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Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in ICT Leadership

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Taking steps toward digital equity in Aotearoa.


From the Director - Stephen McConnachie

"I was asked recently why te ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi were so important to us at Think e-Learning. My long and winding response was hardly an elevator pitch, so after some reflection, I wanted to collate my thoughts regarding this hugely important kaupapa and share my journey so far.
These are some of the things that I have learned and found helpful navigating this space as tauiwi (non-Māori); hopefully it will be helpful for those of you who are also tauiwi. For those of you who are Māori, I would love to hear if you have suggestions—for me or for others who are at a similar point—about next steps on this haerenga."


Te Tiriti in schools

Acknowledging and honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi is important in all aspects of education in Aotearoa. ICT is no exception. And as leaders in the field, we should be holding all decisions, planning, and curricula up against the Articles contained within the document upon which our nation is formed.*

I was particularly struck when it was pointed out in a workshop I attended that as kaiako employed by the Crown (and still relevant to me now as a consultant with Ministry of Education contracts), upholding Te Tiriti is not only a personal responsibility but a professional one. It is a legal document codified in several Acts of Parliament and a constitutional one which establishes and guides the relationship between the Crown and the tangata whenua—many of whom are currently students in kura throughout Aotearoa. Of course, I knew in principle that Te Tiriti was signed between the Crown and tāngata whenua; but it wasn’t until it was explicitly pointed out to me that I realised I personally, as a Crown representative, had a professional obligation to uphold it.

*or rather, "...upon which our nation should be formed." We have a long way to go...


Mana taurite: digital equity

One significant challenge and goal we encounter in our ICT leadership journeys is working towards digital equity.

On top of already-existing issues with inequality in our communities, there’s the problem that a lot of curricula and tech tools are developed solely from a Pākehā worldview. This creates inequities that are apparent not only in statistics, but in the lived experiences and observations of ākonga, whānau and educators nationwide.

Addressing that inequity is no simple task. And we, as school leaders, cannot design programmes that are equally accessible and equally beneficial to all in Aotearoa, without engaging with—and taking direction from—the very communities affected most by inequity. This certainly includes tāngata whenua.

To achieve—or approach—digital equity, we must honour and centre te Tiriti in our practices. To honour Te Tiriti, we must aim and strive for digital equity. It’s an issue intrinsic to the mission of ICT leaders and digital education specialists.

To learn more about this, we recommend taking a look at the work of Dr Karaitiana Taiuru PhD, JP at Here, as an example, is an article on how Māori and Pasifika tamariki are ignored in online safety research.


Whakawhanaungatanga: creating relationships

Having recognised the importance of honouring Te Tiriti and incorporating te ao Māori in all education practices, digital and otherwise, we are left with a simple but meaningful question.


To further complicate things, whilst there are certainly shared experiences amongst Māori across the country, there is no such thing as “the Māori perspective” that you can access to tick a box in your consultation process. We need to build relationships and engage with local hapū—with manawhenua, those who hold the authority and respect in a particular area. Not just learning generic Māori principles or tikanga, but those held by the local tangata whenua; as well as the kaupapa and take—issues and topics—that are particularly important to manawhenua in your area.

Not sure where to start? Ask! Ask whether your school has any existing manawhenua connections. Find out if your local marae has an education workshop you can attend. Ask your school’s Māori whānau group, and include them in your conversations about digital strategy.

One of the key concepts here is engagement. This should not be an interview, a quick interaction to obtain information and ideas before going away to formulate a plan. It is not a consultation or even a one-time conversation. Engagement means forming a relationship and learning holistically about what’s important to the Tiriti partners of the school (in its role as an entity of the Crown) as we lead digital transformation.


Kanohi kitea: the seen face, the known face

There’s a concept in te ao Māori that I have found particularly helpful in understanding what real engagement looks like. It’s the concept of “kanohi kitea”—the “seen face” *. Only when we keep engaging, keep listening, keep showing up, can we build a relationship that goes beyond mere tokenism or box-ticking.

And like most concepts in te ao Māori, the rich meaning of “kanohi kitea” goes deeper than its literal translation. Becoming kanohi kitea is more than just having our face seen; we can do that and still just be ticking boxes. We become kanohi kitea when our face is known, and trusted, because we keep showing up.

A brief email correspondence may get the job done in some cases, but it will not make you kanohi kitea.

Building a relationship is important. And it’s not a “stepping stone” on the way to a transaction of knowledge or advice; it’s the entire point. He aha te mea nui o te ao? What is the most important thing in the world? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. It is the people. Not the policies and programmes and predetermined objectives!

*I first learned about this concept in a workshop facilitated by the amazing cultural capability team at CORE Education. I can share my own journey of learning and growth but, as tangata Tiriti, it’s not my place to teach tikanga Māori—you can learn more about kanohi kitea and authentic engagement with mana whenua in the resources listed towards the end of the blog.


Me whakarongo ki te ako, me ako ki te whakarongo: listen to learn, learn to listen.

For kura and ICT leaders to make real strides toward digital equity and teaching in accordance with the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we must take an attitude of listening rather than leading from our own experience alone. And from that listening without interruption will come more insight, more direction, and more learning.

Engaging should be done with an attitude of humility and a true willingness to listen and learn rather than lead the conversation. Mistakes and misunderstandings may (will!) be part of the journey—and when these happen, we should correct our course and continue to show up to listen and learn.


Go back regularly. Keep showing up. Become kanohi kitea. Listen quietly. Learn.


We at Think e-Learning are still on this journey, and we’re not in a position to provide training and consultation in the area of honouring Te Tiriti in digital learning. We are learning too—these are just a few of the concepts that have helped us along the way. We wish you luck in your own journey.

Learn more:

None of these are sponsored links (in fact some are in direct competition with Think e-Learning!), and none of these organisations have endorsed this article. Any mistakes or misunderstandings in this article are my own! Please let us know if there’s anything we need to correct or remove so we can continue to grow in this area.


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