Social media can be a powerful learning tool for Māori students, new research shows

08 September 2017
Team Solutions e-Learning Facilitator Mark Dashper
Team Solutions e-Learning Facilitator Mark Dashper

Research by Te Puna Wānanga and Team Solutions e-Learning Facilitator Mark Dashper has revealed how online social networking sites can be used to boost Māori students’ learning outcomes.

The study, which focused on year 9 – 13 Māori school students in rural Northland, formed the core of Mark’s recently-completed PhD, ‘Te Waha Tieke: exploring the educational potential of social networking environments for Māori students in Northland Schools’.

Mark looked at e-Learning factors that promote engagement in social networking sites for Māori secondary students in Tai Tokerau. He researched a series of secure educational social networks (ESN) using closed Facebook groups, which were created over different learning areas and operated both inside and outside of school. His study shows how these Māori students connected and developed educational relationships within a community of online learners by exploring how Maori students engaged with e-learning to supplement their classroom learning.

“Something that quickly became apparent on social media was the apparent absence of pressures or social restrictions identified by some Māori students as whakamā, meaning shyness or embarrassment,” Mark said.

“Students weren’t reluctant to ask basic questions, make comments or raise ideas in front of the entire online community and also seemed happy to accept public praise from their teacher. Even better, this lack of whakamā was observed by teachers to survive the transition from the ESN back into the  classroom, demonstrating increased bonding and bridging social capital, and incorporating tuakana-teina (peer group learning) relationships.”

Mark used four key themes to identify similarities and differences of practice, to help understand how Māori pedagogies and values might be reflected in an ESN environment, and contribute to student engagement. These themes were summarised as the learning environment, quality relationships, cultural understandings, and challenges to pedagogical practice.

“By using these online communities, students created a self-directed learning programme that straddled both home and school, sometimes choosing web-based self-instruction over kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) teacher instruction. This was seen to operate as a dual learning pathway that was initiated by them.”

Students were free to shift from one mode of learning to the other, although Mark’s research also identified challenges in the keeping a boundary between their personal social media lives and using it for learning activities.