Penn State launches 'AcademIK Connections' video series

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Sometimes seeing -- and hearing -- is believing, and that may be especially true with indigenous knowledge.

That's why a transdisciplinary team of Penn State educators, collaborating with community members and scholars at other universities, has created a series of 12 compelling videos demonstrating the importance of indigenous knowledge in developing and implementing entrepreneurial strategies to foster self-determined development.

The videos are intended for use in educational settings where locally generated knowledge generally takes a back seat to knowledge generated in institutional laboratories.

Indigenous knowledge refers to the ways of knowing, seeing and thinking that are passed down orally from generation to generation, and that reflect thousands of years of experimentation and innovation in all aspects of life. The "AcademIK Connections" video series, which can be found at http://www.youtube.com/hesepsu#p/c/61AFA3EF180F626C, offers stories that are based in reality.

They capture the experiences of real people in their quest for solutions to problems. Individuals showcased in the series are scholars who -- regardless of their discipline, research interest or experiential background -- consciously and respectfully employ indigenous knowledge in their academic activities.

"Indigenous knowledge is being re-evaluated and considered as an inspiring source of strategies for sustainable development," said Khanjan Mehta, director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program, who oversaw the making of the videos.

"Indigenous knowledge has immense value for the culture in which it develops and also for entrepreneurs and problem-solvers seeking solutions to community problems across the world," he said.

Mehta noted that for solutions to be successful and sustainable, they must be designed with the intimate involvement of all stakeholders so that the design meets their needs and preferences.

"We live in a world with shared problems, resources and solutions," he said. "The challenge is to prepare students to be socially and globally conscious leaders and entrepreneurs that respect and appreciate indigenous knowledge. How do we bring the perspectives of indigenous people, with different epistemologies and philosophies of life, into the classroom?”

Globalization has increased the interconnectedness between nations and people of the world, explained Audrey Maretzki, professor emeritus of food science and nutrition, who works with Ladislaus Semali, associate professor of education, to co-direct the University's Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge.

Maretzki pointed out that globalization also has put increased pressure on educational institutions to prepare students for life in an increasingly connected and borderless world.

"Stories are the universal way of teaching -- stories transcend language, culture and disciplines," she said. "When working with something as 'foreign' as indigenous knowledge, stories can provide a powerful tool to engage and educate, to ask provocative questions and illustrate valid answers."

The video clips in the series reflect a commitment to integrate indigenous knowledge into new approaches to health, nutrition, agriculture, technology development and conservation of the environment, according to Maretzki. "The key notion is that new approaches should not replace indigenous knowledge," she said.

"Instead, it should make use of the knowledge that has been produced by generations of practice and innovation by families, traditional healers, shamans, craftspersons and farmers to address local concerns."

The AcademIK Connection team is seeking feedback from faculty members who are using, or would like to use, these video clips in their classes, research endeavors and outreach initiatives. Collaborators interested in helping develop the video series into learning modules, as well as in producing a companion video series with perspectives from indigenous people around the world, are also welcome.

The AcademIK Connections video series is produced by the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program in the College of Engineering in collaboration with the Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge. Funding support comes from the Marjorie Grant Whiting Endowment for Indigenous Knowledge Advancement, which is administered in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

For more information about AcademIK Connections, contact Khanjan Mehta at 814-863-4426 or by e-mail at khanjan@engr.psu.edu.

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Last Updated March 21, 2011