The Challenges and Opportunities of Using Mobile Devices to Attain Māori Language Proficiency
What are the effects of using mobile devices as part of teacher professional development focused on teaching and learning the Māori language for Māori immersion educational settings? Answers to this question are explored by researching the extent to which electronic devices could be an effective strategy to address the crisis of the continuing decline of the Māori language. Another issue explored in the research is whether learners make expected gains in language proficiency through the use of mobile devices in comparison to standard face-to-face methods of language instruction. An indigenous framework, Hei Korowai, was used to guide the research and ensure the practices used were culturally appropriate, particularly when entering into and negotiating the research project with participants. Kaupapa Māori and Māori centred approaches were also drawn on to gather data from semi-structured interviews, observations of mobile device use, online questionnaires, and Māori language proficiency tests results. Fifty two participants in total took part in the research, 46 from a PLD programme that used mobile devices and 6 from a separate PLD programme that used mainly face-to-face instruction. Electronic forms of second language acquisition could be advantageous for learners to access audio and video content on the move and at a time, pace and place convenient for them. The capacity to have literally a library’s worth of resources, functions and internet connectivity all in one tool and at the touch of a button could also be of particular significance to users. Conversely, participant attitudes about technology, varied needs for initial and on-going training in how to operate the electronic devices, and interaction preferences were challenges experienced with utilising the device as part of the language learning and teaching process. Videos viewed on the device could also be seen as one-way learning with a lack of spiritual connection and no opportunities for discussion about content, potentially causing road blocks for learners who need extra support. Face-to-face instruction was a preferred method for participants and the physical presence of the teacher highly valued to allow the space to pose and answer questions and receive an immediate response, which is not possible when learning via videos on a mobile device. However, there was acknowledgement of the complementary nature and value of utilising the mobile device followed by face-to-face meetings. Evidence suggests that Māori have been quick to adopt and adapt new technologies since the arrival of the early settlers to the shores of Aotearoa. Could technology be the panacea, the cure-all for the revitalisation of the Māori language, a tool that provides access to language, culture and identity to the multitudes? This research tests the hypotheses in the context of two items of modern technology, the iPod Touch® and the iPad®. The limitations of the research include potential bias in interpretation given the researcher’s insider position, the relatively small scale of the project, and the absence of a widely accepted theoretical framework for mobile learning. Critical questions that still remain are the implications of promoting ‘one Māori language’ for a large-scale programme and the risks in doing so for the preservation of tribal dialect and community identity. This study has, however, begun the conversation about the use of mobile devices in Māori medium educational settings, and it may contribute to an understanding of how to design technologies, media, and interactions to support learning within these settings towards innovative practices.