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Cows, students and learning: from the Edge of the World to the Middle Kingdom. Dr Fleur Fallon School of Tourism Management Sun Y at-sen University Zhuhai PR China Email: Overview: Three questions.

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cows students and learning from the edge of the world to the middle kingdom

Cows, students and learning: from the Edge of the World to the Middle Kingdom

Dr Fleur Fallon

School of Tourism Management

Sun Yat-sen University Zhuhai

PR China Email:

overview three questions
Overview: Three questions
  • What can we learn from dairy cows in Tasmania that gives us clues about new learning & teaching strategies in China?
  • What are the drivers for change and how can we be creative to allow opportunities for innovation?
  • So what?
dairy cows in australia
Dairy cows in Australia
  • uploads/images/dairy-map.gif
  • Population of cows:
  • in Australia: 1.6 million – 23 million people (1:14)
  • In Tasmania: 150,000 – 500,000 people.
  • Number of cows in Tasmania is to increase by 60,000! (1:3.3 to 1:2.4)

40-42 degrees latitude

Small island state, with no large land mass between the west coast and South America.

Windy, high rainfall, average 1390+/-200 mm per year; in west-north-west 1500-2000mm.

t asmania
  • Rich red volcanic soil; perfect for vegetables- potatoes, peas, parsnips, carrots, onions, opium poppies, pyrethrum…and cows!


high transport costs

for export and import

Images: Tasmanian Devil;

carrots, Rockcliff family farm, Sassafras

dairy cow basics
Dairy cow basics
  • Average herd size =300 cows; 450 farmers.
  • Each cow produces 5,000+ litres of milk a year: 13.5 litres a day.
  • New cheese factory and milk products processing factory in North-West Tasmania

Dairy products image:

Cows, Pyengana Dairy Farm,

North-east Tasmania

what is driving demand
What is driving demand?
  • China demand for dairy products:
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Baby milk formula
  • Cheese (small but growing fast)
  • Due to higher education, health awareness, food security issues, mistrust of local producers due to health scares.
life on a dairy farm
Life on a dairy farm
  • Traditionally, cows are milked twice a day, early morning and late afternoon, every day.
  • Automated milking machines rely on human labour to oversee process, attach to cows’ teats, ensure cleaning and health.
  • Low education standards, reliability, consistency, weather- cold, wet, windy and long hours create many variables in process and results
  • Hand milking image:
  • Cupping teats image:
to meet increasing demand
To meet increasing demand
  • Larger farms have invested in fully automated milking machines to reduce variances.
  • This reduces reliance on humans and reduces room for error.
  • Farmers have been amazed at the way their cows have adapted to the change

Cows being milked in Tasmania at the world's first Automatic Milking Rotary, Dornauf family farm, near Deloraine NW Tasmania.

  • Image: News Limited
farmer response to change
Farmer response to change
  • “I didn’t realise our cows were so intelligent!”
  • Farmers have time to observe cow behaviour.

Nick Dornauf with hay bale Image

how did the cows change
How did the cows change?
  • Self-managing
  • Responsible
  • Sociable, contented
  • The machines ensure equal pressure to extract milk from each teat
  • The cows can come and go when THEY please, entering and exiting through one-way automated gates, rotating into different paddocks
  • The process is hygienic and consistent
  • Image: Brand Tasmania Newsletter, July, 2013, Issue 140
c onclusion
  • The demand for dairy products has pushed the change in how to milk cows (managing the milking);
  • Innovation and technology change
  • A process of unlearning and new learning takes place
link to students and learning
Link to students and learning
  • If cows can happily adapt to a different way, and become self-managing, then why not students?
global drivers for change
Global drivers for change
  • Global challenges:
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social-cultural
  • Technology
  • Law
  • Natural environment: food, water security, peak oil, deforestation, climate change, drought…poverty
  • Travel demand

Image: Opium poppies, wind turbine,

Nicholls’ Chicken farm Tasmania

graduate attributes in 21 st century
Graduate attributes in 21st century
  • Critical and proactive thinking
  • Systems and ‘big picture’ holistic thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Collaboration with teams, networks, partners
  • Cultural sensitivity; knowledge of other languages
  • Practical problem solving
  • Applied knowledge –to manage risks, crisis, contingencies, decision-making
  • Source: Professor Frank Go, keynote speech, Tourism Education Association China meeting, December 2013
challenge for teachers students shift in teaching and learning style cultural
Challenge for teachers & students: Shift in teaching and learning style- cultural
  • From teacher-centred– source of knowledge, text-based, passive learning, relying on memory and repetition, driven by tests: high school, Gao Kao, post-grad entrance, CET 4/6, extrinsic motivators
  • To student-centred– active, interdependent discovery learning, experiential, kinaesthetic, engage multiple senses and emotions, intrinsic motivators
shifts in the way we do things
Shifts in the way we do things
  • Teacher shifts from lectures to dialogue, conversation, debate, guidance, facilitation.
  • Student shifts from listening, reading, remembering, note-taking to data gatherers, researchers, interpreters, translators, teachers, creators, innovators


Should we go slowly, step-by step incremental change, or radical, swift change?

could we say
Could we say
  • I didn’t know our cows were so intelligent!
  • I didn’t know our students were so intelligent!

Bingham, Libby 2012, Milking revolutionised, the Advocate, 15 May,

  • McCrann, Terry, 2013, Dairy gold is up for grabs as Warrnambool Cheese and Butter fight continues, Herald Sun, 6 November,
  • ABC Landline 2013, Innovation Island, presenter Pip Courtney, 5 October