Learners and Mobile Devices

He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau

A house of learning, a house of technologies

A framework underpinned with concepts of ako and kaupapa Māori values, interwoven with mobile learning theories, approaches and practices.

Acushla Dee Sciascia & Claudio Aguayo


Purpose of the framework

He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework weaves Kaupapa Māori theories, values and approaches to teaching and learning and provides distinct mobile learning parallels of theory and practice, conceptualised into the visual of a metaphorical wharenui (traditional meeting house). The framework depicts the relationship between ako and mLearning (mobile learning), and engages a range of pedagogies that are culturally responsive and open to the affordances (possibilities) of digital technologies. The framework is a values-based approach to understanding the role of mobile devices in learning and is uniquely underpinned with Kaupapa Māori philosophies and values.


He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework aims to:

Intended use terminologies

The framework is specifically targeted to educators and mLearning practitioners in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. The framework intends to provide a comprehensive understanding of how ako (symbiotic nature of learning and teaching), Kaupapa Māori principles, and mLearning theories and affordances are interwoven to recreate strategies that can encourage pedagogical transformation. The framework was primarily developed for application in tertiary educational contexts, however it has the potential to be applied in learning contexts where practitioners are seeking to contextualise their practice to Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this framework we refer to the metaphorical house representing the encounter and combination of Kaupapa Māori and mLearning in two ways: as the house of learning, and the wharenui. We also use the term ‘affordance’ to refer to the wide range of ‘possibilities’ that technology in general, and mobile technology in particular, can offer. Affordances are determined by the context and setting of use, and by the socio-cultural, technological, educational, and emotional background of users.

Framework Outline

Each artform and space within the wharenui is underpinned by interconnected concepts. This framework outlines these concepts and aligns them to mLearning to provide opportunities to create and support conducive ako environments (see Figure 1).
Our aim is to present a framework that could map out ako spaces that are culturally responsive. Underpinned by Māori values, and the affordances of mLearning, traditional pedagogies, both Māori and Western, could be transformed allowing students to construct their own learning and knowledge to their own philosophies and perceptions.

Figure 1. Visual representation of He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework and the different parts composing a traditional wharenui. Each numbered part is addressed as a different section.

1. Marae ātea - Courtyard in front of wharenui

The marae ātea is the courtyard in front of the wharenui. Here pōhiri or pōwhiri, the ritual of encounter, is carried out. Pōhiri is the negotiation process that identifies and outlines the purpose of why the two parties would come together and ensures that visitors (manuhiri) are formally welcomed into the space of the hosting group (tangata whenua).
Protocols begin with the karanga (call) from the tangata whenua (hosts) to the manuhiri (visitors). Karanga is usually a women’s role in this process though for some tribes, this is instead the role of the male. The exchange of calls continue until the visiting group have emerged onto the marae ātea (or into the wharenui depending on the tribe) and are then seated. Formal speeches are exchanged (predominantly by males, but again, for some tribes this can be a females' role) beginning with the hosts. These protocols are highly sacred, as the practices enter into the realm of Tumatauenga, the God of War. This space is where rigorous debate and discussion between hosts and visitors takes place as an appropriate format of gaining understanding of intentions. It is here where host people and visitors establish common ground and understanding of each other. Once formalities of speech exchange are completed, this mutual understanding is affirmed through the formal greeting of a hongi (pressing of the noses). The final part of this process of whakanoa (neutralising) is the sharing of food – guests are usually invited into the wharekai (dining hall) to share food and drink which encourages the fostering of relationships amongst visitors and hosts and ensures that any tapu (restricted) has been lifted from participants engaged in pōhiri.
The marae ātea is therefore the first point of contact and is the space where issues are debated and worked through before entering the house of learning. It is the space where common ground between teacher and student can be made and connections are established. Through establishing an understanding, a relationship is formed – one that is built on trust for one another and that ensures both hosts (teachers) and visitors (students/learners) feel comfortable in the presence of each other. This experience between teacher and learner is an important, valued part of the learning process and connects to key values that are later discussed in this report.
One characteristic of mLearning is that the use of mobile devices for learning is relatively new and still emerging across educational contexts and sectors, therefore the range of potential issues related to the culturally responsive use of mobile devices in education is still emerging and evolving. Mobile learning affordances and practices challenge the didactic teacher-centred practices in education. Examples of these are:
  • The diffuse interface between mobile learning inside and outside the classroom, and between formal, non-formal and informal educational contexts
  • The mobility and ubiquity of mobile technologies
  • The role and type of engagement of learners with mobile devices for learning (e.g. learner-generated contents and contexts)
  • The specifics tools and affordances to be used pursuing specific learning goals and outcomes
  • The contextual use of mobile learning
  • The public, private and intimate use of mobile devices by learners and associated ethical considerations around these different spaces
It is, therefore, critical to achieve a common ground and understanding between teachers and students, both seen here as co-learners, before entering the house of learning. For this, hosts (teachers/practitioners) are encouraged to consider the social and cultural backgrounds of learners, their expectations and motivations, their level of technological knowledge and skills, and to do so within a frame of mutual respect, love and compassion, while caring for them and their whānau and cultural traditions.
The coming together of Kaupapa Māori and mLearning sought to find common ground through similarities in concepts within the wharenui and to identify ways on how two practices could come together to develop ako environments which are beneficial for students and teachers. It acknowledges and advocates that both Kaupapa Māori and mLearning have their differences that will keep them unique in their own right.

