KIWA Digital empowers students to tell their own stories in their own language
Stacey Anderson from KIWA Digital talks about the impact this New Zealand company are having on indigenous cultures and learning across the globe.
KIWA® is a New Zealand company founded in 2003. We have rapidly become a world leading production house for experiential digital books. Based in Auckland, we work with global trade publishers and other content owners to bring their stories to life, using innovative digital formats that are proven to deepen engagement and understanding. We believe that our production values are second to none, and we work hard to set the standard for accessibility across languages, and for readers of varying abilities and cultures.
Beyond producing our technologies, we are also passionate about taking them into schools. KIWA has developed a learning programme for young people centered on the digital publication of their stories, called the KIWA SLAM™. Produced in correlation with education experts, it has since been utilized by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, and by language preservation groups in USA, Australia and on home soil. As a result, KIWA has a growing reputation in the international education sector, particularly for our work with priority learners and for cultural storytelling.
KIWA SLAM™ is an intensive programme where students are empowered to tell their own stories in their own language. Run over the course of two days, students’ workshop their own experiential digital books, and work with elders, or in groups, to design their stories. They then write the content and record a narration, usually in both their indigenous language, and in English. Finally, they create illustrations and design the interactive elements that really bring their story to life. The KIWA team then use their know-how to compile these works into digital books, which are presented to the students and published to the world on the global App Store.
The first workshop was held in Alaska in 2012, where the KIWA team were closely involved in the revitalization of native culture and language, in partnership with the Alaskan Association of School Boards. In November of that year, fifteen high school students and seven adult advisors from four school districts gathered in Anchorage, Alaska to participate. Students were tasked with creating an entire twenty page illustrated book in just 48 hours. With an overall theme of “We Are Alaska”, each district team worked collaboratively to create a storyline representative of their community by telling a local story or myth. Teams were allotted five pages to present their story, illustrate, and record the story narration; the books were then assembled and published to the world on the iTunes App Store.
It is hard to express the impact that this initial project had in words, but this five minute Vimeo clip does it so much better. It tells the story of how our work helped an Alaskan village, striving to revitalize its native culture and language. It also explains the efforts of the Kashunamiut School District in Chevak, Alaska, and the Association of Alaska School Boards to revitalize the Cup’ik language.
In February 2014, Te Tai Tokerau Slam was hosted in Kawakawa, with the support of the Ministry of Education. Sixteen students from schools and kura kaupapa around the Tai Tokerau area, took up the challenge of conceiving, writing and illustrating four digital storybooks, in both English and te Reo Māori.
With only two days to learn and apply their new skills, the result was an innovative mix of creativity and imagination as well as the blending of culture, history and traditional stories. The rangatahi were split into groups and had the guidance of KIWA experts, as well as access to the mātaruanga, and guidance of kaumātua, kuia, and the creative input of local artists. Te Waihorori Shortland who worked on the project as a kaumātua said it gave the students an opportunity to test their skills in a format that is relevant and modern. “It’s important for our rangatahi to understand the technology industry because there are heaps of opportunities in the industry for people like them.” For further information check out page 8 in the Education Gazette, Ka Hikitia in action.
In December 2014, the KIWA team travelled to Melbourne and with the support of the Victorian Aboriginal Corpration for Languages, helped fifteen indigenous students illustrate and narrate three digital books in two days, in both the Woiwurrung language and in English. This SLAM was part of an ambitious project to produce innovative digital audio-visual resources, that would support language reclamation and revitalisation activities in Victorian schools and communities. The KIWA team is now working to finalise the resources before they are launched globally on the iTunes App store.
Along the way, we ourselves have discovered how our programme increases engagement with students. In June 2014 we held workshops at five schools within New Zealand for the Ministry of Education’s “Success for Boys” programme. The pilot was aimed at boys, who were having problems engaging with traditional education methods, with the goal of finding new ways to lift the boys’ level of achievement. These intensive two-day workshops were designed for boys aged between 10 and 15 years, and were run at Hora Hora School, Howick College, Wainui School, St. Paul's College and Windy Ridge School. The boys worked in groups of four or five, and with the help of facilitators created their own interactive digital books, which are now published for the world through the iTunes App store.
While these workshops took place, we undertook a comprehensive enquiry process to ensure the learning was captured for other teachers and schools.
