Te Ao Māori AI in Education: Integrating Cultural Values Through a Wharenui Framework

Setting the Stage: Considering how we integrate Te Ao Māori AI in Education

In the rapidly evolving landscape of education, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a distant concept but a transformative force.

While the integration of AI into educational systems offers unprecedented opportunities for personalised learning and administrative efficiency, it also raises complex ethical and cultural questions.

One of the most pressing concerns is how to make AI in education inclusive, ethical, and culturally sensitive.

Enter Te Ao Māori—the Māori worldview—a rich tapestry of values and principles that can guide us in creating a more holistic and culturally inclusive AI educational framework.

This blog post explores how we could weave Te Ao Māori values such as whanaungatanga (relationships), manaakitanga (kindness), wairuatanga (spirituality), aroha (love), and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) into the fabric of AI in education in Aotearoa NZ.

We’ll delve into a unique approach that uses the Wharenui, the Māori meeting house, as a visual metaphor to represent this integration.

A Glimpse into Canada’s AI Educational Framework

Before diving into how Te Ao Māori values can enrich AI in education, it’s worth examining an existing framework that has garnered attention. A recent webpage outlines a framework for the deployment of AI in Canada’s post-secondary education system. This framework is built on several key principles that resonate universally:

  1. Ethical AI: The framework advocates for an ethical approach to AI, emphasising the need for colleges and universities to base their AI initiatives on ethical principles and sustainability.
  2. Inclusivity: It calls for inclusive practices to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have access to AI tools and resources.
  3. Empathy and Human-Centrism: The framework stresses the importance of developing AI systems that are empathic and human-centred, focusing on the needs and experiences of the users.
  4. Transparency and Explainability: It underscores the need for transparency in how AI systems are developed and operated, enabling users to understand the mechanisms behind the technology.
  5. Robustness, Security, and Safety: The framework insists on the robustness, security, and safety of AI systems, ensuring they are reliable and secure to use.
  6. Accountability: It places the onus of accountability on educational institutions, requiring them to take responsibility for the AI systems they deploy.
  7. Sustainability: Lastly, the framework calls for consideration of the environmental impact of AI, advocating for sustainable practices.

While this Canadian framework provides a solid foundation, it lacks a cultural dimension that could make it more holistic and inclusive. This is where Te Ao Māori values come into play, offering a culturally grounded lens through which we can view and implement AI in education.

Te Ao Māori AI in Education: Integrating Cultural Values Through a Wharenui Framework

Enriching AI in Education Through Te Ao Māori Values

While the Canadian framework offers a comprehensive approach to integrating AI in education, it can be further enriched by incorporating Te Ao Māori values. These values provide a culturally grounded framework that can make the implementation of AI more holistic, inclusive, and ethically sound. Here’s how:

Whanaungatanga (Relationships)

In a Te Ao Māori framework, AI systems should be designed to foster relationships among students, educators, and institutions or organisations. This could manifest in the form of AI-powered collaborative learning environments or community-building platforms that facilitate meaningful interactions.

Manaakitanga (Hospitality, Kindness)

AI should serve as a tool for manaakitanga, offering personalised resources and assistance to students. While the Canadian framework emphasises empathy and human-centrism, incorporating manaakitanga adds a layer of cultural sensitivity and kindness that goes beyond mere functionality. Manaakitanga literally means to care for the “mana” of others.

Wairuatanga (Spirituality)

A truly inclusive AI system should respect and incorporate Indigenous knowledge and spirituality. This could be achieved by including Māori language options in AI interfaces or integrating Māori cultural elements into the educational content.

Aroha (Love)

In line with the value of aroha, AI systems should be designed with the well-being of both students and staff in mind. This means ethical and respectful data practices that show empathy and ‘love’ through action, aligning with the broader ethical considerations of AI.

Kaitiakitanga (Guardianship)

Kaitiakitanga aligns closely with the principles of sustainability and accountability in the Canadian framework. Educational institutions should act as guardians, ensuring that AI systems are both sustainable and ethically responsible.

