Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.
What age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies?
We have been working with students between year 1 and year 8 over the last six months. The majority of classes participating have been year 5-8, during Term 4 we have for the first time worked with students as young as 5 years old. A conversation with a lovely Teacher Aide has prompted me to think about ages more deeply. I often get asked about what age students are best suited to enrol in Raranga Matihiko. So what age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies?
One of the ideas behind Raranga Mathiko is to create a group of experts in the schools (students and teacher). The two year programme gives more face to face contact in year 1 than in year 2. In an ideal world you would get both the same students and the same teacher for both years (or at least the one or the other). If you want to work with the same students for both years, you might avoid picking this year's seniors. To ensure your experts are able to share their learning, you might choose students of a certain maturity / age, therefore selecting year 4/5 or year 6/7 makes a lot of sense in that regard.
You can take a different approach and start with the teacher - someone who has a high level of digital fluency and can take the RM ideas further, someone who is good at sharing their learning with colleagues, someone who can benefit from a boost to their digital fluency - or how about someone who is simply curious, keen to try something new? All of these are perfectly valid reasons for joining the Raranga Matihiko programme, and by default, whatever the age of their students, they will become the RM class.
There is no answer here yet... Sometimes it's a good idea to turn a question upside down: What age is too young (or too old???) to start creating with Digital Technologies?
I feel the word creating is key here. Young children are inherently creative, they can use anything in their environment to show their creativity. Digital Technology is just another tool for this. The Progress Outcomes in the Digtal Technology | Hangarau Matihiko curriculum scaffold learners from teacher-led activities (PO 1) to increased independence. This can make using DTs both harder and easier for teachers of young learners: Harder, because students quite likely require more active guidance; easier, because the teacher has more control over the tools they use. Admittedly, young learners might be less well equipped to actively teach other students around the school, but their example shared with thr others can inspire them ("if 5y olds can do this, I can"). With ongoing guidance these young learners can challenge their future teachers (and new classmates) to lift their digital fluency, too, they learn by necessity of having to keep up.
Coming back to the original question: So what age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies? I don't believe there is a best age, rather that any age is best. This is not about abandoning creativity outside digital technology, this is not about spending hours in front of a screen every day. It's about realising that there is benefit in utilising digital technology for creativity, as one of many tools, in a methodical, scaffolded way, in order to give our students the opportunity to create and share knowledge and learning. Our challenge as RM facilitators is to work with students of any of these levels appropriately (e.g. some weeks we jump from year 2s to year 7s and back). The key is not the age of the students, it is about knowing how to integrate digital technologies with the rest of their learning.
Despite the challenges for us with switching between ages, I am so thankful for the wide age range, it gives me hope that we will end up with a diverse, digitally fluent student & teacher population here in Northland which benefits our Tai Tokerau communities as a whole.