Our key findings included:
• Independent observations revealed students fully engaged in the learning task, embodying the five key competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum.
• The programme provided them with behavioural, emotional, and cognitive success in communicating orally, visually and in writing.
• Their achievement was evident in making meaning, and creating meaning, core strands of the New Zealand Curriculum.
• 91% of students interviewed finished the workshop with high self-efficacy, and belief that their skills had improved.
The workshops were captured in five inspirational videos that are designed to give teachers ideas and strategies they can implement with boys in their own classes. The videos each focus on one of the five key competencies: Thinking, Using Language Symbols and Text, Managing Self, Participating and Contributing, and Relating to Others. All resources are now freely available on the Ministry of Education website “Success for Boys”.
With the global shift toward digital consumption of content, renewed emphasis on the importance of language to cultural identity, and increasing recognition of the power of storytelling to share information, we think that KIWA is well positioned to achieve ambitious plans. We want to grow our global business as an innovative digital publisher, and make our mark on the world. One of the best ways we can do this is by helping students, teachers, parents, and elders to share their knowledge, and express their place in the world too.
Key Points about KIWA:
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We have patented a number of technologies that are designed to help with learning:
• sound that is perfectly synchronized with text, word by word, to reinforce understanding
• audio and text available in multiple languages, to make content more accessible
• design that supports special education needs, including for hearing-impaired, dyslexic readers, and those reading at different levels;
• Swipe-to-Read™ to highlight and playback the story at the reader’s pace
• Touch-to-Hear™ to have individual words spoken out loud
• Touch-to-Spell™ to hear the letters that spell each word
• Touch-to-Read™ to record the story in the reader's voice
• Colour Palette to paint each page and customize the book
• integrated pedagogical research and learning guides as part of our applications.
We have also been thrilled to receive numerous awards in the past year, which recognize KIWA’s hard work:
• GESS Award at the prestigious Gulf Education Suppliers and Services Conference in Dubai
• American Chamber of Commerce, New Zealand Exporter of Year Award
• Contributions to Literacy Award, Alaska Centre for the Book
• New Zealand Innovators Award for Innovation in Media, Music and Entertainment
• BETT Asia EdTech Excellence Award, Singapore, Finalists
Visit the KIWA Digital website
My View: Library Manager Ebenezer Moses on introducing e-books into a school library
Ebenezer Moses, Library Manager at Tamaki College, is part of the Manaiakalani Education programme that provides the tools for digital literacy to low decile schools in his region. The impact of this work in his library, and the community at large has been huge. We asked Ebenezer to share his experience and advice about introducing e-books into a school library.
Ebenezer Moses with his wife, Vasu.
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Tell us a bit about your school and your role.
Tamaki College is a decile 1 school with around 600 boys and girls, predominantly consisting of Māori, Tongan, Samoan, Cook Islands and Niuean children. I have a degree in Economics, and used to work in management positions back in India. I joined Tamaki College in 2004 as a Behavioural Support Worker of Mataora. When the funding for Mataora was stopped, I was offered a Teacher Aide position in the Learning Centre.
In 2007 the Librarian resigned and I got selected as the Librarian for the College, thanks to the Principal, Mrs Soana Pamaka, who supported me to do a postgraduate diploma in Library Sciences from the Open University.
When and why did you decide to invest in e-books and establish a digital library?
When I started, we had Alice from Soft Link as our library system. In 2009 I upgraded our system to Oliver 3.5, and loaded almost 9,000 books from our existing collection, learning slowly but steadily as I went. In 2010 I started cataloguing free e-books from Gutenberg, which the students could download and read using the school computers. However they could only do this after school and during lunch time in our school library computer room.
Then in 2012, Tamaki College joined the Manaiakalani Education Programme and most of our students were donated Netbooks by the organisation. Manaiakalani promoted new teaching and learning approaches across a growing cluster of decile 1 schools in low income, predominantly Māori and Pacific communities around Tamaki College (the East Auckland suburbs of Glen Innes, Panmure and Pt England). Suddenly the whole community had access to free broadband through our school, and the schools had access to new technologies, and were encouraged to use them throughout their learning practice.
What were the challenges of setting up your digital library? How did you overcome these?
