’re going to be more hands on with devices.”

Student Shyrahn says Makerspace has enabled him to obtain skills he wouldn’t otherwise learn.

“I just love to learn, that’s the thing, and this course is better than high school,” he says.

“I can basically do a lot of things. I can base cut some board or do some T-shirt pressing, and back at high school I couldn’t do that stuff.”

Chantelle says it was important the Makerspace was student-run, so four students were chosen as potential leaders.

Now those students – like Amethyst – are taking what they’ve learned and passing on their knowledge.

“Our goal is to teach others what we’ve been taught in the past year,” says Amethyst.

“We’re wanting to open this up to the community, show them what we’ve made, teach them too. We just want to be more involved.”

Amethyst says she has changed “so much” since being at Te Ara Poutama.

“That’s all my parents ever wanted. To not see me at home, you know, with no books. They’d rather see me here, coming home happy. I can be me, without having to change something about myself,” she says.

Dornae says the ultimate goal is for students to leave Te Ara Poutama knowing they have the skills and knowledge to go out and do anything. Watching these rangatahi in action it is clear that they are the digital changemakers of the future.

Watch the video(external link) showing how Amethyst, Kaiha, Shyrahn and others are learning digital skills that are opening doors to exciting future possibilities.

Supporting digital equity and inclusion

Collaboration between the Ministry of Education, schools, and the technology sector is supporting digital equity and inclusion. 

Te Ara Poutama Alternative Education Centre in Manurewa is part of the South Auckland STEAM equity community (SASTEAM) initiated by the Ministry’s Te Mahau regional team – a youth-centric collective focused on ngā rangatira mo āpōpō, the leaders of the future.

SASTEAM champions STEAM equity for Māori and Pacific rangatahi so they can become leaders and changemakers in the digital world.

Many local school leaders are engaged in this mahi and the focus is to work in partnership with the tech industry to design and provide rich learning opportunities to inspire students to consider STEAM pathways.

Built on a collective impact model, it includes youth and educators (technology leaders, principals, and career advisors) from South Auckland schools, technology companies, technology charities, NGOs, and government agencies. 

Priorities outlined by youth, for youth, include digital accessibility, whānau partnership, local curriculum design (STEAM), transitions and pathways, and youth leadership and wellbeing. 

Educators are continuing to collaborate across schools to share and create effective strategies to strengthen powerful partnerships with whānau, co-design rich opportunities for learning, improve transitions and pathways and wellbeing. 

The SASTEAM community aspires to democratise access to opportunities for Māori and Pacific youth by closing the gap between youth and the tech industry. How? Collaboration is key!

Learn more at South Auckland steam equity collective(external link).

Collaboration success with right connections

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Collaboration is key.

Zoe Timbrell, kaiwhakahaere and co-founder of OMGTech! (Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust), says collaboration is critical to show ākonga the real world.

“We bring the right people to the table and specialise in making vital connections between whānau, communities and the awesome range of tech companies in Aotearoa (and beyond).

“The ākonga need to understand that the world they are living in, learning in, and eventually working in is digitally enabled, and it is unlike the world their parents know. For them to thrive in this new connected world, they have to be willing to learn and adapt faster than any other generation before them.

“Introducing a new concept requires both access and interest. The project at Te Ara Poutama shows how partnerships can lead to both and, more importantly, a change in mindset for the ākonga involved.

“From being resigned to a pre-determined fate and career pathway, ākonga can now see the vast prospects available to them, well within their skill sets and passions.”

Engaging widely and effectively

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Youth are becoming digital changemakers and taking on leadership roles.

Education agencies will work with many across the sector and more broadly to bring coherence and leadership – including education providers, iwi, technology providers, business and communities.

The best digital approaches for education require contributions from diverse participants, enabling and encouraging innovation. There is a need to work together with communities, iwi, learners, teachers, EdTech, and with wider government agencies.

Good ideas, new approaches and transformational shifts can come from anywhere. National planning is important.

So too are community solutions to local issues. Locally designed products and services can bring cultural responsiveness and awareness of te ao Māori and community aspirations in ways that are attuned to local needs.

Education agencies are prioritising working with diverse stakeholders on building inclusive digital approaches.

Learn more at Connected Ako: Digital and Data for Learning(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:50 am, 24 August 2023

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