Artefact Speech #atAshesi

The last three weeks, the class I teach this semester, Written and Oral Communication has focused on the oral communication part. We have spoken about Rhetorics and its ancient beginnings, sustained importance, watched Patrick Awuah’s TED speech from 2007 and analyzed it rhetorically and after that, students crafted their own speeches with themselves and an artefact that represents them in some way as the topic.

I adore this assignment designed by my anthropologist colleague Joseph Oduro-Frimpong and revel in the intimate group meetings I have with my students. In short five minute speeches, students get up in front of their peers, practice rhetorics, and open themselves and share – and my do they share!

We are invited to hear about family tragedies and lost opportunities, crazy love stories and incredible triumphs, supportive siblings and bouts of sickness, but also books that change lives, sporting equipment, diaries and bibles, instruments, or even little trinkets and everyday objects are loaded with meaning. The speeches are sometimes inspirational and other times funny, and as the assignment dictates, most often supported by all three corners of the Rhetorical Triangle. Only confidence is missing sometimes! We address this with love-bombing the presenting student with “what worked well here?”-feedback. And only after highlighting the good we discuss what can be improved in the delivery.

Every year this is my favorite assignment as it allows me to meet with a smaller subsection of the bigger class of 47-48 students and get to know them a little better. This year, I was especially impressed.  After just two months in university, these first-year students’ are able to speak with wisdom, bravery, and authenticity, and they reminded me that when students are given the chance, they can indeed be teachers.

Artefact speech 2018
Thank you all for sharing so generously!

 

 

How can we better educate our children?

Have you ever thought about the difference between being imaginative and being creative? Last week, I went to a book launch where educator Dr. Naomi Adjepong of Alpha Beta Education Centers asked this question. She suggested that imagination exists just in our head, while creativeness is acted out. Her context was Ghanaian education. Are we educating creatives in Ghana?

At the same event, spelling bee champion Eugenia Tachie-Menson spoke on how education can be fun and how reading books for pleasure is a wonderful way of improving both your thinking and vocabulary. (The event was fellow blogger Golda Addo’s book launch for her novel “The Shimmer in the Photo Album”, Golda is in the orange boubou below, next to Tachie-Menson).

I am lucky to send my children to a private school where both teachers and administrators are happy to take up suggestions from parents, however, they tell me that more often than not the parents that approach them demand “more exams, more exercises, and more sitting in the classroom”.

Personally, I would rather see children under the age of 5 or even 10 spend more time outdoors playing than sitting still and quiet in the classroom. The start-up Tinkergarten, sponsored by among others Omidyar Group, is developing outdoor activities to encourage children “tinkering” or playing outdoors. Activities include looking at bugs, making soap bubbles, or building a bird nest for humans! They write on their website:

“Tinkergarten’s curriculum both engages and delights a wide range of kids ages 18 months-8 years old. As a season unfolds, unique themes and challenges build lesson to lesson. These themes and challenges evolve one season to the next as children progress through the program. In each lesson, an engaging scenario unfolds that allows kids to launch and direct their own play. No two kids ever have the same experience, because it’s the process that matters. Adults play a role, too, as they observe, honor and support their child’s independent exploration and playful learning.”

To prepare our children for the future, I believe they have to be able to read and write, count and perhaps also march in rows, but importantly, in addition, they also need practice communication, empathy, solving problems in groups, building things, asking questions,seeing new places, adapting to different environments, failing and dusting themselves off to try again.

Are we educating creatives in Ghana? And if we are not, what will be the consequences?

Photo : Paul Ninson

 

My talk at #iHav2017: Social Media and its Employment Opportunities

On Wed 26 July 2017, I was invited by the iHav Foundation to be a resource person at their training for youth leaders from the entire African continent.

I was invited to talk on the topic of:

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

and ended up interacting with a smaller group of social media enthusiasts at the conference from five different countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana.