2. Kuaha - Door / Knowledge accessible 24/7

The entrance or the door to the wharenui is both practical and symbolic in the context of the ancestral house. As people enter through the door it is intended that they are leaving behind the realm of Tumatauenga (God of War) and entering into the realm of Rongomaraeroa (God of Peace). This transition from one space to another represents an important leaving behind of certain aspects associated with the pōhiri process and rituals and the embracing of new dimensions and aspects that are present within the wharenui. This new space requires new ways of thinking, being and doing and different behaviours and expectations are also required. This transition can be symbolised by the removal of one's shoes. While this can be seen as primarily a practical reason to ensure that dirty shoes do not soil the inside of the wharenui, its broader meanings extend to a sign of respect that the visitor has for the wharenui, for the ancestral house and for the people of that marae.
In the context of the framework, this symbolic removal of shoes is not just one of showing respect and practicality but is symbolic also of the removal and leaving behind of distractions that can often be prohibitive in the learning process. Such distractions may be burdens or issues that may prevent the learner from having an open mind to the learning that is to take place. This is a significant point about the framework in that entering the house of learning requires a shift in thinking as spaces are transitioned that enable the learner to be open-minded and ready to learn. If learners bring any issues, or concerns, to the learning process, these must be addressed and resolved in the courtyard before entering the house of learning.
In terms of mobile learning, the learning house has an open door policy. This is, the learning house is always open and ready to receive and engage with learners. This is a critical point as technology and education should never represent a barrier to the learning process, on the contrary, they should always operate in favour of learners and learning. In this way, the learning house is always accessible for learning to happen anywhere, anytime. Ensuring safety of learners as they navigate and negotiate mobile learning in virtual environments will be considered in upcoming sections where the practicing of values are key to the process of learning.

3. Wharenui - The meeting house / the house of learning

The wharenui, which literally translates to ‘large house’, is presided over by Rongomaraeroa – God of Peace. The wharenui itself is symbolic of the body of a prominent ancestor. The head of the ancestor is depicted in the tekoteko (carved figurehead) on the apex. The rafters in the porch way represent the outstretched arms, the rafters inside the wharenui are the ribs, the walls are the legs, and the roof is the spine. Inside the wharenui is a space of peace and is also a place for enlightenment, understanding and knowledge. This space inside the wharenui is where many gatherings take place. Tangihanga (funerals), hui (meetings), wānanga (learning) are carried out in this space, creating a safe and comfortable environment for people to meet, talk, share and sleep.
The wharenui symbolically represents the potential of both the spiritual and physical realms where the two come together through rituals of encounter, protocols and activities. The framework draws on this philosophy and concept of the house and incorporates distinct values that are critical to the process of ako. In this sense the house of learning represents the setting and/or context where the potential of the learning process using mobile devices can take place between learners, with both students and teachers seen as ‘co-learners’ – this is essentially ‘ako’.
Some of the key affordances of mLearning, ubiquity and mobility, encourage the practice and understanding that learning can happen anytime, anywhere. No longer does learning need to be confined solely to classrooms. Engaging the virtual spaces and channels can aid students’ learning within physical spaces and contexts.
Therefore, the analogy of this wharenui being used in the framework as a ‘house of learning’ refers to the ‘contextual situation’ where learning occurs, whether physical or virtual, and ultimately dependent on the particularities that learners bring into the ‘learning context’. The framework also provides guidance to how to create meaningful and safe learning spaces in both physical and virtual learning environments.

