Monkeys live, and in person
*Photo by Kimi Tuke
Daily, I walk the streets of Varanasi, India passed Brahma bulls, goats, and water buffalo mixing it up with bicycle driven rickshaws, motorized rickshaws, and buffed out taxis on my way to our apartment here in Varanasi, India. I am stunned at how in just 85 days, it all feels so normal.
While walking the backroads in Pushkar, India yesterday, I was surrounded on all sides by a troop of monkeys, some not more than an arm’s length away.
We can’t really replicate these experiences virtually. The toxic taste of fear mixed with excitement I swallow while walking through a troop of hungry langur monkeys is not experienced in the same way by watching it on a live webcam or recorded video.
While leading a workshop for university faculty on global collaborative learning in Delhi this week, one participant said, “This stuff sounds good, but do students really learn better and more deeply than how we do it now, lecturing, or is this just the latest new thing?”
It’s a critical question to ask. There is strong, empirical evidence that clearly shows we learn better by listening AND doing, not just listening. And the evidence is really clear that some things demand that we practice them to learn them. It is the rare person that learns a musical instrument by reading about it, watching, and then being able to play. I found this out early in my adult career when I picked up the banjo. My family had to suffer through me practicing, of course, but they knew I would never get better unless I did.
Learning to communicate across cultures so we better understand each other and can work together in global teams to solve real-world problems is like that.
There is a good deal of enthusiasm here in India for these global, virtual, project-based learning strategies. I spoke at two Indian universities last week on these topics and head out next week to present at a conference of 300 faculty in Chennai, India. Yet, despite the enthusiasm, they face real obstacles here….perceived student resistance to changing up teaching practices, examination pressures of teaching to the test, tradition, and a lack of confidence in the technology. One faculty member said it puts the teacher in the position of not knowing something and looking bad.
Despite all this, after each workshop, there are several faculty in every group who come forward and want to take the next concrete steps forward to pilot something.
We will never, in my lifetime, get the majority of university students in countries across the world to go live and learn with each other in a foreign land, and experience being surrounded by a troop of hungry monkeys (or people quite unlike oneself).
But we might get most of us living and learning with each other, side by side using virtual means.
Very nice post! So true regarding replicating some experiences virtually. You may not want to go back, have the two of us film that horrific scene (I sure don't want to walk through them again), but you are doing wonders with the students at CUTS. The others will catch on, jump on board, just give it more time. It's inevitable, I think.
11/23/2015 04:18:38 pm
Great post dad!! It's so good to read about your experiences in India - in the classroom and beyond! That's great about some of the professors being interested in learning more. It's good they're asking the questions and not just blindly jumping in too. The monkeys sound really terrifying I agree - but in the video they look pretty chill - pretty nice actually. But I'm sure I would run screaming if I saw one! Kimi takes some great photos too! It's a great mix of talents! Alright I gotta run. Just finished with work and the grocery store and need to head home. It's thanksgiving here in 3 days - it's nice to know that turkeys aren't being slaughtered by the millions over there. It's a disgusting time of year here - love getting together with family and reflecting on what everyone is thankful for but absolutely hate that it needs to be done in name of present day animal cruelty and in the dark shadow of the violent history of American thanksgiving. Rant over. Love you!
11/23/2015 05:11:33 pm
Thanks Erica, for your response...and yes, they did seem kinda chill, but they can move so fast and its hard to know what they are thinking when you look them in the eyes....and yes, very few turkeys get slaughtered over here...this is quite a vegetarian supporting society,due to religious beliefs mostly. (see, I told you religion does some very good stuff sometimes! :) ). Glad you are all getting together, and at least you and your growing body of supporters of animal rights people are doing the right thing...I am now a non-violent soldier in your vegetarian army of Love!
11/27/2015 09:04:35 am
11/27/2015 03:49:36 pm
Hi Russ, I am so glad you are enjoying the blog posts, thanks for letting me know! And to know that some kin of Hank Williams are getting it too, well it gives me hope that my banjo and singing escapades will be recognized by DNA of one of the best troubadours in human history! :)
1/10/2016 09:28:20 pm
I'm surprised that it's the students who might resist innovative teaching practices, instead of the professors... Any more thoughts on that as you've talked to more people?
1/10/2016 10:27:13 pm
Yes, I have not found students to be resisters of this very much at all. Except in that they may say that they wonder how they can do it and still have time for prepping for exams...Mostly, they seem very excited by this kind of learning.
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Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.