Saturday, May 30, 2015

Digital Pepeha: an enquiry into technology and tikanga Māori

Tangata Whenuatanga

Socio-cultural awareness and knowledge. Recognising that learning occurs within a cultural context. Knowledge of whakapapa; knowing who children are; where they are from and who they belong to. Our Identities, our languages, and our culture.

My enquiry consists of the planning, development, and teaching of a unit for Year 7 and 8 Digital Literacy classes where students will develop a “Digital Pepeha”.

The project acknowledges the worldview (whether Māori, Pākeha, or whatever Iwi) of our rangatahi (youth) and their digital realities. There is a naturalisation of sharing and the forming of social bonds (Manākitanga), often across physical distances, present in their lives as digital citizens. This enquiry aims to combine a contemporary aspect of their worldview with a particular piece of tikanga Māori - the pepeha.

The pepeha is a way to introduce yourself in te reo Māori. It delivers a brief historical, geographic, and genealogical overview of the speaker’s background. The pepeha’s narrative journey back in time culminates in the speaker’s name, and lastly his or her marae.

It is easy in a class focussing on Digital Literacies to be obsessed with the future. Such contemporary courses align well with our developing “future focus”, a pedagogical strategy embedded within a particularly Pākehā cosmology that privileges the future over the past. The Digital Pepeha aims to explore how digital literacies may intersect with an aspect of a traditional Māori worldview, particularly the tradition of walking backwards into the future, “Ka mura, ka muri.”?

81.5% of Māori know which “iwi” they belong to, indicating that whakapapa might still be a strong influence in the worldviews of most Maori.

Where I’m at so far:

To accomplish this required me to explore and develop my own pepeha. To this end I have consulted with Whaea Te Ao Marama Hau, and Whaea Huhanna Davis regarding the pepeha form. I have also developed the Digital Pepeha Generator, a Google Form that enables students to enter the specific elements of their pepeha (maunga, awa, moana, etc.,) online in order to generate both English and te reo Māori versions of their pepeha automatically. We are currently compiling the text and images for generation of the final products.

My Pepeha (so far):

Tēnā koutou katoa

Ko te Whitirea te maunga
Ko Pipitea te awa
Ko te Titahi te moana
Ko Ngati Pākehā te iwi
Ko Simpson te hapu
Ko Roger tōku matua
Ko Thomas tōku whaea
Ko Glenn tōku tungane
Ko Jackson raua ko Georgia ōku tamariki
Ko Michelle tōku wahine
Ko Brent Simpson tōku ingoa
Ko Piritahi te marae

No reira,
tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Speculation on Education

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
speculate: to invest money in ways that could produce a large profit, but that also involve a large risk. Can also be used in the sense of to form theories, or conjecture on something without any firm evidence. The combination of these two definitions is the backdrop to the phrase, "put your money where your mouth is."

There is risk in speculation. 

We need to know where our mouths are. Often they're in the same place, repeating the same stories; a broken place where our deepest passions like science, governance, and education are just big problems in need of fixing.

The Conversation, Arnold Lakhovsky [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As this blog nears 10 years (a fact pointed out to me by a student in Genius Project) the Pedagogy of the Compressed still consumes me; but now my speculation on transformation is gaining it's mouth and it's money. If I invest in this, what will profit look like? What would the risk entail?

Is public schooling an outdated concept? What does divorced from the workplace mean? Are examinations as assessment a relic of modernity? How do we continue to "lift all boats"?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Genius Project is go!

Genius Project at Waiheke High School was inspired by Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ which promotes the concepts of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose as key factors in human motivation and performance. The name Genius Project comes from Genius Hour, a school version of  the original '20% time' pioneered by Google and 3M. The Google and 3M 20% time gave engineers and other employees one day a week to work on whatever took their fancy. This approach has resulted in the development of Gmail and Google Earth for Google, and Post-it notes for 3M (one of their most successful products), and it has been credited with increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

The project has been adapted for schools worldwide and allows students 1 hour a week in class (usually 20% of that class time) to work on a project of their own making. Caroline Crow, a maths teacher, and myself, now an English teacher, are running Genius Project on Friday at 5th period in her year 11 mathematics class. This is the last period of the school week. What better time could you get! For more information on our Genius Project check out the class Google site: WHS Genius Hour and take a look at the student blogs to see what kind of projects are going on. And please comment on student blogs if you see something you like. It would be great to get some global feedback going.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I spent the first day of the term in my Year 11 English class talking about the idea of autonomy and how I would to endeavor to create more of an environment for facilitating greater autonomy for the rest of the year. The easy way forward was to provide greater autonomy over student selection of the content we were studying for a variety of the NCEA standards. I suspect that for most of my students' schooling teachers had decided what the content was to be studied, and if they weren't actually outright dictating the content, they were providing a limited selection from which students could choose. I had done exactly this my first term and students, rightly so, didn't see it as real 'choice' - they saw it as "you can pick what you like as long as you pick one of what I give you."

My sole reason for focusing on autonomy is to try to increase student engagement. I was inspired by the book by Daniel Pink called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This text, and many others, argue that greater student autonomy (although the benefits of autonomy are not limited by any means to just students) leads to higher levels of engagement, while on the other side of the spectrum high levels of control leads to compliance.

But the problem I see now is not just student autonomy, it is also teacher autonomy. The sheer amount of assessment and reporting that is required by government education agencies forces teachers into compliance mode, teaching for the test, timetabled, fordist curriculum routines, and one-size fits-all teaching. It's difficult to teach autonomy from a position that is so controlled and it can result in a level of disengagement by teachers. If we want autonomous and engaged students, we also need autonomous and engaged teachers. 

How can we change this? That's probably another blog post (or two, or three), but I think we need to start discussing the power and trust we have given over to politicians to influence education. We need to start asking the hard questions before we scramble for solutions to problems that are not really at the core of the tradition that educators know best; problems that are created by the media, by electioneering, or by the untrained, unexperienced with tall soap-boxes and hidden agendas. Whether politics hinders or enhances our educational system must be a core enquiry.