4. Papa - Floor of the wharenui / foundation of values

The papa, or solid foundation of this wharenui, is a key part of the framework. The floor of the house represents Papatūānuku, (Earth Mother) of whom all life springs from. Papatūānuku is therefore an important part of Māori culture and identity as all Māori descendants have a connection to the lands of their forebears. The papa is symbolic of this connection to the land and to the practice of being ever-present in one’s context. The papa represents the values which underpin the house of learning. The practicing of these values strengthens and supports the foundations of the house of learning.
The following are some of the values that are important to He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework, and underpin the philosophical and values-based approach recommended for mLearning pedagogical practices. Many of these have been developed from Te Tauākī Ako Framework from Ako Aotearoa (2011). The values listed in Table 1 are not exhaustive and should be considered as core values with an emphasis on adding others as the practitioner deems appropriate and important to them and their practice. The values (listed in alphabetical order) are translated and briefly explained in the context of both the framework as well as the process of learning and the importance to learners.
Table 1. Kaupapa Māori key values underpinning He Whare Ako, HeWhare Hangarau framework and recommended for culturally responsive mobile learning pedagogical practices.
AkoLearning & teaching;
Teacher & learner
An holistic approach to the philosophy of teaching and learning that incorporates community, culture, identity, language, values and beliefs to the educative process.
ArohaLove, compassionPromote and actively practise love, compassion and kindness towards others and their own unique backgrounds and identities.
KairangiExcellence, high standardsMaintain high standards of teaching and learning practices and processes;
Maintain and value high standards and excellence in learning outcomes.
KaitiakitangaGuardianshipUnderstand the role of guardianship of learners and of knowledge.
KotahitangaUnityPromote and encourage collaboration;
Focus on positive outcomes for learners.
ManaAuthority, statusUnderstand the important role of mana within learners and appropriately acknowledge that mana.
ManaakitangaHospitality, generosityEnsure that learners feel that they are looked after and cared for through genuine hospitality, kindness and generosity.
Mātauranga MāoriMāori knowledgeAcknowledge and recognise Mātauranga Māori as being a significant and valuable body of knowledge with understandings that are not only important for Māori but also for non-Māori.
Te ReoMāori languageRecognise that te reo Māori is central to Māori culture and is important to Māori identity and therefore, national identity. Actively promote and encourage the use of te reo Māori in teaching, learning and assessments.
Tino RangatiratangaSelf-determinationUnderstand the concept of self- determination for individuals to make decisions based on what’s best for them; to achieve their own desired outcomes and as teachers, we support those decisions.
WhakamanaEmpowermentEmpowering learners through recognising their intrinsic talents and skills and employing their preferred learning styles.
WhakanuiRespect, valueRespect, value and celebrate learners, their beliefs, values, cultures, identities and backgrounds in genuine and meaningful ways.
WhakapapaGenealogy, heredityUnderstand and recognise the importance and the role of history, perspectives, beliefs and values.
WhanaungatangaKinship, relationshipsPromote relationships as critical to the process of learning and the connection between teacher and learner; learner and learner and teacher and whānau. Meaningful, valued relationships are important.
Kaupapa Māori values are relatable across cultures and beliefs. They espouse respect, love, relationships and empowerment. These values have a place and a role in both professional and personal contexts, i.e., they are not just restricted to the workplace or the teaching environment, but should be considered as values that are embedded in our everyday lives.
Kaupapa Māori is both a theoretical approach and a practice that includes a range of values and principles as underlying and guiding the process of teaching and learning. The approach is holistic where learning is cross-generational, inter-disciplinary and is focused on a broad intention to contribute to the collective’s well-being. While individual advancement is of course a focus as well (for the learner), the wider, positive implications for the collective is always an important driver and motivator for the learner. Tino rangatiratanga ensures that identity, culture, values and practices are incorporated into a learning process that emulates partnership between learner and teacher and ultimately empowers the learner to make informed decisions for their own success.
We advocate in this framework that meaningful learning using mobile devices deeply depends on the cultural environment. Culturally responsive and socially meaningful mobile learning occurs within an overarching outset of principles and values that are unique to learning contexts, which in turn are dependent on the local culture. The achievement of an understanding of the local socio-cultural characteristics and needs of the context and of the learner is said to be critical for the effective design, development, implementation and long-term nurturing of learning experiences based on mobile devices for learning (Aguayo, 2014, 2016).

