Thursday, 31 January 2013

Karakia, prayers, blessings....

As a New Zealander, I have become immersed in the culture where there are karakia, blessings and prayers said at hui, during funerals, weddings, and many other occasions, not least of which is when people offer prayers to friends in need, or even me. I respectfully wait for the moment to be over and always feel a bit remorseful for not having any faith to put trust into. I like the sentiments that are expressed but just don't get who they are saying them to.
I watched Graham Nortons's programme on TV recently when he was interviewing the star of The Office - Ricky Gervais and he had finished his hosting of the Oscars or some such other event by saying "....and I want to thank God for making me an atheist." which was pretty offensive to many Americans apparently because, as Johnny Depp said at the time, "God has a home in the American Mid-West." Apparently, about 90% of USA citizens are believers whereas it is more like 50% in Britain.
So I wondered what the percentage was like in New Zealand. I guess I could go to the government census statistics - the 2006 census showed about 66% believers ( on the decrease from the previous census). It will be interesting to see what happens in the next census (remembering we bypassed a census due to the Christchurch earthquake). Will there be a resurgence of religion due to human response to the disasters?
Its not that I wouldn't like to have faith, I just don't. It must be quite nice to have some hope for life after death, reassurance for people who want to see their loved ones again and all the other benefits that religion must bring to the psyche.
What do other (34%) of non-believing people do when all the karakia, prayers and blessings are on? I have never asked for fear of offending someone but I would quite like to know. Our politicians all seem to be able to offer prayers for in troubled times so it cant be them.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Huripoki -Flipping New Zealand style

“Culture is central to learning. It plays a role not only in communicating and receiving information, but also in shaping the thinking process of groups and individuals. A pedagogy that acknowledges, responds to, and celebrates fundamental cultures offers full, equitable access to education for students from all cultures.”[1]
While writing up a paper about flipped learning recently, I started to think about whether flipped learning fitted into the cultural context of New Zealand and decided to have a close look at the Tataiako – the cultural competencies, which every teacher in New Zealand should be aspiring to apply to their teaching practice.
The cultural competencies should promote Maori learners to achieve educational success as Maori. There are five competencies and they are Ako, Wananga, Manaakitanga, Tangatawhenuatanga, and Whanaungatanga. They have links to the Registered Teacher Criteria and the Professional Teaching Standards, so should be well understood by New Zealand teachers. I really don’t know if they are well known or not, but every school which has subscribed to Te Kotahitanga or He Kakano would be aware of them at least.
Image from google stock: [2]

So, as I wrote about flipped learning, (which is the concept of students watching videos at home on the content of their curriculum and coming to school to discuss, question and practice using the concepts in practical or applied ways) it was really interesting to find out that the concept of “the guide on the side, instead of the sage on the stage” was used in one of the first papers about flipping by J Wesley Baker in 2000[3] This, to me, encapsulates what Ako is all about – taking responsibility for your own learning and that of Maori learners. In the classroom this looks like – a teacher sitting alongside a student and discussing, rather than lecturing from the front. The teacher is the guide on the side, learning from the student as well. (Reciprocal learning.)

[4]Image - reproduced from Colin Smith under Creative Commons licensing
In fact, it seems to me that each of the competencies, as I worked through them all, are really about good teaching no matter who and where you are. Wananga is the professional development and problem solving that you do to find the best outcome for the students - in fact “Teaching as Inquiry”. What suits the individual student best? Tangatawhenuatanga is about accepting who the learner is, knowing their cultural identity and allowing them to achieve within their own cultural context. Whanaungatanga is about knowing your learner’s family and their cultural context, making good respectful links with them and their culture. And Manaakitanga is about caring about the student, a mutual respect and understanding about who the student is and what their beliefs are..
I came to the conclusion that “Flipping” could be an excellent pedagogical method for teachers of Maori students as all of the competencies could be applied to create appropriate videos for Maori students or by Maori students. Guide on the side, problem solving, knowing your learners, knowing their families and connections and what works for them, and above all caring about the student and believing that they can learn and achieve.
[3] Baker, JW. "The “classroom flip”. Using web course management tools to become the guide on the side." 11th international conference on college teaching and learning, Jacksonville, FL 2000.
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Location:Taupo, New Zealand