Public Diplomacy Teaching 2.0

April 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

When my AU colleague Prof. Robert Kelley invited me to pop in and see what his undergraduate class in public diplomacy was up to I had no idea what I was getting myself into. For those trained in the “old school” — that is, pen, paper and notebook — let me give you the #hashtag — #SIS419AFG — so you can review the feed of what happened in class. I was the only one offline so I have to go back and review it myself.

So I get to class and the four student presenters are loading their powerpoint presentation on one computer and getting reading to follow the online discussion on another computer. The students at their desks all have either computers, iPads or phones to follow the class discussion. Yes, it is an in-class discussion that takes place online as well as offline.

Prof. Kelley (@agencychange) enters and sets the scene. Last week, Dr. Sherry Mueller spoke on citizen diplomacy. At the end of that class a 4-member team was given a public diplomacy scenario on citizen diplomacy. Their task was to recruit American families to host visiting high school students from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a week’s time, the student team read up on citizen diplomacy, students exchanges, U.S. State Department youth programs – and they created their own organization, “U.S. Afghan and Iraq Student Exchange Program.” The student team added social media tools, with the disclaimer that the organization was a practice imaginary organization for class.

After the student team presentation, the other students in the class play various roles, ranging from the media to concerned citizens. They take turns pounding the presenting the presenting team with questions. One student, assigned to play the role of an agitator, was from the New York Times. She asks about how the students are selected for the program. Another student, playing a father in Oklahoma, wants to know about costs. A mother from Texas is concerned about insurance coverage for the exchange students. Another student expresses his concerns about the importance of a good Christian upbringing for the exchange students from predominantly Muslim countries. Prof. Kelley, playing along in the role of an excited parent, wants to know what happens if his charge runs across the border to Canada – then what?! “I am the guardian!”

The student team has to keep their cool under fire and answer questions – offline – and online. Each time the team responds to a hand raised in class, the whole class is live tweeting their impressions. Part of the presenting team responsibility is to monitor and respond to the online discussion.

For the uninitiated, this is the world of the digital natives. Having lived their lives in a post-computer, post-internet age, they do not separate “technology” and communication. The technology is seamlessly integrated into their daily communication habits. What they learn and practice in class is how to use those tools more professionally and strategically. For this class, they are required to tweet five times per week. In class, they live tweet.

Welcome to public diplomacy teaching 2.0.

Thank you Prof. Kelley and the whole class – especially the dynamic presenters – for a great learning experience. I learned that grad assistant and PD blogger in her own right, Willow Williamson (@willowfw), secretly masterminded some of the crisis scenarios for the students. Prof. Kelley credited Prof. Nick Cull at the USC Center for Public Diplomacy with the saboteur plants in the audience (totally believable).

But the real credit goes to the presenters. Hard work is still hard work. And their 14-hour days over the past week shows. Just take a look. Their presentation, which included the created videos, integrated US State Dept videos. They created a  blog. And, for their alumni network … “Join our community on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: @USAISEP_SIS419.”

Even better, you really need to see about stopping by class to join them or watch them in action to get the rush of what participating in a public diplomacy 2.0 class feels like. This is the future of PD!

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