Last year, I got an email from Professor John Gallagher of Boston College asking if I could meet with his students during their study trip to Ghana in May. I was excited to be asked, really it is not everyday the educational city of Boston calls! – so I said yes and after some emailing back and forth, I was asked to not just meet with John’s students, but also organize a panel with Ashesi students about social media in Ghana. Here is the long overdue blog post about this panel!
First, I decided to ask my colleague Kobina Graham to go with me as we have been coteaching Social Theory, a freshman class where we tried to integrate Twitter. Additionally, Kobby worked as the Social Media Officer for the Constitutional Review Commission a few years back. To find the best students for the panel, we held a (Twitter) competition, asking students to contribute to the Ashesifun hashtag invented by Ashesi student, Edwin. This hashtag is a way of indexing ideas on how to make the Ashesi campus and consequently college experience more vibrant. Edwin was by default shortlisted for the panel, with him came Martha (a third year student) and Makafui (a first year student).
On the evening of our panel, we met at MEST and had dinner with the visitors. We talked about our experiences with social media in Ghana, the teaching experiments we had done, how we use Internet (several of us are bloggers), but we were also interested in listening to the Boston College students and hear more about what they had discovered. A Boston College student later tweeted:
— Julianna Vitolo (@julianna_vitolo) June 15, 2013
Most interesting of their observations were: the low, but growing, Internet penetration; the high energy of the Ghanaian IT sector and last, but not least; the intensive use of Twitter for professional communication (“Ghanaian professionals seem to prefer a Direct Message on Twitter to a phone call or an email!”). I checked the last by tweeting about it and got mixed feedback from (the already biased) Twitterverse. Still, getting that comparison with Boston ecosystem was enlightening. It seems many times we are maybe too pessimistic here in Ghana?
To conclude, thank you Prof. Gallagher for giving me the opportunity to interact with you, your colleagues and students. I also blame you for the surprising – and loudly cheered on – end to our panel, when two of the Ashesi students did an impromptu rap battle after having been prodded by you. Really, the panel could not have had a better ending!