The Informer recently featured a story “Did I Read That Right?” 5 July 2022) on
WordSmart, a local initiative designed to help dyslexic and other children with learning
difficulties, achieve better results in English literacy.
To recap, WordSmart.app is a hybrid reading programme aimed at beginner readers. The
app provides the basis for students to become successful readers, by mimicking the ways
our brains naturally leam to read, using stories.
At that time, company principal Paul Blackman and his partners were about to
leave for Fiji, where the Government had committed to deploying the program in Fijian
Fast forward a few weeks, and Paul is excited about the success of the project in
Fiji. The excitement began on first arriving at the Delainamasi Government school, which
was the first school to be selected by the Fijian Government for the project.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, has been a
sponsor of the project, which aims to provide IT solutions that complement the schools’
existing programs. This School has been selected as the pilot school to provide a model
for other schools wanting to provide digital solutions for all Fijian students, and every
one of the school’s 103 new entrants has been issued with a tablet.
Paul’s first impressions of the School were overwhelmingly positive. “There
are signs everywhere which provide inspiration, instruction and motivation for
all the students,” he says. “The students are respectful, receptive and responsive and
I’m really impressed by how fast they are learning to decode words to learn the basics
of reading. I could teach here for the rest of my life. It’s so exciting to be teaching kids
who truly want to learn.”
The WordSmart pilot is supported by Dhiraj Bhartu who heads up educational IT
for the Ministry of Education and Prof. Som Naidu who was the Pro-Vice Chancellor of
the University of the South Pacific. While in Fiji WordSmart has been invited to apply
for a grant which would enable them to roll out the WordSmart app for the whole of Fiji
and the Pacific region.
Paul’s right hand man Blair Murray had taken on the role of providing the technical
expertise to install the application on Samsung Tablets for all the 103 year one
students. When he arrived it was clear he needed to be a “jack of all trades,” including
sourcing portable internet Wi-Fi. Thanks to Blair the Delanamasi Govemment school
is now able to provide all year one students with sufficient access to wifi to run all three
classes. WordSmart has been able to utlilse the skills of a development team that includes
Seba Illingworth, Eric Hogan and Stephen Knightly to overcome some quite complex
technical challenges. The team left the teachers with sufficient knowledge and skill
to maintain the solution.
With WordSmart now will and truly established in the school, Paul is able to return
to Whitianga, feeling a mixture of relief and excitement knowing the application has been
left in safe hands.