5. Papaka - Weaving base trim / key frameworks

The papaka is the carved skirting board that often lines the base of the wharenui. In the context of this framework, this section of the wharenui speaks to the key frameworks, philosophies and theories that are important to understanding both concepts of ako and mLearning. This space provides for the inclusion of such frameworks as complementary and developmental to He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau, which builds on these concepts and frameworks, further developing and extending them to being relevant to educational innovations and challenges that we are now faced with, in particular, mobile learning and mobile devices.
Ako as a theoretical approach, philosophy and practice is key to He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework. Ako has been described by Lee (2005, p. 565) as “a traditional Māori concept [that] was an integral part of the protection, sustenance and development of knowledge in traditional Māori society”. The concept of ako derives from historical contexts of child-rearing, upbringing, learning and teaching, knowledge transmission, and cultural practices. It is also described as a way of life that has been adopted by educators across the sector to understand learning and teaching from a Māori worldview. Ako, therefore, was traditionally considered not just a practice of teaching or learning, but an holistic concept that incorporated ways of knowing, knowledge systems, beliefs, values and practices that were strongly connected and related to other concepts such as whanaungatanga, wairuatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga.
Ako, as a framework, enables cross-generational transmission of knowledge to occur that includes knowledge transmission from old to young, young to old, experienced to inexperienced and vice versa, and knowledgeable to less-knowledgeable and vice versa. The predominant Western concept of the teacher is, therefore, being the knowledgeable one and the learner being less-knowledgeable was not the case when it came to ako. Those roles, in fact, were reversed whenever necessary and were understood as everyone having something to offer and contribute to learning – we are all learners and teachers.
Since the initial days of mobile learning as a field, there is recognition of a lack, and need, of learning theories and conceptual frameworks that are unique to the field. Due to the nature of the field, much of the research and practice has been governed by the constantly-changing technical capabilities, or affordances of mobile devices and the use of these devices within particular curriculum areas (Naismith et al., 2004; Pachler et al., 2010). Vavoula and Sharples (2009) recognise that much of the research and practice on mobile learning has been based on borrowed frameworks from other related disciplines, for example human-computer interaction, and technology-enhanced learning, and that the use of mixed-methods in mobile learning is increasingly more recurrent in the design and evaluation of mobile learning projects, perhaps due to the lack of theoretical frameworks in the field.
One current theoretical approach to mobile learning is the one proposed by Pachler et al. (2010), in what they have branded a ‘socio-ecological approach’ to mobile learning. Pachler et al. (2010) identified three key elements that characterise an ecological approach to mobile learning: Agency, cultural practices, and structures. In their own words (p. 25):
  • Agency: young people can be seen increasingly to display a new habitus of learning in which they constantly see their life-worlds framed both as a challenge and as an environment and a potential resource for learning, in which their expertise is individually appropriated in relation to personal definitions of relevance and in which the world has become the curriculum populated by mobile device users in a constant state of expectancy and contingency (Kress and Pachler, 2007).
  • Cultural practices: mobile devices are increasingly used for social interaction, communication and sharing; learning is viewed as culturally situated meaning-making inside and outside of educational institutions and media use in everyday life have achieved cultural significance.
  • Structures: young people increasingly live in a society of individualized risks, new social stratifications, individualized mobile mass communication and highly complex and proliferated technological infrastructure; their learning is significantly governed by the curricular frames of educational institutions with specific approaches towards the use of new cultural resources for learning
One of the fundamental tenets underpinning this socio-ecological approach to mobile learning is the need of an educational response to current social, cultural, and technological transformations occurring in modern societies.
Therefore, there is great potential, and need in the interweaving of Kaupapa Māori philosophies and values, and ako frameworks, in the culturally responsive development of mobile learning as a discipline and use of mobile devices for transformative learning. One key idea that we have embraced in He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework is that “what is good for Māori learners is good for all learners”.

