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The tech changing kid's lives

Noah Samuels is only 10 but in his confident, outgoing personality is the answer to anyone who thinks students from decile 1 schools may face a limited future.

Watch Noah go through his spiel to visitors as an ambassador for his Point England school in Auckland and preconceptions about kids at schools with the highest concentration of students from the lowest socio-economic communities disappear. In particular, the stereotype of disadvantaged community equalling lack of future is dashed - the one saying under-achieving kids typically leave school early to lead unsatisfying lives, fated to repeat the cycle with their own children.

Noah is a Year 6 student at Pt England School, one of 12 Auckland schools in the Manaiakalani Education Programme, assisted by a number of partners, including Spark. Manaiakalani helps the students in a group of decile 1 primary and secondary schools to learn by working daily on digital devices, making full use of digital resources.

The schools, in Glen Innes, Panmure and Pt England, have become increasingly digital. Every child receives a Chromebook laptop or tablet, paid off by their parents over time - and teachers manage the learning in entirely new ways. Not only can teachers share resources, parents can also click in to witness their child's work and progress.

Some of what you see in Noah may be genetic - his dad Anthony worked on television's What Now for 10 years - but Noah is also proof good students are made as well as born.

"I like to learn using technology," says Noah. "You can access way more things than just drawing and writing and stuff 'cause when you use pencil and paper, you just write stuff down or people tell you to do something ... But if you do use Chromebooks and iPads and iMacs and all that kind of stuff you can access Gmail, your [Google] Drive. Some of us can make class sites, our own blogs and use Hyperstudio - a multimedia creation tool."

That's the thing. Noah and his schoolmates are creating as part of their learning. With tools decile 1 students often don't have - and a committed, enthusiastic teaching force - Noah and others are writing blogs and making movies.

Noah's class made an Ant Boy video - a 2-minute movie which turned heads at last year's Manaiakalani Movie Festival - and is a case in point. Built around a theme of putting oneself in others' shoes, the video, starring Noah, portrays a young boy with scant regard for ants - who magically turns into one.

It has obvious metaphorical significance - quite an achievement for a group of 10-year-olds - and Noah's blog also brings home to him the length, breadth and depth of the world and digital access to it.

"I like it that people look on my blog, 'cause it feels like they know me," he says. "There's this map when you go on my blog, it shows a red dot where they come from or where they accessed to my blog. There's China, Australia, America, England, London, Paris, Philippines - it's so cool.

"I can access lots of things. Our aunty, she uses computers and stuff... and she uses them to work so that's basically her best tool. It's good that I'm already familiar with a lot of that kind of stuff. If I become a policeman, it's easier to track down someone [with technology]. I was thinking of being a teacher. I might choose gaming or health, or films, taking pictures..."

Noah's mum Shannon says the family love the opportunities their kids (Noah is one of four brothers) have as a result of the Manaiakalani programme.

"The skills Noah learns as he handles technology puts him and his classmates ahead of many others of his age. It's not just about having the device, it's the way he uses it that seems to make a difference," she says.

"[His blog] gives him the perspective that almost anything is possible as he learns, creates and shares it with the world. Noah is so much more engaged and excited about his learning since he's been using his Chromebook - we don't have to nag him, he just sits down and gets on with it."

With access to the internet comes the reality that he needs to navigate this in a responsible way: "Our boys know they are only allowed on their devices when they're in the living room, dining room and on the deck - where their use is visible by us, as parents, and by their brothers. One of us is around in case they happen upon something unsavoury and need our help to deal with it.

"The boys know they need to check with me before they go on their devices - and they're not allowed them at the dinner table when the family's eating."

# Manaiakalani is achieving significant improvement in students in 12 mostly decile 1A schools in Glen Innes, Pt England and Panmure - Auckland's oldest state housing communities; 95 per cent of students are Maori and Pasifika.

The Manaiakalani Education Trust supports parents to buy a personal digital device for each learner, provides WiFi at home and school and supports teachers. The trust was formed in 2011 and is supported by philanthropy, the government, national and local businesses, such as Spark.

For more information about Manaiakalani Education Trust click here

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