Ocean is Pukenga Matua/Senior lecturer in Te Kawa a Māui. She is course coordinator for MAOR203.
MAOR203-Te Taunaha Whenua/Mapping Whenua is about cultural mapping and uses maps as a springboard for exploring local places and their histories, and the different perspectives from which people view, value and manage whenua, or land. Ocean has designed her curriculum under the assumption that Māori value scientific perspectives and Māori studies students are well placed to integrate scientific pedagogies and methodologies into a complex whole, that can more accurately represent diverse perspectives. As such MAOR203 is intellectually stimulating and demanding. Nonetheless, Ocean wants learning to be practical, and connected and relevant to students’ lives. Her choice of pedagogies – incorporating group work, outdoor field exercises, computer lab work and regular reports – is designed to further enrich the already diverse learning experience of students in Māori Studies.
The key innovation Ocean employs in MAOR203 is to use maps, mapping and map-making as ways to interrogate course content. In this cross-disciplinary approach, tools from geography and science – such as using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – are used to explore a range of issues relevant to Māori studies: including iwi history, colonisation, land restoration and management. Students read maps, use maps, consider and analyse how maps convey particular stories about land and finally, furnished with a critical literacy in relation to maps, they make their own maps. To do this, digital tools such as GIS, digital story maps and infographics are introduced to students, who use these in a variety of ways. Students explore their own contexts for the maps they construct, enabling them to relate the task to their own interests, experiences, and priorities.
Course activities provide space for and encourage student autonomy in creative and critical thinking, and there is flexibility in the style and focus of the assessment tasks. Students draw maps, annotate paper maps, add digital layers to maps and even compose and record oral maps. In order for the learning from their course to be useful beyond the student, into their own communities, the course teaches with free online versions of GIS and other digital technologies.
Students have responded positively to activities, and formal evaluations of the broader Te Kawa a Māui Atlas project, within which this course sits, have been written up and published elsewhere (see Mercier et al 2013; Mercier and Rata 2016). Student autonomy and real-life contexts are encouraged as students choose their own context for map making e.g. students map (and thereby archive) placenames, waiata, relics (such as artwork), histories and other knowledge forms from their selves, their whānau, hapū and communities. Learning to use and then apply the technology to the course content provides translational and experiential learning opportunities for students. Moving beyond the traditional ‘download content’ approach, this pedagogy is open, flexible and surprising for students, as it values and validates the knowledge that they already have, and encourages them to re-imagine and re-frame that knowledge, visually and spatially, on a map.
Mercier, O. R., & Rata, A. (2016). 'Drawing the Line’ with Google Earth: The Place of Digital Mapping Outside of Geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. ISSN: 0309-8265
Mercier, O. R., Douglas, S., Hall, M., McFadgen, B., Adds, P., Bargh, M., & Wilson, T. (2013). Promoting Engagement Through A Student-Built School-Wide Digital Atlas Of Maori Studies. In C. Wankel, L. Wankel and P. Blessinger (Eds). Increasing Student Engagement and Retention using Multimedia Technologies. Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
The innovation is an example of using a social constructivist approach where students have choices and are encouraged to be independent and to use creative problem solving in their approach to assessments. A multi-disciplinary approach incorporating archaeology, history, geography and kaupapa Māori is supplemented by practical training in digital technologies such as Google earth and Quantum GIS. This holistic approach brings historical events on land to light in new and visually dynamic ways.
Ocean’s work in this course highlights the power of original and creative approaches to help students engage with and understand challenging content, and to inspire them and empower them to use course content ideas beyond the bounds of the course and their degree.
This case study was written as part of the Innovative Pedagogies research project.