Maori ICT community mourns the loss of Dr Mark Laws

Maori ICT community mourns the loss of Dr Mark Laws

The whanau at TangataWheua.com has recently heard of the passing of Dr Mark Laws (Ngati Awa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa), not only is his passing a great loss to Te Ao Maori it has hit the Maori ICT community hard. Dr Laws was a pioneer in Maori Information & Communication technologies and we are deeply saddened by his loss.

Mark held a PhD in Information Science from the University of Otago. He was the founding Head for the new Computer Information Science and Technology Faculty at the Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi in 2004. In 2008 he was appointed the Director of the newly established eWananga Centre for Creative Teaching and Learning.

Mark’s plans were to develop research projects for the ‘eWananga Student Online Learning Management System’ and a ‘Virtual Technology Village’, including a number of external research collaborations. All these plans have largely come to fruition, which resulted in the establishment of the Tokorau Indigenous Innovation Institute late in 2009.

The Institutes strategic plan and vision is “connecting our traditional knowledge with new and emerging technologies”. Mark also sat on many of the Wananga management, academic, research, ethics and policy committees, he also lectures and supervises graduate research students.

My vision for Awanuiarangi is to develop programmes and support systems for staff and students around information communication technology (ICT). However, I always say to students that ICT are just tools and it is how we use those tools to solve problems which is more important. Our tipuna were experts at solving problems, especially new problems. Some of those solutions have become the basis for new technologies seen today, such as navigation systems.”

I believe Awanuiarangi will become a leader in Maori research, science, and information  technological developments. We are in a unique position to achieve this in our own way, incorporating both western and traditional technologies so our people will stand to reap the benefits of this journey.”

Mark believed that the institutes’s goal was to develop flexible online practices that reflected  matauranga and ahuatanga Maori, something that had not been properly acheived in other eLearning environments.  Mark understood that for this to be achieved there needed to be a blending of Maori pedagogies with current online learning modalities

Mark felt that a longer-term goal was to be recognised as a leader in Maori and indigenous e-Design, e-Teaching and e-Learning.

Computer Assisted Language Learning

Over the past eight years Mark Laws has been involved with designing, developing, building and implementing computer-based systems and tools which incorporate certain aspects of the Maori language. His focus has always been on providing ‘Computer Assisted Language Learning’ (CALL) programs to help people acquire further language skills and competency, in this case ‘te reo Maori’.

Marks role was to provide the frameworks, templates and language models with which te reo Maori could be incorporated.

Mark had developed software for Maori language pronunciation programs, CALL programs based on John Moorfield’s ‘Te Kakano’ series, Maori fonts and keyboard drivers, Maori spell checker, Maori online spell checker, Maori database systems, Maori-English online word translator, Maori digital speech and synthesised speech test applications, Maori speech classification, perception and recognition models (Evolving Fuzzy Neural Network.)

E Matua, you will be sadly missed and the Maori ICT realm will be a little less vibrant as a result of your passing…

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