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Meet our ConnectED Haeata Whānau Engagement team


When bringing together the team for ConnectED Haeata, we realised we needed a kind of ”hybrid of human” to support the dual understanding required for whānau engagement. Someone who could both engage with our many cultures of New Zealand, and also have a sound knowledge of technology and people skills. We were lucky to find two such people, Maria Kahukura and Dwayne Duffield, who together make up the ConnectED Haeata Whānau engagement team.

What is ConnectED Haeata?

ConnectED Haeata is a collaboration project that provides free WiFi to over 360 Haeata students. This has been made possible by the combined effort of the project team including GCSN, Chorus, Network 4 Learning, Haeata, the Ministry of Education, Cyclone, and our most funders including Todd Foundation, Rātā Foundation, Kelliher Charitable Trust, Pub Charity and One Foundation.

Both students and whānau benefit from ConnectED, as it allows students to continue their education from home and whānau to connect with teachers and the greater opportunities that the internet and technology offer.

Meet the ConnectED Haeata Whānau engagement team

Team members Maria Kahukura and Dwayne Duffield have been a huge part of the success of Haeata ConnectED. We were given the opportunity to chat with Maria and Dwayne and discovered their side of the story for this collaborative project.

Maria Kahukura

Maria Kahukura

Maria is a well-respected community member, having worked within the community for a long time. She understands and speaks basic te reo Māori and supports whānau to understand the importance of being connected. Maria has become the go-to person on campus to support whānau in getting connected.

Dwayne Duffield

Dwayne Duffield

Joining the team in September 2018, Dwayne is the resident ConnectED On-Site Engineer. Having studied Network Engineering he has a vast knowledge of the different device operating systems and hardware.

Dwayne is available for the technical support as he understands the ‘backend’ of the solution which gives him an edge when trouble shooting Access Point infrastructure limitations.

Further support team members are Irihapeti Mahuika: Director of Learning at Haeata Community Campus and Andy Kai Fong: Principal at Haeata Community Campus.

What is your favorite part of the ConnectED Project?

Dwayne: My favourite part of the project is helping solve AP infrastructure limitations at community addresses and doing my best to make sure they have a strong connection into the home at the end of it, for some families this is the first time they've had the internet into their home.

Maria: Whānau engagement and building rapport to build trust and teach them of the benefits of being connected. Seeing the excitement and smiles that come from the whānau when they are not far away from getting connected.

Being able to take understanding and clarification to whānau/family/aiga regarding their online education for their future through Haeata in a safe way is my driving passion.

Who have you seen benefit the most from this project?

Dwayne: The Students, they are able to take their schoolwork home and continue learning rather than leave it on-site, once connected they can access the same content as they could from within the school.

Parents also gain the benefit of their child being behind the school’s firewall this relieves stress for the parent having to look over their child's shoulder knowing certain sites will be blocked.

Maria: The student and their whole whānau/family/aiga. Ākonga/tamaitiiti/aoga/students feel proud they have something that they can call their own, something they can access knowing they are safe to surf.

The project has benefited the community in huge ways, giving an opportunity of a lifetime with free Wi-Fi and different opportunities obtaining a device whether through Cyclone Finance, distribution of a free device/s or distributing donated devices through the funders of the project. A Netsafe course is provided at Haeata for safer surfing.

What’s the impact on students in class once they gained access to the internet at home?

Maria: The students, have become more settled and engaged in their work, especially those that have been on the project from the beginning and the encouragement they get from their whānau/family/aiga make all the difference.

They can see the benefits of having Wi-Fi and their own device at home and are able to express how far they have come in their schoolwork when they have contributed to their own self-directed learning at home and when they return to school.

They are much happier, confident and enthusiastic to face their online future and learn lots more skills on how to access different websites and on the device itself (toolbar), they are able to focus more and eager to show what they are doing, what new things they have learnt, this has also allowed themselves to become less distracted at school with their schoolwork but also have room to encourage others to do their work.

It is a great thing to see and hear at school what the students/ākonga/tamaitiiti/aoga are able to converse with them and each other about how the project has helped them.

What are some ongoing support students and whānau receive once connected?

Dwayne: Once students/whānau are connected I inform the whānau that I'm located on-site at Haeata and work on ConnectED between the hours of 14.30 - 16.30, students are welcome to come in and see me if they have any issues with on-boarded devices or if they notice the N4L inside their home has failed.

Maria: Technical support on-site, Phone support-both school administration and cell phone, Whānau Engagement in the classrooms (students/whānau putting a face and a name to ConnectED through my main job), Whānau Engagement in and around the community, emails, website.

Overall, what are your thoughts on ConnectED Haeata?

Dwayne: I believe the ConnectED project at Haeata has been fantastic update.

The way the project operates at ground level has evolved quite a bit since the project started myself and the whānau engagement team have had to learn to roll with the changes to make the project work, I'm looking forward to seeing where the project will go from here.

Maria: I feel ConnectED has given Haeata such a huge positive opportunity to our whānau/family, students and communities future. Allowing the project to come to Haeata, what a fantastic feeling to have knowledge that our community will thrive through this project now and in the future. We have a unique community with all the diverse educational needs students/ākonga/tamaitiiti/aoga have. This project brings hope that positive changes can happen in communities, whānau/family/aiga through online educational needs being met.

Why is ConnectED so important to the community?

In an interview on the AM show Irihapeti Mahuika, mentions this project has given unlimited access to the learning students are doing in class. And it gives parents more insight into the learning and progress that their children are making at school. Opening conversations for future learning and possible career choices.

“Through the internet the world completely expands beyond the horizon that they know” - Irihapeti Mahuika

Expanding horizons is what education is about.

Stories from Whānau

Having devices and internet in the home not only supports students but also parents. Maria kindly shared with us one parent’s perspective of having Wifi and devices at home.

My children teach me

It has been so beneficial. I am computer illiterate, and now the kids are showing me how to use everything on their devices. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I can learn with them, actually I think it is such a God send.

To be honest I would never have gone to an easy computer course to learn how to use a computer or laptop, now I can use the device and with the support of my children showing me how to use it, I now have a wee bit of knowledge on how to do simple things on it, because they were getting sick and tired of me asking them so they just teach me how to do it.

It is a great thing the school is doing to allow the children to have wifi and a device in the home, it has made such a huge significant change in our lives.

Connecting to the greater world

I can look up my bank account and I am so happy that I can get simple recipes, search up Te Reo Māori and it will tell me what words mean.

Communication with teachers

I am so stoked about knowing what my children are doing, where they are at with their work whether looking on the school’s parent Linc-ed portal or through the device we now have at home.

If my kids need extra support from the teachers. If there is anything, I think my kids are not up to date with, I can ring the teacher and ask them if I can go in to talk to them, if I am concerned about my children’s school work. My daughter will use it to research her school work that she is doing at home having the wifi and the device is such an awesome opportunity and it is a great thing the school is doing for our community, as I say the project has definitely changed our lives significantly.

The Future

There is still a digital divide that the team and sponsors are working on to bridge. Some families are yet to connect and take full advantage of the project. When families are connected, there is a knowledge divide on how to use the devices that needs to be learned. GCSN are currently working with project partners to launch ConnectED Aranui which will give another 600 students access to the ConnectED network in the community.

All team members at ConnectED Haeata say they would like to see as many students and family connected as possible, so no child misses out and that they have the skills to match the devices being used.

Maria says that word of mouth is there greatest resource and shared a quote which sums up the ConnectED project perfectly.

'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.'


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