The U.S. State Department has embraced both digital diplomacy and cross-border education in its recent EdTech push.
a version of this article first appeared on Yeni Diplomasi
Recently, the U.S. Department of State has increased its “engagement” with EdTech, the hashtag-able shorthand for education technology. Both the Office of Digital Engagement and the Under Secretary for Education and Culture are playing a critical role in this process, and they are looking to established third-party companies to help. These efforts provide a perfect case study for other countries who plan to develop their own digital (diplomacy) engagement strategies.
No doubt, digital diplomacy is a foreign policy imperative in the digital age. However, some leaders or diplomats fail to understand the urgent need to amplify diplomacy with a variety of subjects including technology, innovation and education. New-generation diplomats have already started to tease out this intersection, but there is still much to be tried and discovered.
Today, 21st Century Statecraft (or, digital diplomacy in non-American lingo) easily blends public diplomacy and innovation. This transition can be seen by viewing each wave of diplomacy separately: Diplomacy 1.0, Diplomacy 2.0 and Diplomacy 3.0.
Diplomacy 1.0 epitomized state-to-state concern as a rule shaped by realpolitik, national interests, hard power, geopolitics, and territorial sovereignty. Diplomacy 1.0 required all world leaders, career diplomats and politicians to negotiate bi-lateral or multi-lateral issues strictly between sovereign states in the international system. Diplomacy 2.0 can be defined with the public diplomacy framework in an early digital mode. Since the 1960s, this mode of diplomacy has focused on winning “hearts and minds” and acquiring “soft power.” The most common feature of Diplomacy 1.0 and Diplomacy 2.0 was that they both flourished during the course of bi-polar, control freak and ideological world order driven by national security doctrines in the Cold War.
Diplomacy 3.0 is digital diplomacy or e-diplomacy. Due to Twitter’s central role in communication over the last few years, it is also referred to as twiplomacy. It transcends both Diplomacy 1.0 and Diplomacy 2.0 without necessarily annulling them. Diplomacy 3.0 fashioned new realms of diplomacy by rendering the practice for everyone, anywhere, anytime. You no longer have to be a diplomat with relevant accreditation to be invited to attend diplomatic meetings “in rarefied places—high-ceilinged, chandeliered rooms.” The Y and Z generations, especially, are growing up as the children of the digital revolution—hence digital citizen diplomats. These youngsters like listening as much as they like to be listened to by others. They use all available digital means and tools to engage, connect, mobilize, and influence. They are digital citizens, and if necessary, they can suddenly become digital activists and digital diplomats for their own causes and issues of representation and recognition. Older diplomats now must contend with digital natives, so the need for continuing education is crucial.
Currently, hard power and soft power remain remarkably dominant agents of foreign policy decision making. However, “soft poware” (read: soft power + software) is the new form of digital power for upgrading Diplomacy 1.0 and Diplomacy 2.0 into a digital age. It intertwines social media, open data and big data into diplomatic processes. This extends to education as a diplomatic tool as well.
By “bringing foreign policy into the classroom,” or vice-versa, two major policy areas are combined to create a new niche field: the amalgamation of Diplomacy 3.0 and education policies. I call it the 21st Century Schoolcraft: a borderless, global school based on digitalized, blended and flipped models of conducting diplomacy and learning/teaching. For examples, just see the U.S. State Department’s two recent initiatives: MOOC Camp, in partnership with Coursera, and an educational video game called Trace Effects.
These two projects are designed by teams led by Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She has pointed to the importance of “building a global network of learners.” Both Diplomacy 3.0 and the MOOC Camp are borderless. The latter is used to conduct the former and vice-versa. The audience is made up of global netizens. Ryan also claims that “in addition to offering new skills, MOOCs offer students an unparalleled opportunity to ‘test drive’ a U.S. classroom and prepare for studying in the United States.” Diplomacy 3.0 and EdTech are also testing the boundaries of futuristic collaborations. For example, Trace Effects is an “innovative language learning video game and will complement students’ classroom English language instruction through interactive 3-D multimedia learning adventures.” Trace Effects is one of the most innovative Diplomacy 3.0 projects: entrepreneurship, gamification, cultural diplomacy, and education are all fused together. It is also a good example of how people, nations and businesses will engage in the new digital age.
The U.S. State Department is establishing a new trend based on education and engagement in the Diplomacy 3.0 era. By working with third parties and establishing two-way partnerships, they also took the important step of including unbiased experts to produce the best learning outcomes rather than in-house teams. While there are no concrete results of the effectiveness of these initiatives, these are important experiments in linking diplomacy, innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.