Ako Aotearoa – Weaving Te Reo into Technology

Press Release – National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence

Weaving te reo into technology – winner shares his joy for helping others to learn

Tonight, New Zealand’s top tertiary teaching excellence honour was awarded to Dr Te Taka Keegan, senior lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Waikato.

Presented by the Rt Hon Bill English at a parliamentary dinner, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award acknowledges Dr Keegan’s sustained commitment to teaching and learning over a 30-year career where he has skillfully woven his love for te reo Maori with his love for computers. Te Taka is still the only person who can teach a computer science paper completely in te reo.

Student success data and their feedback tell of a superb teacher who is creative, compassionate and persistent, with an engaging manner that has made him an extremely popular teacher and colleague. His outstanding contribution to the Maori language has enabled learners to use the benefits of his computer science expertise to study in te reo. He has made a profound contribution to The University of Waikato.

Beyond the teaching environment, he has managed the development of the Niupepa Collection – resulting in the digitisation of the historical collection of Maori language newspapers released on microfiche by the Alexander Turnbull Library. From 2000-2004, Te Taka worked with Microsoft to macronise the keyboard, which is now a Microsoft standard, and in 2005 worked on the translation of Office 2003 and Windows XP into Maori.

From 2005, he worked with Google on various projects including the translation of the Google Web Search interface into Maori, a feature that was released in 2008. He then worked at Google Head Office in 2008/2009 on developing a translation toolkit that led to Google Translate for te reo Maori.

The Awards are hosted at parliament by Hon Paul Goldsmith, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment. Ako Aotearoa – the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence – administers the awards for the Minister.

Ako Aotearoa’s Director, Dr Stanley Frielick says, “Celebrating excellent teaching is part of Ako Aotearoa’s core business. Our award winners all demonstrate the ‘X-factor’ that makes them truly special teachers. They create the kinds of inspirational learning experiences that ignite inquiry and engagement with the subject, and help shape students’ identities and pathways to future careers.”

In addition to the Supreme Award, 12 Sustained Excellence awards were presented tonight; two under the Kaupapa Maori category (including Dr Keegan) and a further ten in the General category. All Sustained Excellence winners receive $20,000 and the Supreme Award winner an additional $10,000.

The Sustained Excellence award winners under the two categories include: General Category

Professor Ursula Cheer – Dean of Law University of Canterbury

Dr Liz Ditzel – Principal Lecturer, School of Nursing Otago Polytechnic

Dr Ruth Fitzgerald – Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology University of Otago

Gail Harrison – Manager and Lead Educator, The Whanganui Learning Centre

Dr Brad Hurren – Teaching Fellow, Department of Anatomy University of Otago

Associate Professor Ben Kennedy – Department of Geological Sciences University of Canterbur

James McKinnon – Senior Lecturer, School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies Victoria University of Wellington

Associate Professor Jay Marlowe – School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work The University of Auckland

Amy Raymond – Senior Academic Staff Member, School of Business Studies Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology

Haruko Stuart – Teaching Fellow in Japanese, Department of Languages and Cultures University of Otago

Kaupapa Maori category

Mereana Rapata-Hanning – Principal Lecturer, Otago Polytechnic

Dr Te Taka Keegan – Senior Lecturer, Computer Science Department

The University of Waikato (also the Supreme Award winner)

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