6. Poupou - Carved figures / pedagogies of ako

The poupou of the wharenui are an important adornment to the interior. Each poupou (though not always) is a carved representation of an ancestor and is made out of wood or other natural materials. These are strategically arranged around the walls of the house as ornate adornments. The ancestors depicted in these carvings vary from marae to marae, from hapū to hapū, and iwi to iwi and will feature ancestors whose achievements for their people have brought about mana (authority, status) for that particular hapū and remind the people of their rich heritage, history and genealogy from which they descend.

Therefore, poupou are unique bodies of knowledge, history and pedagogy and in the framework, represent the various pedagogical approaches (Kaupapa Māori and mLearning) to teaching and learning. There are many ways to learn and, approaches to teaching – this diversity is represented in the many carved figures as poupou and each represents a pedagogical practice or teaching strategy. It is up to the practitioner to draw on the appropriate strategies for his or her practice and it is not expected that he or she uses all of them, but carefully selects the ones that align with their particular values, needs, and ways of approaching teaching and learning.
Culturally responsive pedagogies
Chauvel & Rean (2012) provide a comprehensive review of current literature that focuses on identifying common barriers, enablers and opportunities for Māori successfully transitioning into tertiary education who succeed once engaged in the education environment. The findings that emerged from this literature review states that tertiary education organisations need to provide environments that are responsive and relevant to learners and were identified as fundamental to fostering not just Māori success but all learners’ success, participation, retention and course and qualification completion. Another study, from Curtis et al. (2012, p.6), found that the following areas were important to providing a successful environment for learners of which both Māori and non-Māori learners can thrive:
  • Educators to develop relational trust (with students)
  • Demonstrate cultural safety
  • Utilise high quality teaching and learning methods whilst having an excellent grasp of the content required
  • Use effective teaching and learning practices
  • Provide academic support that is culturally appropriate
  • Provide pastoral support that is culturally appropriate
  • Provide a culturally safe learning environment
  • Encourage cohort cohesiveness
Building from the above list, we also see the following list of pedagogical practices or approaches representing a unique poupou of the framework, where each are distinct yet interconnected to all poupou of the house (for full description of these refer to the Full Literature review, publication forthcoming):
  1. Environment (physical, spiritual, natural)
  2. Whanaungatanga (relationships)
  3. Tuakana/teina (mentoring or coaching)
  4. Community involvement (whānau, hapū, iwi)
  5. Identity and cultural knowledge legitimised
  6. Culturally generated sense-making processes
  7. Self-reflection (values, beliefs and ways of knowing)
From mobile learning we see the poupou as representing the range of mobile learning pedagogies and/or strategies for the use of mobile devices for learning. In this view, specific learning pedagogies support specific learning processes and outcomes. These internal columns also represent key literary findings on mobile learning strategies, as well as guidelines for effective implementation of mobile learning across educational contexts. The following list present some key pedagogies and strategies related to mobile learning:
  • Meaning-making (situatedness of mobile learning)
  • Mixed reality learning (mixed modes of representation)
  • Context-sensitive learning (dependent on location-awareness services)
  • Ambient learning (e.g. based on augmented and virtual reality learning)
  • Heutagogy (learner generated contents and contexts)
  • Learning across spaces (across educational boundaries, e.g. formal, informal spaces)
  • Bring your own device (attention to 1:1 mobile learning approaches)
It is important to recall that it is up to the practitioner to draw on the appropriate strategies presented here, as well as on others not included or omitted, for his or her practice and it is not expected that he or she uses all of them, but carefully selects the ones that align with their particular values, needs, and ways of approaching teaching and learning using mobile devices.

