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Virtual reality on the marae

Giving tamariki the opportunity to access and learn about virtual reality was the aim of a three-day wananga at Pākōwhai Marae.

Tōnui Collab set up at Pākōwhai, located between Pātūtahi and Waituhi, and invited tamariki to experiment with virtual reality (VR) and create their own experience to celebrate Matariki.

Tōnui Collab director Shanon O’Connor said they explored VR as a creator and a creation tool that could be used with a te ao Māori lens.

“In bigger cities like Auckland you can go to a mall and experience VR headsets. Here in Tairāwhiti, VR headsets are not as accessible, so this might be their first time ever experiencing this,” O’Connor said.

“We are also using it as entertainment as well. They have been playing Beat Saber (a rhythm game) and VR golf, but with a critical eye to look at what is it about the game they like — what they think could be made better if they were creating this. We want to make them think as creators.”

The tamariki programmed and created a virtual world over three days.

“As a hautapu for Matariki, the tamariki made digital avatars of themselves, introducing themselves to the viewer, and as you look around to explore it you can look at the sky and see the stars of Matariki.”

When looking up at the stars and hovering the VR pointer over them, there is an explanation of the meaning of the star which the tamariki recorded and programmed into it.

To learn about Matariki, they have also been having wananga every day about what it means, what its context in the wider world is and how it relates to them personally.

“Now they have created a resource that people can use to learn about Matariki.”

VR headset are not needed to view the Matariki experience. Any modern smartphone has the ability to show the 360-degree scene by moving the phone around.

Tōnui was doing a lot of work around digital equity, Mrs O’Connor said.

“When we talk about digital equity and what it looks like and who has devices; when we talk about equity, mum or dad having a phone isn’t digital equity. You cannot support learning for three tamariki on one phone, so we have been talking to the community about what devices they have and what they think might work best for them.”

Less than 4 percent of people in the tech workforce were Māori, Mrs O’Connor said.

“Tamariki want to do this. They want to explore these digital worlds. We want to expose them to digital technology early on so when they are older and making decisions on what to study at school or pursue, they might think of digital tech because they started learning about it early on.

“This is about giving them a chance now.”

Mrs O’Connor said Tōnui was grateful for the haukainga who welcomed them into the marae.

This was their second marae wananga. Their first was at Rangiwaho last school holidays.

“Most of the time we are going into schools. We go all the way up to Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti, down to Te Karaka and everywhere in between.

“It’s a privilege every time they invite us in.”

Tōnui Collab is a charitable trust and has funding support from the JR McKenzie Trust, Internet NZ and the Williams Family Trust to develop these marae-based initiatives.

“To be learning in their marae is something special for them.”

Original Source:

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