I post this with thoughts of my mother, Barbara; today would have been her 87th birthday. She would have so loved this journey, as a traveler and an educator.
As we sway and roll across the Pacific (fortunately no 20-foot swells yet, though I hear we’re headed their way), we are adapting our teaching and learning skills to this maritime campus. Internet is spotty, so no last-minute additions to powerpoints; classrooms have been situated in former restaurants, lounges, and performance spaces, so the tools of teaching (screens, whiteboards, lecterns, etc.) have to be tucked in; and lighting in most spaces is not designed for deep room-darkening and note-taking, so art historical pedagogy in particular has to be adjusted.
The key is flexibility. And the knowledge that, for example, one is learning about Hindu iconography to be able to decipher some of the visual cultural landscape in India soon makes the inconvenience of a small whiteboard tolerable; when students are about to disembark in Japan and study Zen in situ, it is easier to adjust to viewing images of ink paintings and rock gardens on a smaller screen. Our shipboard studies being immediately followed by field experiences raises the level of intentionality with which students are approaching the material. I savor the excitement they are exhibiting about their studies.
And we are studying together. We begin each day in a Global Studies course that parallels our journey, while also giving us pointers about intercultural communication. In addition, there is programming every night, including lectures, films, and gatherings for singing, making music, and gaming of all kinds. I am amazed at the level of organization Colorado State has achieved to make this experience so productive and interactive.
The all-ship classroom for Global Studies (600 students)
My classroom (the Four Seasons Restaurant!)
Dmitri (one of my students) studying; don’t get me started on the “art” aboard the ship. It is very grandly appointed, but highly colonial-feeling in this strongly postcolonial learning environment (students are reading Edward Said for tomorrow’s Global Studies class).