We discussed how to control your social media presence and how to start a blog. This is the talk I had prepared:

————————————————————————————-

Have you ever asked your parents how they kept in touch with family and friends outside Ghana when they were your age? Let me tell you that you needed to take transport to the post office at Makola market around high street and order a call – for the next day!

10 years later, cell phone tech came to Ghana and a SIM card cost, guess how much? A monthly salary!

A monthly salary!

10 years later, Ghana had dial up Internet. Do you remember the sound of it? I think you are too young! Because today, 3/4 Ghanaians have mobile data subscription on their phone (NCA, 2017).

=revolution. Everything the World has access to online, we have access to as well. All opportunities. No excuses!

Three opportunities:

  1. Controlling your (and your country’s) social media presence

Google yourself. What happens?

For me, it’s

Wikipedia, YouTube, work website, my blog, Wikipedia, twitter, linked in – you can’t write about yourself in wiki (but everything else! join the Wikipedia community!) By the way, the coordinator for wiki libraries in the world(!) lives in Ghana and started up as a contributing writer for Wikipedia.

Most of these entries I have written/created myself! Then I have control over my online and social media presence.

Next level of controlling online presence is contributing to how your country and Africa is covered online. This is why I started BloggingGhana,   to share the stories from Ghana and encourage Ghanaians to share our world. Another example is the Ghanaian hair app, Tress.It creates a community around something very important in our context, great hair!

2. Learning something online (Or teaching others):

how dance salsa, how do braid hair, How to Cook nigerian jollof to impress a Nigerian, how to . How to set up a blog. Just google it, watch some videos and you are ready to go. Skills can lead to new opportunities to make a living.

3. Doing work online

Is the last level. Although much work these days is actually done online: PR, communications, marketing, writing, journalism, music, art, e-commerce, we also have people who work remotely.

Many of us also use social media to build ourselves up, collect the work we do in one place (like a blog) but also use social media to discuss societal issues in Tweet-ups and Facebook-live sessions, help others, perhaps more as a calling as a business opportunity (one does not exclude the other though!)

Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

  • Set up profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google, linked in, upload pictures, say something. Make sure pictures of you online represent the best you, if they do not, change them and the old one(s) will eventually be pushed down in search.
  • Follow me on social media channels @kajsaha (I was even wearing my @ellishaboie KAJSAHA top, see above!) as I tweet and instagram African content relevant for you. See for instance my blog post: “Why blogging is good for your career”.
  • Follow @bloggingghana, and/or social media organizations in your country (see my Twitter list!)

I said it again: Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

We did not have so much time for Q&A, but one I remember was:

Q: How do I get more followers?

A (From both me and others in the group): Be useful, kind, promote others, share information, summarize events, ask questions, post photos.

 

Thanks again to Christabel Ofori and the team at iHAV Foundation for inviting me and creating such a useful platform for our future leaders.

What’s in a Name? Ama Ata Aidoo, CEGENSA and Voting with Your Feet

Just like most other netizens and media consumers in Ghana, I have been following the issue of famous Ghanaian academic and writer Professor Ama Ata Aidoo’s walk out of an event where she was to be honoured. What happened on Saturday September 3rd was: Aidoo walks in, notices that the banner and the program has spelt one of her names wrongly. She walks out and while organisers beg her to return, she doesn’t.  Source and photo: Article on CitiFM.

atta

Aidoo’s daughter Kinna Likimani was the first one to report the issue on Twitter. Later she posted her tweets on Facebook as a post which was shared extensively. Full disclosure: I work with Kinna Likimani, respect her professionally, and like her a lot personally. Likimani wrote both about her mother’s relationship to Ghana and to being honoured. She explained:

“Ghanaians know how to do things right. We do.

What will not be happening is Ama Ata Aidoo enduring any bad treatment or anguish over honors or celebrations. No. Certainly not when folks like Korkor Amarteifio have set a standard.

Writers only ask to be read. That’s all.

My mother often quotes Efua Sutherland: “I was sitting my somewhere”. She lobbied for nothing, asked for nothing.

My mother is a highly sensitive person. The anguish would have followed her home and she would have wallowed for weeks.