7. Tukutuku - Woven panels / co-created storytelling and narratives

The intricate tukutuku panels of the wharenui adorn the sides of the house and are often positioned between each poupou. These panels represent a range of stories and narratives that are relevant to that particular marae and hapū/iwi. The tukutuku panels are woven panels originally made of natural materials (most of the time) including harakeke (flax), pīngao (sand sedge) and kiekie (type of vine) that are sometimes dyed and manipulated to soften and be used to create storyboards.
There are a range of different designs that represent particular symbols, stories and deities, for example, the poutama design (step-like design) is a renowned design and can “symbolise levels of attainment and advancement” (Te Whare Wānanga o Wikitoria, 1986, p.42). Storytelling is an important method of learning that privileges the process of co-creation, collaboration and co-inquiry. Storytelling is an important part of the learning process both for the individual learner and their development and the shared knowledge and understanding that is exchanged between co-creators. The storyboards in the context of the framework represent storytelling and narration as being a key process of learning. Co-creation of knowledge and understanding occurs through storytelling and tukutuku panels are one way to tell the stories.
In He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework, we see tukutuku panels as a meeting point between Kaupapa Māori theory and values, mobile learning, technology and learners, which when combined within a facilitating, ‘safe’ and culturally responsive context (the wharenui), learning as an emerging self-determined and co-created process can occur. Learning here is seen as co-created, but at the individual level, tukutuku panels also represent the personal learning journey experienced by individuals when using mobile devices and affordances.
Tukutuku panels are the space full of learning potential provided by the house of learning, where learners can come together into co-creation and shared action, yet full of meaningfulness at the individual level. Some scholars regard the process of ‘reciprocal relationships’ in learning as the coupling that can occur between learners, where learning emerges as a result of this coupling. This idea of coupling “suggests that a new transcendent unity arises when two or more persons come together in conversation or in any shared action” (Sumara & Davis, 1997, p. 414). Therefore, tukutuku panels represent the potential co-created learning process that can be achieved by learners using mobile devices, underpinned by theoretical (papaka) and pedagogical (poupou) frameworks, and immersed within Kaupapa Māori values.     

8. Heke - Rafters / pathways to knowledge

The heke represent a range of symbolisms within a wharenui. One of these is the journey of Tane-nui-ā-Rangi, one of the progenitors who ascended twelve heavens to reach Te Tihi o Manono where three baskets of knowledge were obtained. The heke in this instance, represent that journey and the scaffolded levels indicate the heavens that were traversed. In the context of learning, this metaphor and symbolism is appropriate as it aligns with the process of learning that includes scaffolded levels towards attaining enlightenment and understanding (knowledge) through the levels of learning. Within He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework, heke represent the various mobile devices, technologies and affordances that support mobile learning processes, particularly, the access of shared knowledge stored in the tāhūhū (i.e. the Cloud - presented in the next section).
Access to knowledge – The heke and the tāhūhū reside in the celestial space of the heavens and gods. This space required caution and was where knowledge was shared and directed to universal truth. Connecting the heke and tāhūhū is drawing common ground for the need for caution to be safe in the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit for universal truth.
The adoption of using new technologies is not new for Māori. Throughout history, new media and communications technologies have provided Māori with alternative tools and methods to practise and preserve culture, without necessarily having to be face-to-face (O’Carroll, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2013d,2013e). At their own pace and for their own purposes Māori have adopted, adapted and entrenched the use of these tools. The emergence of SNS (social networking sites) has seen a similar rapid uptake by Māori. The technology provides clear alternatives to face-to-face communication and interaction and brings people together from across distances, which can often be an obstacle for Indigenous groups to collectivise and practise culture. Social networking sites are being used in innovative social and cultural ways by Māori where values such as whanaungatanga and aroha are regularly engaged with and underpin how Māori are using these sites. These social media sites and values can be repurposed for learning spaces where whanaungatanga (relationships) between students can be encouraged, which as has been discussed, is imperative to learner success.
Therefore, access to knowledge is becoming increasingly more accessible by both Māori and non-Māori learners and mobile technologies and devices are aiding in this process. As has been discussed, the idea of learning ‘anytime, anywhere’ is becoming a normalised part of learning. The heke in this framework represent the ways in which Tane-nui-ā-Rangi – or learners – can access knowledge in a range of different ways, particularly through the use of new technologies. Through the heke and the Cloud, learners can interact with other learners through social media spaces and shared interest spaces such as online communities of practice. This interactive, social space of sharing knowledge and information is possible due to mobile devices and its affordances. The following list represent some key affordances of mobile technologies:
  • Blended and multimedia production
  • Augmented / virtual reality
  • Embeddedness of information
  • Learner-generated content and contexts
  • Mobile social media / online spaces
  • Mobility / anywhere anytime
  • Ubiquity

9. Tāhūhū - Ridgepole / where knowledge resides

Unbounded potential - Coming back to the idea that the wharenui is contextualised into the symbolic body of an ancestor, the tāhūhū would represent the spine or the backbone of that ancestor. It is therefore an important part of the house, being held up (usually) by three main pou (carved pillars). The tāhūhū also represents Ranginui (Sky Father) who is Papatūānuku’s (Earth Mother) primeval partner. As has been mentioned in earlier sections, the papa or floor of the wharenui represents Papatūānuku and between them are the pou that separate them – these are the legs and shoulders of Tāne-nui-ā-Rangi, the male offspring who separated his parents – this symbolism is represented and explained further in the next section; pou tokomanawa.

