eLearning in kura – Ka rawe!

So say academics and teachers. In fact, turn it around and say what’s good for Māori learners is usually good for all learners, says Cath Rau, chair at Kia Ata…

So say academics and teachers. In fact, turn it around and say what’s good for Māori learners is usually good for all learners, says Cath Rau, chair at Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust. The power of technology is about how you use the tools, not the tools themselves.

Principal Ripeka Lessels at Māori medium school Te Whata Tau o Putauaki in Kawerau says watching her students collaborate with their devices is both fascinating and heartening. “The devices assist that collaboration.” She cites the example of Padlet, a brainstorming app used in the school, which allows groups to create online walls collaboratively. It’s ideal in a Māori medium context. Likewise, Google Docs and Google Classroom.

“If we don’t give eLearning to (Māori) kids they are, when they leave school, going to start at a deficit.”

The academic knowledge about Māori eLearning is still a work in progress – as it is with most eLearning. Auckland University’s Professor Stuart McNaughton is a go-to person for digital education, although reluctant to position himself as an expert in Māori eLearning. Nonetheless, he says assuming eLearning is all about individual agency may underestimate its potential for collective learning

Podcasts and blogs

At the Manaiakalani cluster of decile one schools in Auckland, McNaughton has seen achievement and learning increase thanks to the likes of podcasts and blogs that the learners are using.

He points out that eLearning can promote the skills of collaboration and social skills to do with empathy and perspective taking, which often work well in a Māori setting. “It comes back to what they are actually using the device for,” says McNaughton. “We don’t have enough evidence (yet) to answer the question of how we do this well.”

He emphasises, however, that Māori should not be lumped into one. “You want to nuance this point about cultures, for example, being only collective or individualistic.”

Rau studies the developmental progressions associated with eLearning. On a practical level she also works with Māori medium schools to match apps and e-resources to their needs through the Mauri Oho Mauri Tau programme.

One such technology Rau recommends is the OPzone Connect software, which is designed to make students aware of their state of mind and help transition them to their optimum learning zone with breathing exercises.

At Te Whata Tau o Putauaki, students attach the OPzone e-clip to their earlobes after lunch. If the data identifies that the students are not in an optimum state for learning the software leads them through a set of breathing exercises returning the student to a more balanced state. The kura also uses traditional methods such as waiata and karakia to help regulate breathing and transition students from one state of mind to another.

Te Whata Tau o Putauaki has 130 devices for around 120 teachers and students, but staff are aware that devices should never supersede kanohi ki te kanohi learning, says Lessels.

When she spoke to EA, students from the senior school were working on a project that involved taking devices home to interview kaumatua. The next morning, students typically collaborated with their devices on their findings.

Year 5 and 6 students were working in groups to record trailers around their pepeha. At night they discussed the project with whānau, then each morning compared notes with their peers.

Too few Te Reo apps

Devices can give struggling students confidence, she says. When they master skills using their devices they then go on to teach others. “The device gives them confidence to give it a go.”

But Lessels says there are so few apps and tools available in Te Reo Māori.

“The dilemma for Māori medium, when you teach the inquiry material, is that children have to inquire in English, then switch it into Māori,” says Lessels. The Story Creator app is a classic example, although some apps do transcend language. For example, Lessels introduced Minecraft to the kura after her mokupuna showed her how it worked.

Rau’s team has done work around identifying the most useful apps to recommend to Māori medium students, the best of which are language agnostic.

She says that teachers working with Māori students may find apps such as Explain Everything, Imagistory, Educreations, and Pic Collage for Kids useful.

More on OPzone at http://tinyurl. com/opzoneNZ

  • Diana Clement