Creativity and digital skills in Otago Corrections Facility
This story was originally published by our friends at Arts Access Aotearoa.
A trial programme, grounded in kaupapa Māori values and using creativity, storytelling and digital skills, has been described by one Otago Corrections Facility staff member as “a massive opportunity to engage our Māori learners, particularly the young men in our care”.
Another staff member said: “The digital literacies that the learners have developed will equip them for the workplace of the future.”
The programme, run at Otago Corrections Facility over July and August this year, was a collaboration between Māui Studios in Christchurch, Methodist Mission Southern in Dunedin, and the Department of Corrections.
Working with 11 participants, selected for their creative abilities, the trial programme used interactive learning materials especially designed by Māui Studios to teach graphic design and art.
These materials were loaded on to secure computer tablets and Māui Studios worked with a UK-based app development team, Socrates 360, to ensure the tablets met the security requirements of Otago Corrections Facility.
Vincent Egan (Ngāruahine, Ngati Tū), Co-founder and Director of Māui Studios, says the evaluation report showed the potential of the programme to help turn around the negative statistics of Māori imprisonment.
“It ticks all the boxes: education and employment, rehabilitation and reintegration, identity and mana enhancement,” he says. “We’d love prisoners throughout New Zealand to have the opportunity to take part in this programme.
“One of the aims of the trial was to teach the men valuable technical and digital skills that are highly sought after in the job market. It also built confidence and muscle memory.”
Teaching fundamental digital literacies
The Māori-themed materials enabled participants to colour, create characters, develop their artistic skills and sequence scenes – at the same time teaching them fundamental digital literacies to help them get employment on their release.
As well as reinforcing Māori identity, the content leveraged youth culture and used high-impact imagery to engage the participants.
“Storytelling is an integral part of being from Aotearoa and although the characters explore fantastic worlds, they embody positive values and have key knowledge of tikanga practice,” Vincent says.
The evaluation report says New Zealand is known internationally for its high-quality graphic novels, cartoons, animations and web sequences. “The learners found the materials compelling and felt confident using the tablets. The skills they developed could motivate them to complete further study within this area or directly secure work in this burgeoning industry.”
The report also said the learners were careful to look after the tablets – “evidence of their commitment to learning and level of engagement”.
Following feedback in the evaluation report, prepared by Methodist Mission Southern, Māui Studios is working on refining the programme to make it even more effective.
Aligned to NCEA education standards
Content for the next phase will also be aligned to NCEA education standards, contributing to the participants’ formal education.
The Christchurch company develops digital content grounded in kaupapa Māori values and customs. Its work includes graphic design, video, web and app development, animation, illustration, and augmented and virtual reality. Its clients include Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Ngai Tahu and the Ministry of Education.
“Working with the Methodist Mission has been a great partnership,” Vincent says. “They have been working with the men in Otago Corrections Facility for many years and were already facilitating a virtual reality programme, teaching things like literacy and numeracy skills, and mechanics.”
Methodist Mission Southern has also been delivering the Storybook Dads programme at Otago Corrections Facility since 2007. In this programme, men read a children’s book and record a personal message on to a DVD. This is sent home to their child, along with a copy of the storybook.
Working with Māui Studios enabled Methodist Mission Southern to deliver high-quality kaupapa Māori content and improve prisoners’ access to digital learning tools, says Jimmy McLauchlan, its Business Development Leader.
A key feature of the programme was including the participants in the design and development of the content from the very beginning.
“We gave the men repeated opportunities to use the technology, contribute ideas and make suggestions for improvement,” he says. “The trial was a positive first step. The next step is incorporating their feedback, creating more content, and then working with Otago Corrections Facility to enhance the programme.”