Another context of the tāhūhū is the place in which Tāne-nui-ā-Rangi ascended to obtain the three baskets of knowledge (aforementioned in the Heke section). The tāhūhū represents that destination of knowledge, where knowledge resides, exists, is exchanged, nurtured and shared. It is a space full of unbounded potential and great possibilities and reflects the learning process as one of a great pursuit in order to reveal the fruits of that journey. In the context of this framework, the tāhūhū represents a space of knowledge and understanding and a destination of great potential and possibilities.
Metaphorically, we see the tāhūhū as representing what is known as the ‘Cloud’, or online computing (cloud computing). This is the ethereal and non-physical realm full of knowledge and unbounded potential for learning. The Cloud contains the ‘nothingness whole’ (in some ways, and in part, a metaphor of the Internet) that can be accessed through mobile devices and mobile learning affordances, via the heke. The tāhūhū is also the online space through which individuals can virtually meet, collaborate and co-create, whether through social media spaces and/or online communities of practices. The tāhūhū also has the potential to connect different wharenui houses, therefore, learners situated at different locations (not necessarily physical locations) can connect and collaborate through the Cloud.

Within He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework we also regard the tāhūhū as accessible by learners without the need for any type of mobile technology. This view reflects the intrinsic potential of individuals to achieve higher levels of knowledge, in what we regard as a form of ‘enlightenment’ through directly accessing the tāhūhū, without devices. This direct access to knowledge and unbounded potential for learning is represented by the pou tokomanawa, or central post of the house, which we review next. 

10. Pou Tokomanawa - Centre pole / Connection of Te Ira Tangata to Te Ira Atua

There are usually a set of three pou that stand in the middle of the wharenui, pou tāhūhū – the front pole, pou tokomanawa – the middle pole, and pou tūārongo – the back pole. Together, these three poles symbolise the maintained separation of and connection between Ranginui and Papatūānuku so that Te Ao Mārama (the world of light) and knowledge can flood through and be experienced by their children. The pou tokomanawa is the heart of the house. Within the framework, this important pole represents the connection between the physical wānanga space and the virtual wānanga space. The meaning of the pou tokomanawa represents the heart of the wharenui, and therefore the heart of the ancestor that which connects the physical to the spiritual realms.
The pou tokomanawa of the house of learning connects the foundations – Kaupapa Māori values – of the wharenui with the Cloud (space of unbounded potential for learning). This metaphoric connection represents the intrinsic potential of learners to learn and enlighten themselves into higher levels of knowledge (or ‘divine learning’), given the right conditions that can be offered by the wharenui as a learning context.

We see the learning that can be achieved by directly accessing and connecting with the Cloud without the need and assistance from technological devices as a learning process that comes from the very internal core and essence (heart) of individuals. We also see the pou tokomanawa metaphor as a representation of the importance that ‘offline’ and ‘face-to- face’ instances play in mobile learning. We consider that offline (affordances that do not need access to the Internet, e.g. video recording) and face-to-face (encounter of learners without the mediation of technology) instances in mobile learning are equally or even more important for the learning process than the use of technology for learning on its own. The complementarity of mobile devices with online, offline, and face-to-face instances are what can promote the emergence of a unique and meaningful type of learning inside the wharenui, always immersed within Kaupapa Māori philosophies and, most importantly, values.

