Dr Rapata Wiri with the Reo Ora website and app. Photo / Supplied
An app launched in Rotorua yesterday aims to be the one-stop learning platform for te reo Māori – teachers in Bay being among the first to try it.
Reo Ora is a
automated Maori te reo application that learns from its users. Features include live lessons, the ability to auto-correct answers in different iwi dialects as well as the world’s first voice transcription service for te reo.
Reo Ora is available to teachers at Bay of Plenty as part of a Department of Education initiative to strengthen New Zealand’s education staff in te reo.
Reo Ora app creator and Maori language expert Dr Rāpata Wiri (Te Arawa, Ngāti Ruapani) said he believes the app provides a needed service.
“The demand for te reo teachers far exceeds the number of kaiako available.
Reo Ora works alongside Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust and the Ministry of Education on an initiative to train 10,000 te reo Māori teachers and staff nationwide per year, including 1,000 in the Bay of Plenty. These would be at all school and kura levels, including early childhood education.
Trust poumanatū (managing director) ahurea Māori Bryce Murray said the app will play an important role in the implementation of the initiative’s 22-week course.
The goal was to nurture and advance the educational opportunities of tamariki with the added benefit of strengthening the relationship between kura, local iwi and mana whenua, Murray said.
“This is an opportunity for ākonga (learners) to strengthen the learning community in all educational contexts, such as kōhanga reo, preschool education centers, schools and kura, not only for the development of ākonga involved but also for the communities the tamariki and whānau live and learn there. “
Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association president Suzanne Billington said there was pressure to promote the Maori language and ensure its survival for years to come.
“There is a real positive approach from teachers to learning te reo. You have a culture within a language, so you learn a lot about the culture we live in in this country. “
Wiri wanted to roll out the app to 470 Bay of Plenty teachers by Q4. Reo Ora is also offered to government departments, iwi organizations and businesses.
But Wiri said that was just the start.
“I basically want [Reo Ora] to be “the app” for people to learn Te reo Maori, “Wiri told the Rotorua Daily Post.
“One of my motivations has been to be able to deliver to the masses.”
Wiri said Reo Ora will make learning te reo more accessible to people from all walks of life, with different schedules.
“They will find that this is the best program they can use at their own pace.”
Wiri was raised by his grandparents in Lake Waikaremoana and Rotorua who spoke only Te reo and his knowledge of the language shaped his 30 year career.
For him, Reo Ora is just the latest version of a long development journey. He said the first version of the app dates back to 2000.
“At the time, we made a CD-ROM and put all the content on it. Then we put it on the Internet on a learning management system. Then applications came out, so we developed an application.
At the end of 2019, Wiri met Matt Browning and Josh Dillner of Rotorua-based Salt + Tonic, who developed the app.
“They are very good at what they do. They are the only full-stack developers in Rotorua that I know of,” said Wiri.
“I am very grateful that they took my online program to the next level.”
Wiri, Browning, and Dillner developed Reo Ora with help from Te Hiku Media, who provided the transcription service for the app.
“We were all in the right place at the right time,” said Dillner.
“It has been a privilege to provide world class technology with a local solution at the heart.”
Miller said Salt + Tonic pushed the boundaries of the project.
“We’ve created all kinds of apps, but this one is special because we think it will have a big impact.”
Wiri said that launching the app gave him a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
“We are seeing how we can use technology to revitalize te reo,” Wiri said.
“The other satisfaction is to see people who are not Maori learning te reo, to see how our language becomes universal.”
– Additional reports Leah Tebbutt