A Tiriti leap of courage

November 2017

 

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ALEX HOTERE-BARNES discusses the relationship between Te Tiriti o Waitangi and digital citizenship and looks at how educators can incorporate digital learning opportunities that reflect Māori and non-Māori worldviews in Aotearoa.

In Aotearoa we can’t discuss the role of public education and digital citizenship without engaging with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Why? Because Te Tiriti is a part of our civic life: it contains moral, ethical and political learning regarding our history and present, which informs our future. Te Tiriti is vital to understanding what it means to be a citizen in Aotearoa and globally. It distinguishes us politically and culturally. It offers us a homegrown blueprint for relationship building between tangata whenua and non-Māori now, and into the future.

Learning with digital technologies is never politically or culturally neutral – its ideas, language, mediums and platforms are all infused with powerful cultural values. This situation shapes the digital learning judgements we do and don’t make. It impacts on students’ digital learning opportunities and realities. Through school values and graduate profiles it’s possible to explore how digital technologies reflect Māori and non-Māori worldviews in Aotearoa. Done well, this will contribute to the following positive digital outcomes:

  1. Produce educational equity for and with diverse tangata whenua.
  2. Forge creative ways for our students to learn with and from a range of worldviews.
  3. Explore and apply the digital innovation and creativity that is bubbling away in our own backyard.

Affirming tangata whenua – “He kai kei āku ringa”

Tangata whenua have long embraced technologies and their learning benefits. This is true prior to colonisation and in the present moment. Māori see the potential that digital technologies bring to learning in homes, communities, on the marae and in kura. Charles Royal (2007) aptly observes that Māori are driven by creativity and innovation that embraces cultural revitalisation, restoration and social justice. Here are a few exciting Māori digital initiatives that fit this description (please visit the online article for hyperlinks):

  • Linking traditional Māori games and gamification
  • Dig My Idea: Māori Innovation Challenge
  • Ka Hao: Māori Digital Technology Development Fund
  • Te Reanga Ipurangi: Māori embracing the digital generation
  • Digital Natives Academy
  • Te Whare Ako: mobile learning
  • Iwi-led digital initiatives
  • Hangarau matihiko: E tipu e rea

What’s exciting about these initiatives – and there are many more in development – is that they are designed to affirm and expand the language, identities and culture of students through digital technologies. They are examples that challenge what Ann Milne powerfully calls the “White Spaces” in our education system.

Practical application

Educationalists are generally aware of Te Tiriti. It’s in our curriculum(s) and in a range of policy documents. Yet many perceive that Te Tiriti is “too hard”, “impractical” or “irrelevant”. This is because many of us in the teaching profession have had little personal and professional exposure about how Te Tiriti can be practically applied. This is particularly the case in digital technologies. 

The latest standards for the teaching profession offer us a useful starting point. They prompt us to think about what quality teaching in relation to Te Tiriti can look like. Applied to digital technologies, here are some ideas to think about and actions to take:

  • Seek digital learning resources and examples that recognise the unique status of tangata whenua.
  • Find digital mediums that provide your students with an understanding of the histories, heritages, languages and cultures as partners to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • Begin to incorporate and develop the use of 

te reo and tikanga Māori in your digital learning content and pedagogy.

Often it’s most practical to start exploring one element of the standard at a time. As you progress, you are more likely to actively affirm the identity, language and culture of Māori learners and their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Whose mode of mana?

An honourable Tiriti relationship takes up the opportunity to engage with the creative and innovative activities that diverse Māori and non-Māori are involved in. A Tiriti o Waitangi partnership in education provides opportunities to co-create and co-innovate a digital learning environment that reflects Aotearoa. Te Tiriti can enable us to:

  • be vigilant about whose modes of mana are being enabled and/or denied, and the directions our digital learning takes us
  • identify diverse cultural experiences and worldviews
  • enable Māori and non-Māori students to see themselves in their and our digital world
  • be active digital makers and creators, not just passive consumers of technology.

We have an opportunity to join national and international indigenous digital innovators who locate rich layers of culture, language and identity at the centre of their digital learning design. We have an exciting role in thinking and planning alongside tangata whenua about how our digital learning embraces creativity, innovation, cultural revitalisation, restoration and social justice.

Alex Hotere-Barnes is senior researcher/evaluator and expert partner at CORE Education.


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