11. Tūārongo - Interior back wall / whakapapa, history, traditions

The tūārongo is the interior back wall of the wharenui that acts as a connection between Te Ira Atua (physical realm) and Te Ira Tangata (divine realm). This wall is a significant part of the house as it acknowledges whakapapa links, genealogical connections and histories of the descendants who belong to that particular marae. Many marae use this wall to remember those who have passed by hanging photographs of loved ones who have been lost over the years.
In this framework, the tūārongo represents and acknowledges traditional teaching and learning theories and frameworks that contribute to current practice. These theoretical frameworks have been discussed in the papaka section of this framework and recognises these frameworks as necessary building blocks and development of newer frameworks such as He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau.
This space of history, remembrance and genealogical connection, not only represents the acknowledgement to traditional teaching and learning theories and frameworks, but also those previous technologies that have evolved and contributed to current mobile technologies and devices. In a Task Force Report on ‘Cyberlearning’, Borgman et al. (2008) traced the historical advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for human interaction, identifying five waves of resource innovation with an increase in the complexity of mediation, from the early face-to-face interpersonal communication, through the development of symbol (i.e. letters and books) and radio communication, to newer and current technological innovation, e.g. Cloud computing (Figure 2). They argue that each new wave of technological development has changed the set of actions and interactions possible with technology, e.g. the introduction of touch screens and mobile technology.

Figure 2. The evolution of Information and Communication Technology (source: https://sci10sectionm.wordpress.com/)

We believe the acknowledgement of older learning theories and technologies can potentially enhance the learning process by allowing learners to better understand the historical background and current role of newer technology and pedagogical practices.

12. Ako space - Interior space of the wharenui / the learning space

The space of learning – This ako space, or learning context, is metaphorically represented by the interior ‘space’ of the learning house, where all conditions are provided and facilitated for the co-created and self-determined learning process to best occur using mobile devices and mobile learning affordances, theoretical approaches and pedagogies, and Kaupapa Māori philosophies and values. In this space, the learning process occurs, or emerges – supported by the narratives and knowledge of the wharenui that make up key elements of learning, and by the affordances offered by mobile devices and mobile learning pedagogical frameworks. This learning process is conducive to discussion, debate and discovery and enables the learner to feel at the centre of the learning process, alongside the teacher. The reciprocal nature of the relationship between teacher and learner ensures that roles are reversed and that learners, both learners and teachers, feel empowered through the process of learning.
As presented in the wharenui section, although this interior space represents a learning context, here the concept of ‘context’ goes beyond the mere physical dimension, but also involves digital and virtual environments and components. Therefore, the ako space is a representation of the conditions and (socio-cultural and historical) circumstances that surround a particular mobile learning process. The ako space also represents what we discussed in the poupou section (mobile learning theories and pedagogies) in relation to learning across spaces, or the blurry and even unnecessary barrier existing between different educational contexts in mobile learning (i.e. navigation between formal, non-formal and informal contexts).
Another key point to make here is that we see the learning house and the ako space as an actively ‘facilitating’ context, meaning that conditions not only are present, but also they are actively engaging learners and seeking the process of learning to emerge through self-determined learning, learner-learner and learner-device interactions. In summary, the Ako space represents the ‘ideal’ context and set of conditions for mobile learning to best occur, informed by Kaupapa Māori values, philosophical and theoretical frameworks, pedagogical approaches, and mobile technology affordances and pedagogical frameworks.


Learners and mobile devices

He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework metaphorically represents the learning context where learning can occur using mobile devices. Effective mobile learning firstly involves caring for learners within a frame of hospitality, compassion and respect, founded on culturally responsive ethical principles and values. This involves the acknowledgement of the unique background all learners bring to the learning process, as well as the practice of the existing social, cultural, educational and technological protocols. Once in this space of common agreement and understanding, from a practitioner's point of view engaging with learners in a learning process using mobile devices involves three distinct dimensions:
Consideration of the above key dimensions can effectively promote and enhance transformative learning processes on learners using mobile devices. Practitioners are encouraged to consider and adopt mobile learning strategies following recommendations in this framework. Acknowledgement and understanding of the local social, cultural, educational and technological backgrounds, protocols and contexts can promote culturally responsive types of mobile learning. The essence of this values-based framework is that mobile learning ought to be flexible and adaptable to the particularities and uniqueness of practitioners’ contexts and types of learners. He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework should be used as a guide to support effective strategies for mobile learning, thus providing the best possible learning experience to all learners.

The He Whare Ako App

Download the He Whare Ako app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store


Practitioner Reflections that reflected on the framework

Online library of Further Literature Video presentation of He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau

Prezi presentation of He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau

VR Poster presentation of He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau Literature report

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