kanohi ki te kanohi
The quote above means ‘face to face, in person, in the flesh’ and therefore it might seem a strange choice to start a blog post about a computer game, nevertheless it is of central importance in the genesis of Ngā Motu.
Just over 12 months ago I had a māramatanga (brainwave, big idea): how could we leverage Minecraft: Education Edition, a hugely popular platform that was available to all ākonga (students) in State and State-Integrated schools in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to promote:
- Te Ao Māori – the Māori world
- Te Reo Māori – the Māori language
- Tikanga – the procedures, protocols and customs of Māori
Starting At The Beginning:
It was mid 2018 and after the initial surge of excitement about my māramatanga for leveraging Minecraft: Education Edition to build something distinctively Kiwi, I was trying to find the right partner who could actually build out this grand vision. It was at this stage that my long time Te Reo Twitter buddy Te Mihinga Komene suggested I reach out to someone called Whetu Paitai and inquire about his previous work on the Minecraft: Java Edition platform he had called Mahi Maina (a sort of transliteration of Minecraft, Mahi meaning ‘to work’ and Maina meaning ‘mining’).
Before continuing the narrative, however, and in keeping with the theme of connectedness / whanaungatanga and the importance of face to face meetings to Māori, it’s worth showing the quote behind Te Mihinga’s Twitter account to reinforce this:
My language connects me
My family grounds me
My culture defines me
It is this type of mindset and deep seated belief that has been a constant throughout the last 12 months of working towards delivering Ngā Motu to the world. Ironically, however, in the absence of any direct contact details and only a few sketchy search results on FaceBook hinting at the existence of Mahi Maina, I resorted to messaging Whetu on LinkedIn – hardly an auspicious start!
As the screenshot shows, a virtual connection was made, and our joint hīkoi (journey) began.waka hourua – the double hulled canoe – it’s a fitting metaphor for the hīkoi (journey) we’ve been on to deliver this Minecraft world over the last 12 months
Building Whanaungatanga (Connectedness)
Whanaungatanga: a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging.
After the initial connection on LinkedIn, Whetu and I had a number of phone calls where I became ever more excited about his knowledge, skills and experience in both Minecraft and Te Ao Māori. This led to Anne Taylor (Education Lead for Microsoft NZ) meeting kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with Whetu near his home in the beautiful Coromandel area of New Zealand. I then had a chance to connect in person with Whetu and three of his tamariki (children) when he visited the Microsoft Auckland office in December 2018. With a hongi (pressing of noses together) on greeting, Whetu and I were ready to get into the nuts and bolts of what we were really trying to create together.We were united in our tūruapō (vision) to use this platform to promote te reo Māori (the Māori language) something that even the best intentioned kaiako (teachers) sometimes find challenging, especially around the correct pronunciation of Māori words. At the time, I could never have imagined how cleverly Whetu would utilize his deep understanding of the Minecraft platform to build out a series of lessons that harnessed the innate game play of Minecraft to teach students the fundamentals of te reo Māori.
Whakataukī (Proverbs, wisdom) form an important part of Māoritanga (Māori culture) and I love them because many combine vivid imagery with sage advice. It was at this meeting in December that a pathway of co-operation was forged that ultimately has led to the release of Ngā Motu this week. The following whakataukī is therefore appropriate:
Ko koe ki tēnā, ko ahau ki tēnei kīwai o te kete
You at that and I at this handle of the basket
The meaning is clear: when we both carry one handle of the basket, we share the load and can achieve more together than we may have done separately. Whetu, and his company Piki Studios, along with Anne and myself representing Microsoft, shared the vision and mahi (work) to bring Ngā Motu to completion.
The Momentum Grows
With the idea starting to take serious shape, others began to hear about the idea and lend their support. In particular, the incredibly passionate Minecraft: Education Edition team from Microsoft Corp in Seattle. This culminated in Deirdre Quarnstrom and Sara Cornish flying down to Wellington, New Zealand to connect with Marianne Malmstrom and Simon McAtamney from Newlands Intermediate School to film a hack mini that Marianne was running as a holiday programme, and where Whetu Paitai would debut Ngā Motu to students for the first time as a closed beta testing release. As the tweets show, it was very well received:
— Marianne Malmstrom (@knowclue) July 23, 2019
Having an absolutely crazy fun time with this group of awesome peoples ☺️❤️ A huge mihi to @NewlandsInt @MaccalSMS @s_nish Eva Sam Students @knowclue and @MSNZEducation. You guys are amazing! #HackMini #PikiStudios pic.twitter.com/h4WUwAemQ7
— Whetu Paitai (@WhetuPaitai) July 19, 2019
What an incredible group of educators and students here in Wellington designing imaginative builds and mods in #MinecraftEdu. Discovering much about student-led learning from @NewlandsInt @knowclue @WhetuPaitai 💚🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/fBh2fTzH2J
— Sara Cornish (@s_nish) July 18, 2019
We're excited to be at @NewlandsInt in Wellington, New Zealand, for a Minecraft #HackMini. Students are building mashups with #MinecraftEdu and other creative digital tech. 💻⛏️ Teams are modding mobs, building sky castles, making resource packs and more! #TeAoMaori pic.twitter.com/zD2rSqz5s8
— Minecraft Education (@PlayCraftLearn) July 17, 2019
As I reflect on the diverse range of people involved in the Ngā Motu project, I truly believe it is the vibrancy and power of Māoritanga that has drawn them into this project and the passion for the taonga (treasure) that is te reo Māori (the language) that many New Zealanders like Whetu and the incredible teachers at Newlands Intermediate demonstrate. To be able to see this rich culture visibly emerge as distinctively Māori through Minecraft and the work of Piki Studios made everyone involved incredibly proud:taniwha (water spirit / guardian), the kiwi bird (national bird of New Zealand), inside a wharenui (meeting house), a moa (extinct, flightless bird)
This week of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) sees the official launch of Ngā Motu.
It is something that everyone involved is incredibly proud of and involves the following resources:
- Ngā Motu Launch Video
- Ngā Motu Landing Page
- Ngā Motu Lesson
- Ngā Motu Minecraft: Education Edition World FileThe main world file to get started playing and exploring
- Ngā Motu Resource PackA global resource pack that can be loaded into Minecraft: Education Edition that themes the game and also allows for full te reo Māori translation of all menus
- Free download of Minecraft: Education Edition app(Windows 10, MacOS, iOS)
- Māori Vowel Sounds
- Māori Consonant Sounds
- Māori Numbers
Realistically, however, there are infinite ways Ngā Motu can be used to teach any number of concepts. I hope to update this post in the future with new ideas and also how the world itself evolves in future iterations.
I am incredibly proud to have been able to contribute to this project in various ways, thrilled by the new relationships it has introduced me to and excited for the possibilities that Ngā Motu will be used by educators in both Aotearoa (New Zealand) and beyond.
Seeing the collective reactions of people to this world during the development and pre-release stages has been humbling – everyone loves the work Whetu has contributed to this project.
I am going to finish this blog post with a final whakataukī (proverb):
Takoto kau ana te whānau a Tāne
The children of Tāne lie prone
This proverb means that once the trees are cleared away, the work is done: it applies to any work that is now completed (in Māori mythology, the forest trees are the children of Tāne).
With Ngā Motu now finished and released as a koha (gift) to the global education community the hīkoi (journey) may be drawing to a close, but the whanaungatanga (relationships and connectedness) will endure.