Summer Learning Journey: learning outside school

Summer Learning Journey whānau and supporters at graduation
Summer Learning Journey whānau and supporters at graduation

Briar Kopa, our Wellington/Hutt Valley coordinator, talks about a recent summer programme to maintain literacy levels:

“Our pilot ‘Summer Learning Journey’ programme has now concluded with an amazing outcome for all. Towards the end of last year, Computers in Homes teamed up with Spark, Te Awakairangi Access (TAKA) Trust, Hutt City Council & Taita Clubhouse to provide students and parents with digital engagement over the summer break.

Project helps literacy levels

The ‘Summer Learning Journey’ project was created and first tried by Dr. Rachel Williams of Auckland University (see below) in 2015/2016 within the Manaiakalani Cluster in Auckland. The aim was to keep students engaged in literacy over the 2016/17 summer break, as recent studies showed that literacy levels drop over Christmas/New Year.

This year, twenty students throughout the Hutt Valley participated over the summer break. Students each selected a country to blog about on the Taka Trust Blog Stream, with questions to research and answer each week.

Many organisations involved

This was the first time Computers in Homes Wellington/Hutt had teamed up with so many different organisations, which was an amazing challenge and very beneficial to the kaupapa.

TAKA Trust & Hutt City Council – used the blogging project so that they could present to Hutt City Council – Digital Access is a necessity within the Hutt City, not a luxury. Working alongside Joani Araiti was amazing as she was tuturu ki te kaupapa and did the behind scenes mahi to get the project up and running.

Spark – Lisa Paraku worked alongside 20/20 Trust to roll out the new Spark Jump, which provides wireless internet connectivity through the a 4G Spark Tower. Where there is Spark Cellphone coverage, the modems provided to the whānau should have access. Some whānau were able to use the prepaid 30G data that 20/20 sponsored over the summer break; unfortunately not all of the Hutt Valley had coverage.

Clubhouse provided a safe space – and fun

Taita Clubhouse – Tom Johnson was an amazing person to work with and so was the Taita Clubhouse. The Clubhouse was a safe space for rangatahi to check in and do their blogging when they needed. The Clubhouse also offered other activities for the rangatahi when they needed a break from blogging. Tom monitored the blog site and managed the registration process for rangatahi to have access to posting up their research.

One of the comments I had received from the rangatahi was “I only go because Tom makes it fun there. He’s a crack up!”  I felt that without Tom’s engagement with rangatahi, the opportunity to stay connect to the kaupapa may have been lost. The Clubhouse gave rangatahi and their parents an extra space to complete their learning with the added support of staff, hosting parents participating in Computers in Homes.

Flexible hours let parents also learn

Computers in Homes – As the rangatahi were becoming engaged in digital literacy, we needed to make sure the parents were on the same page as their tamariki, by taking Computers in Homes classes. We hosted 13 classes over the break – 1 at Avalon Intermediate, 2 at Naenae Library and 10 at Taita Clubhouse.

No single time suited everyone, so we became very flexible in how the classes were delivered. Patrick would run the regular sessions for all whānau who could attend at Taita Clubhouse and I ran sessions outside of the Clubhouse learning hours – Saturdays after rangatahi sports, Sundays whilst rangatahi were off training.

Prizes from TAKA and 20/20 Trusts helped keep involvement up

Tapaki Togiatau (right) won prize for most blogs posted over the summer break; Phoenix Allan won the extended time blog prize.
Tapaki Togiatau (left) won the prize for most blogs posted over the summer break; Phoenix Allan (right) won the extended-time blog prize.

One of the factors that kept our rangatahi engaged on the programme beside “Them wanting to excel in their literacy” was a competition for most blog posts, comments and interaction online. The TAKA Trust donated a Mac Airbook, which was won by Tapaki Togiatau for most blogs posted over the summer break.

Due to technical difficulties at the beginning, some students took a lot longer to get their blogs off the ground, so the competition was extended for them with another prize to keep the rangatahi engaged in the kaupapa. This prize was donated by the 20/20 Trust and won by Pheonix Allan.

In total, we graduated 13 Rangatahi in the Summer Learning Journey programme and 13 Parents in Computers in Homes.”

More results from Dr Rachel Williams in Auckland

Dr Rachel Williams

(From the University of Auckland website, January 2017):  The blogging programme was piloted in three of the schools during the last summer holidays and in six during the July break. According to Dr Rachel Williams who is leading the programme, the impact of participation in the programme on student literacy learning has been “dramatic”.

The “blogging” students took literacy tests before and after the holidays and, for the first time ever, there was no learning loss or decline. The same tests on children who hadn’t taken part showed a large and significant drop in literacy achievement.

Success due to excitement of learning, and to access to learning at home

“It is this excitement at learning about the world, creating blogs, sharing them and getting feedback that is making the Summer Learning Journey such a success,” says Dr Williams.

Dr Williams believes the programme’s success is (also due to) the ready access it gives to learning opportunities within the home. Many children living in low-decile school areas do not have the materials that support literacy learning at home, such as books and pens, or adults with the expertise to help. Others come from homes where English is not the first language and they struggle to access programmes and people who can support their English language learning away from school.

The Summer Learning Programme fills these gaps.

Says Dr Williams: “It is designed as a support system to wrap around families affected by these many issues. We want to do everything that we can to support our learners, particularly those most vulnerable and those at highest risk of not achieving.”

“The students are positively engaged and enthusiastic. Some without access to digital devices are walking long distances to get to their local library to get online and blog with us, which is real dedication.”

Schools taking part in the (Auckland) programme are all from the Manaiakalani Cluster, a group of mostly low-decile schools in East Auckland that use digital devices as a primary tool for teaching and learning.

Links to further information

Dr. Rachel Williams’ Summer Learning Journey video and 2016 research paper, on the Manaiakalani website

Online kids beating summer learning losses, January 2017, on the University of Auckland website