I had many challenges and one of them was that the students’ Netbooks were not compatible to download Adobe and DRM eBooks from the e-platform we had set up with Wheelers, so they couldn’t access the e-books to start with. At the beginning of 2013 OverDrive was launched by Soft Link and we finally had a platform that was compatible with our Netbooks. I tried promoting e-books to our staff and students but they were very reluctant to switch over and it felt like an uphill struggle. I tried every trick in the book. I demonstrated that e-books can save the planet by reducing the number of trees cut down, prevent the spread of germs found on physical books, and can store almost an entire library in one’s pocket. The staff at Tamaki wanted to smell the print and feel the pages. I even suggested holding a printed page in one hand to feel and smell, while reading e-books with the other!
Has e-book lending changed your reading community, and how they use your library space?
The turning point came when nine other intermediate and primary schools, sponsored by the Manaiakalani Education Programme, decided to join on the condition that they had access to our digital library. Once again Mrs Pamaka was really supportive. She negotiated access for the other schools in return for a very small initial fee, which enabled me to upgrade our library system to Oliver V5 Plus. Now we have 1,584 borrowers across the community. There was no turning back after that. I can say that almost all my e-book readers are primary and intermediate students, staff and sometimes parents.
What are the positive impacts that e-books have had on your readers?
The Tamaki College library shelves are still full of physical books, but I have the faith that all of our staff and students will eventually get a taste for e-reading. So far, my promotional efforts have been more successful with the other schools in the Manaiakalani community, and the numbers speak for themselves:
‘Students borrowed 258 titles during 2013 and 1,816 in the first 6 months of 2014’ ̽
Have e-books changed the way you fulfil your role as a school librarian?
I have received positive feedback from the staff of all our Manaiakalani schools, telling me how they are downloading and reading e-books from our collection, including during the school holidays. Panmure Bridge School even received an iPad as a reward from OverDrive for reading the highest number of e-books in a short span of time last year. I am yet to experience this level of enthusiasm at Tamaki College, but with the support of our Principal, I have full confidence that my long-term vision will be fulfilled within the next couple of years.
What aspects of a traditional school library model do you think are important to hold on to?
I strongly believe that we as librarians should put aside our fears around what could happen to our jobs, and promote digital reading. My vision is that libraries use e-books to strengthen us as a place for people to congregate, to exchange opinions, and share a passion for reading; just like a Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, the library should remain a place for worshippers of knowledge.
What advice would you give to schools that are just starting an e-book collection in their library?
My dear fellow librarians, my advice is that e-books are so easy to manage. There is no need for repairs, no need for reminders to return late loans, no year-end stocktake, no need for security gates, no need to cover and barcode books. You can choose from a variety of e-platforms and e-book suppliers, as they all have different book publishers. I would start with cataloguing free e-books from Gutenberg and show your readers how they can download e-books from your library - the rest will follow…
̽Renee Lienhard’ Specialist Collection Development OverDrive, Inc.
My Top 5: World War One picture books
Desna Wallace, Librarian
Fendalton School, Christchurch
When you are looking to invest in your library collection, there's nothing quite like recommendations from colleagues and peers. Throughout the year, we will publish a variety of Top 5 and Top 10 review lists by school librarians. Desna Wallace contributed this wonderful list, and admits it was hard to limit her choice to just five books.
One Minute’s Silence
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David Metzenthen, Illustrator Michael Camilleri
Allen & Unwin - ISBN 9781743316245
Huge potential for discussions with the book, which shows both sides of the story and the realisation that we are not so different from each other.
In Flanders Field
Norman Jorgensen, Illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Press - ISBN 9781920731038
This is the story of a World War One soldier who risks his life to rescue a robin which is caught in barbed wire separating the opposing armies.
Gary Crew, Illustrator Shaun Tan
Thomas C Lothian - ISBN 9780850919837
At the end of World War One a memorial tree is planted so people do not forget. See what happens generations later.
A Present from the Past
Jennifer Beck, Illustrator Lindy Fisher
Scholastic - ISBN 9781869437398
Aunt Mary travels far to bring Emily a present – a Princess Mary gift box. Aunt Mary’s mother was a nurse in World War One and was hit by a stray bullet while tending a wounded soldier. The bullet hit the tin in her pocket and miraculously saved her life.
Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved
Glyn Harper, Illustrator Jenny Cooper
Penguin NZ – ISBN 9780143504566
During World War One the German army took over the French town of Le Quesnoy. This is the story of how New Zealand soldiers liberated the town.