She has done for Ghana and Ghana has responded with awards, honorary degrees, events. We thank all.

But at 76 years, Ama Ata Aidoo, after 60 years writing, publishing and teaching, will walk out.”

Then last week, Journalism professor Audrey Gadzekpo, wrote a compelling piece about this story from another point of view. Full disclosure: I have met prof Gadzekpo a number of times and she is one of my academic/activist role models. Gadzekpo suggested there were no winners to Aidoo’s walk out. She highlighted the important work of the event organizer Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy at the University of Ghana, CEGENSA, in advocating for women (I have blogged about their pioneering zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment for instance) and suggested:

“I point out the bona fides of the Centre not to excuse the misspelling on the banner and in the programme heading, but to simply provide information on a little known centre caught in the eye of a public storm and now defined by the unfortunate incident for people who had never heard of it or know very little about what it does.

I have read several comments suggesting the Centre did not know the correct spelling of its honoree’s name and had disrespected her by getting the spelling wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

CEGENSA does know how to spell Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo’s name and is very familiar with her work. In all other correspondence with her and her foundation Mbaasem, before and during the planning of the competition, the Centre got the spelling right.”

Although, I understand the organizer CEGENSA’s situation as discussed by Gadzekpo: the overwhelming negative publicity focussed on a centre that has created real change for women, and the looooong enduring debate that followed – and that now I am adding to –  I would like to look beyond “who was right/wrong” and look to what we learned.

You see, I think Aidoo was not only sensitive or annoyed, but wanted to send a message about standards. Something like: Mistakes happen, but normalisation of those mistakes is dangerous! It is not OK to use misspelled banners and brochures, especially for an academic centre, especially when honouring someone and the mistake is in the name of that person, especially when you are an institution focused on women’s rights in a patriarchal society and role models are so few (although many of mine highlighted in this blogpost).

Maybe Aidoo was thinking about the embarrassing mistakes in official communication of late in Ghana, most notorious of them the State of the Nation program for 2016 that…I just can’t. Read Elizabeth Ohene’s furious account. In addition, Ansu-Kyeremeh lists a few other instances when attention to detail has been lacking in Ghanaian communication.

So here, I have to disagree with Gadzekpo. Sure, walking out is like sending an angry letter, it is not pretty. However, there is a win to making this extra “T” a big deal. After Ama Ata Aidoo walked out, the issue of striving for excellence in communication has been discussed in Ghana for TWO WEEKS, so walking out was successful from the point of view of creating a debate. As a lecturer of Written and Oral Communication, a learning moment for a nation on the importance of attention to detail, makes me happy. 

But what about the young women who had written stories for the competition? Gadzekpo listed the winners as Nana Yaa Asantewaa Asante-Darko, Margaret Adomako, Ruthfirst Eva Ayande,  Sarah Faakor Toseafa, and Awo Aba Odua Gyan. Their award night was ruined! Or was it really? I think Aidoo will find a way to read their stories, and so will many more of us (perhaps they can be published on the CEGENSA website?) While the young writers might have been initially disappointed,  soon I think they were rather empowered to see a woman who can: that a woman has choice. If she wants, she can always vote with her feet.

Now, would I have done the same? Would I walk out from a festive writing competition held in my honour because of my convictions? Probably not. But then again, I am not Ghana’s foremost trail-blazer feminist, writer, educator, and activist. I only aspire to be like her.

 

 

My Flash Presentation and Workshop at Conference #DakarFutures2016

I’m spending a couple of days in Dakar for the “Innovation, Transformation, and sustainable futures in Africa”– conference organized by American Anthropological Association, African Studies Association, Codesria and WARA-WARC. The hashtag for the conference is virtual reality. I am giving one flash presentation (five minutes, 15 PowerPoint slides) and on Saturday a three hour workshop. My collaborators Dr Gordon Adomdza, Design professor at Ashesi, and Mr Kabiru Seidu, Ashesi alumni involved in VR with his company NubianVR, could not make it, so I have a big job to do!