Tino Rangatiratanga (Self-Determination)

AI should be a tool for empowerment, not replacement. Students and educators should have the ability to exercise greater control and choice in their educational experiences, aligning with the value of tino rangatiratanga. Incorporating AI into learning should increase – not decrease – learner agency.

Taonga Tuku Iho (Cultural Heritage)

Lastly, AI systems should respect and incorporate Māori cultural heritage. This could mean the inclusion of Māori pedagogies and epistemologies in the AI-driven educational content, making the learning experience more culturally enriching.

This is all theoretical at present, and this is no one’s opinion but my own. However, I do think that by weaving these Te Ao Māori values into the fabric of AI in education, we could create a framework that is not only technologically advanced but also culturally sensitive and ethically robust.

This potentially offers a more holistic approach to education, one that respects the diversity and richness of all its participants.

Much of this does raise questions around the ownership of mātauranga (knowledge) and I have further thoughts on that which I’ll save for another occasion. Although, I will to say this for now:

  • My own vision for the future includes a plurality of AIs… not just a handful of mega-AIs owned by the big tech companies.

The Wharenui Metaphor: A Culturally Grounded Vision for AI in Education

As we explore the integration of Te Ao Māori values into AI for education, a compelling visual metaphor emerges—the Wharenui, or Māori meeting house.

In Māori culture, the Wharenui is more than just a building; it’s a communal space that embodies cultural, educational, and spiritual functions.

Each component of the Wharenui has its own symbolic meaning, offering a holistic framework that can guide the implementation of AI in educational settings.

The Structural Elements and Their Symbolic Meanings

  1. Foundation (Tāhuhu, Ridgepole) – Ethical AI and Sustainability: Serving as the backbone of the structure, the foundation represents the core ethical and sustainable practices that underpin the entire educational experience.
  2. Front Wall (Tāhūhū, Main Post) – Whanaungatanga: This is the welcoming entrance where relationships are nurtured, symbolising the importance of community and connection in education.
  3. Side Walls (Heke, Rafters) – Manaakitanga and Aroha: These structural elements represent the kindness and love that support the educational journey, much like the rafters that hold up the roof of the Wharenui.
  4. Internal Carvings – Wairuatanga and Taonga Tuku Iho: These intricate carvings enrich the interior, embodying the spiritual and cultural heritage that should be integrated into the educational content.
  5. Windows and Vents – Transparency and Accountability: These features allow for openness and the flow of information, symbolising the need for transparent and accountable practices in AI deployment.
  6. Floor (Papa, Earth Mother) – Kaitiakitanga: The floor grounds all activities, representing the guardianship of resources and ethical responsibilities.
  7. Tukutuku Panels – Tino Rangatiratanga: These woven panels symbolise the interconnectedness and self-determination of both students and educators, emphasising the importance of agency in the learning process.

By using the Wharenui as a metaphor, we can envision a balanced and culturally grounded approach to implementing AI in education—one that respects both technological advancements and cultural values.

This metaphor serves as a blueprint for creating an educational environment that is not only inclusive but also culturally enriching and ethically sound.

If you found this interesting or useful

Check out my other content on AI in Education here. There’s more on how you can use Chat GPT to enhance learning.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. Kia ora Kereama
    Yes a blast from the past. I find this korero enlightening around how we view A1 from a Maori lens, and vice versa – our world view. I am interested in continuing the korero, and giving a more indepth understanding of the wharenui and the different areas within. Not that I have any answers lol.


  2. Kia ora Makuini…!

    He pai rawa te rongo i a koe! Thank you for your comments here. Yes, this brings together some of the things that I am most interested in. The fact that this is an emerging field makes it fascinating.

    None of us have an particular answers, but I wanted to start this conversation with the idea that AI should be aligned to shared values arising from Te Ao Māori. I’d love to continue this kōrero with you and hear more about your interpretation especially with regards to the wharenui metaphor.

    One funny thing is that I asked Chat GPT for a visual metaphor for what I had written and the wharenui was what came back – unbidden by me.

    This year is nearly done, but I’ll be working on more AI related content for Ako Aotearoa in 2024 and perhaps this is something that we could wananga together when the time is right.

    Ngā mihi nui


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