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Using a digital library as a Māori language learning resource: Issues and possibilities

The development of electronic language learning resources, founded on digital library technology, is a capability that, to date, is largely unrealised. The Flexible Language Acquisition (FLAX) project is a digital library initiative at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. The current FLAX activities provide practice for students who are learning English as an additional language. The prospect of extending this resource to include te reo Māori is as exciting as it is groundbreaking. The outcomes of this research inform the issues and possibilities involved in creating such resources. The World Wide Web has allowed an everyday access to the Internet, but finding and retrieving pertinent information is often a convoluted and time-consuming exercise. The normal outcome is that users are unable to take full advantage of the available resources. Digital libraries have an unprecedented power in terms of organising and storing vast amounts of information and, with built-in retrieval functionality, serve as ideal repositories. The ability to focus the information within these repositories is extremely significant because there is no longer the chaff that normally results from Internet searches. Purposeful learning activities can be presented exploiting an assortment of media and drawing on stored information that can be assembled in a range of formats. Such capacity, flexibility and diversity is normally only encountered at traditional, physical libraries. The research includes an overview of digital libraries and some of the language learning resources that are currently available on the Internet. Since the target language is te reo Māori, a critical review on the features of kaupapa Māori theory, pedagogy and Māori pedagogy is undertaken. Using the concepts discussed in this review, the language learning activities associated with the FLAX project are analysed to determine their suitability for learning te reo Māori. Further feedback was provided by a sample group following their testing of a selection of activities that were based on text written in te reo Māori. The analysis suggests the current range of FLAX activities have more benefit to students as tools that allow practice of the learning that has been delivered in face-to-face classroom settings, rather than as a standalone language learning resource. In their present form, the main benefits of the activities predominantly rest in the way they were performed rather than in the activities themselves. Furthermore, commentary from the testing group regarded the activities as more beneficial for practicing sentence structures, grammar and punctuation, rather than actual language learning. The group generally agreed, however, that combining the activities with methods of oral and aural transmission, in te reo Māori, would certainly result in more effective language learning outcomes. The legitimacy of digital library-based language learning activities lies in designs that promote learner-centred interaction that is consistent with best practice communicative learning theory. When the target language is te reo Māori, it is of the utmost importance that the activities are tailored to embrace a Māori world view in ways that promote the learning rather than the activity or the content.
Type of thesis
Mato, P. J. (2009). Using a digital library as a Māori language learning resource: Issues and possibilities (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3942
The University of Waikato
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