Here are the blurbs.

 

Flash Presentation: Re-thinking “Education under Trees”File 10-01-2016, 6 44 03 PM

 

Where do you teach? In a classroom? Or a larger lecture hall, perhaps? Is it a place where you feel inspired? Your students feel inspired? Let me ask you: Is it an African space? Where you feel connected to the continent? Or is it mostly practical?

At the same time as “education under trees” or education without resources is being challenged in the African political space, the “education that never happens under trees” or does not relate to the physical world outside the campus must be problematized. Many schools and universities lock themselves away on beautiful campuses, while the purpose of any learning institution is to have a positive impact on the surrounding society. In addition, many classrooms are designed almost like stages for professors, instead of empowering students. Therefore, I feel static classrooms must be challenged and convenient, economically sustainable alternatives must arise.

In this flash presentation, I want to share innovation, transformation and sustainable futures of the African lecture hall and classroom.

 

Workshop: Learning Engagement in the Age of Social Media and Emerging Virtual Reality

IMG_0948This is a workshop on engaging, simple, and efficient use of Virtual Reality and Social Media in the classroom.

Recent developments of information technology offer new ways of teaching with small or no additional investments. With the use of Internet infrastructure already available on campuses around the continent and students’ own smart or feature phones, this workshop will show you how to bring social media and virtual reality into your syllabus. While there are many real world examples or experiences that could be made available to students, some experiences take time to acquire or do not occur at the most appropriate time in the learning cycle to achieve the desired learning goals. As a result, we explore opportunities to simulate real world examples and experiences through the design and development of virtual reality content with relevant social media integration to achieve learning goals.

 

The workshop will be a unique meeting between educators and will hone their different experiences and backgrounds. Based on teaching interests discussed in the first session, participants will be placed in groups that will work together on brainstorming a VR material to be produced. Alongside, practical tips on how to get started with VR and social media will be shared. Participants are encouraged to contribute. A tangible outcome and takeaway can be a crowd-sourced and active toolkit for learning engagement in the age of social media and emerging virtual reality.

 

…and finally here I am hanging out with a Senegalese rapper who speaks Swedish! Maxi Krezy!

 

Social Theory: Taking My Daughter to Work

This semester I have taught Social Theory – Ashesi University College‘s introduction to Social Sciences and the world!

It has been a good ride, I especially have enjoyed the news presentations and ensuing panel discussions – my colleagues and I encourage critical research and creativity – and have been rewarded greatly by imaginative and interesting presentations. The course also teaches a history of political ideologies from Plato to Putnam, more or less.

Yesterday, I decided to show my daughter and her nanny what my work is like and they spent the day with me. We took the tour round the campus (here you can too) and when my first class was about to start, she took a marker and started scribbling on the white board to the amusement of the 60 member class: ” Look at, Mamma!”, “Mamma, mamma, make a carrot!”

I smiled and remembered the many, many times I went with my mother to her teaching job…scribbled on something, ran around in the classroom, watched my mother teaching…will my daughter be a teacher too?

Back in Ghana: Ashesi, Election Petition Verdict, TEDxCapeCoastEd and a Funeral

Note the caption!! "Small class sizes, amazing teachers"
Note the caption!! “Small class sizes, AMAZING TEACHERS”

As soon as I have unpacked my bags, fall has started and I immediately have an interesting week ahead: 

Wed – Kick-off at Ashesi (who right now feature a pic of me on the website to illustrate what we do, see above)

Thu – Election Petition verdict comes in, stay tuned to Ghana Decides Website and Facebook page

Fri – Start my last year as a PhD student (hopefully!) at Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

SatTEDxCapeCoastEd – a conference on “broadening the frontiers of education” and maybe Chale Wote festival pre-party in the evening

And on Sunday, this being Ghana, I of course have some funerals to attend…

TechTrekGhana: Meeting Boston College

Boston College collageLast 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:

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!

