Developing Global Sensibilities through a Technology-Enabled Active Learning Anthropology Curriculum

Developing Global Sensibilities through a Technology-Enabled Active Learning Anthropology Curriculum

Joshua J. Wells (Indiana University – South Bend, USA) and James M. VanderVeen (Indiana University – South Bend, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6347-3.ch002


The current global human environment is a diverse mixture of cultures and technologies, and university educators face daunting tasks to help their students develop competencies with both human and machine attributes of the modern world. This chapter presents the historical foundations, the pedagogical theoretical underpinnings, and illustrative examples from the implementation of a curriculum of technology-enabled active learning within the undergraduate anthropology program at a moderately sized, commuter campus in the Midwestern United States. Technology-enabled active learning has demonstrably improved the experience of undergraduate students who enroll in anthropology classes as majors, minors, or general education students by affording them new abilities, including the recognition of global information resources, the contextualization of their education in spatiotemporal terms, the development of an understanding of sociocultural and politico-economic connective webs, and the skilled capacity to productively create and critically analyze information with a peer cohort through networked information technologies.
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Since 2010, the Anthropology undergraduate program at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) has engaged in long-term experiments and implementations of technology-enabled active learning (TEAL) in order to boost the global, scientific, cultural, and technological competencies of both major and non-major students. TEAL strategies were originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for implementation in introductory science courses, however we have found them invaluable for both the physical and social science aspects of anthropology. As such, the IUSB Anthropology TEAL Initiative helps to meet important pedagogical goals in the development of global sensibilities through the framework of anthropology as a globally-invested discipline that spans across both the hard sciences and the humanities in order to investigate the human condition in all times and places that people have existed. The combination of anthropology and TEAL is particularly well suited to achieve goals in global citizenship education articulated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2013) that seeks to expose young minds to a world of diverse and convergent values and attitudes, among a global population of people who are increasingly immediately interconnected and interdependent, and facing a variety of anthropogenic and natural global challenges. In brief, our TEAL implementation is a strategy of networked student learning about global topics and issues from the deep-time past of human evolution (ca. 55 million years BP) to the current and near-future world of today’s most important sociocultural and political developments. TEAL lessons are enacted through information-literate problem-solving and research, supported by an instructor who provides brief lectures, structured individual and group assignments, and information and communication technology (ICT) tools that are robust and pertinent to the learning experience.

The authors became interested in TEAL processes because of perceived deficiencies in introductory classes, including poor preparation in global concepts, student inabilities to communicate with their cohort, failure of group assignments, and a general lack of information literacy in class populations. TEAL has become an increasingly important component of our curriculum, and one which has demonstrated excellent results for introductory courses of mixed major and non-major students. The measured success of TEAL implementations to improve student learning in introductory classes has compelled us to migrate appropriate best practices from those courses to teaching at every level. The TEAL curriculum at IUSB has been designed to be accessible, cheaply maintained, and as open as possible to set the lowest possible technical and cost thresholds for implementation.

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