UDINE. MV school-editorial board is now about to reach U.S.A students, thanks to a collaboration with the University of Santa Barbara (CA). A red thread will link Udine and the U.S, enabling members of Messaggero-Veneto editorial board to interact actively with their American counterparts. Such a constructive opportunity would never be possible if it weren't for Paksy Plackis-Cheng, senior fellow in the above-mentioned West-Coast University.
Professor Cheng, how did you come up with the idea of this collaboration?
I had already made acquaintance with the MV board during the NanoValbruna festival last July. The sight of your hard-working approach, combined with your deep interest in different cultures, led me to think how positive an opportunity would that have been, to enable you to interact with students coming from a very different kind of education. I don't mean tutors collaborating, I mean a collaboration entirely based on the interaction between you guys: a way to compare different experiences, projects, even vision of today-global topics.In your view, which is the major difference between American-school methodology and the European education?
In Europe, (particularly in Italy, I daresay), education's mainly focused on developing students' critical thinking, on providing them with the ability of thinking regardless of their future job field. In the U.S. Practical skills have a leading role: the scholastic system struggles to provide students with both the indispensable tools the job market requires and the flexible competences strongly needed nowadays. My students, for instance, prepare an annual book on a particular theme from global actuality. This work's direct product of field research which became a relevant part of their future curriculum. It has been less than a month since the publication of their latest production, “Digital Nomads”.
What is its main focus?
It regards the phenomenon of the so-called Digital nomads, I.e employees from all over the world exclusively doing smart-working. Think of the thousands laboring for Silicon-Valley's companies: the greater part of them have never entered the U.S.A despite being employed by the Bigs of American technological industry. Many even come from countries located in the opposite corner of the world. That was happening far before Covid-19 spreading thorough all over the globe: the current pandemic gives further speed to a phenomenon already going on. A process I have always been involved in.
Could you please explain what you were referring to with your latest statements?
I often travel around Europe following numerous projects. That being the case I keep working with my students via online platforms. Moreover, even if I am in the U.S.A 50% of my scheduled lessons are held virtually, so as to make it easy to participate for those coming from distant parts of the world, such as South Korea or, why not, Italy.
Have you witnessed any decrease in productivity when it comes to smart working?
According to my personal experience, there are very few changes for that to happen and in such a situation smart-working is usually held as a substitute of the ordinary working usually done in presence. Digital nomadism is another pair of shoes: it regards jobs which have been thoroughly shaped as to be performed through video conferencing. In such a case companies have built job procedures fit to needs and potentialities of distant working. Had they been applied to conventional working, they would enjoy very little success.
However digital nomads have a strong social impact: they lead to the drastic decrease in one of the most relevant factors of social and economic development of the last 150 years, i.e. immigration. Nowadays you can work for a company in a country whose culture you have never had the occasion to bump into. It might appear irrelevant financially speaking, yet it annihilates the extraordinary cultural enrichment immigration brings.