 

 

Summer Internship for a Lecturer: One Week with Citi FM

Tomorrow I start my one-week summer internship with Ghanaian radio station Citi FM. Now you ask yourself: Why would a grown woman with a full-time job do an internship? Just give me a minute and I will tell you!

Back in May when classes were drawing to a close at Ashesi University College where I teach, I thought of what I wanted to do with my summer. As a lecturer who teaches others all year around, I felt inclined to myself learn something new.I do believe in lifelong learning , after all! But what? It was on my mind for a while. I decided it should ideally be something that enhanced my skills in teaching communication, leadership and political science.

Every morning when I drive to work, I tune in to Citi FM and listen to their social commentary morning program Citi Breakfast Show on issues important to Ghanaians such as water, electricity, growing your business and who should be a politician – stuff like that. Every day a new topic, every day a great show. Problem descriptions that showed dedication to journalism, guests with insights, but that were also questioned thoroughly –  and this is not common in an economy where most businesses run on a shoestring (and a generator!) and all of the above takes preparation, skill and time.

I grew curious how they work behind the scenes – how do they prepare? How much time goes into each show? What best practises do they have to share as a successful team? How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

…and now I am to find out! That is if I wake up on time to be there, bright and early at 6 AM.  

Stay tuned for my internship report at the end of the week!

Photos from Ashesi Career Fair 2013

Today the Ashesi career fair took place. It was a big event with more than 60 employers visiting the campus. There were roll ups and folders and chocolates and CVs and students in business wear and public announcements and handshakes and business cards and elevator pitches and cameras and even Selma was there! 

I think what impresses me most with this event is how involved our students are, all 500 of them. This is not just for the soon-to-be-graduates, but freshmen volunteer as hosts for the visitors, students MC the event, students learn about where the might want to go in the future or where they can get an internship.

That engagement and apparent student ownership of the event makes me think it was a useful day for all!

IMG_3558 IMG_3541 IMG_3544 IMG_3545 IMG_3546 IMG_3534 IMG_3537 IMG_3539 IMG_3540 IMG_3527 IMG_3528 IMG_3531

This Week: Ashesi Career Fair

A brand new week is ahead, and this is an especially exciting one with  Ashesi University College’s career fair  and  BlogCamp13 taking place.

The career fair is the most visible event where our students to meet corporate Ghana (and in some cases, the world) and vice versa, but I think it is just the tip of the iceberg of what Ashesi does in way of making our graduates employable.

The Career Services with competent Ophelia Sam at the helm invites employers to interact with the university directly, to accept vacation interns, to talk to our students. Every contact is followed up through visits, surveys or meetings. The feedback Ashesi gets from employers on what they are looking for is fed into the plans for the university and communicated to us lecturers.

Maybe that is one of the reasons to why I will be attending the fair on Tuesday, it matters to me too! Report to follow.

Nationally, there is a big debate on how graduates are not being employed, even after years of university education, See Joseph Quaye Amoo’s text here or Bayor Cephas Kanyiri’s analysis. The latter talks about “a very big gap between academia and industry” as a main cause for the unemployment of graduates.

What is the role of active career services in solving this problem?

Grading Papers, Marking Exams: My Strategy

It is mid-semester break, that is: it a break for students and rather a surge of work for lecturers! Within one short week, all manuscripts have to be graded! So how do I do it?

grading 130313

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

A well thought-out exam with carefully crafted questions and instructions makes for an easier read. Times 50, 60 or 130.

2. Time your progress

If you have three working days, 6 hours effective time each day – that is 18 hours. Divide that in the number of papers you have to grade and try to meet the target.

3. Bribe yourself

Coffee works for me. The occasional dinner with a friend if I have done my pensum.

4. Take stats

How many of your students started with question 3? How many failed question 5? Misspelled a keyword? Forget to paragraph answers? Take note and create statistics that you can share with the students for a better understanding of their understanding of the course.

5. Remember the individual

I find this makes the reading more interesting. Is this particular student “getting it”? Is this answer “alternative” rather than “wrong”?

Oh, now off to dinner!