I'm reaching out to the Global Ed Ning I want to publicize the incredible work that one of my favorite college professors, John Boyer at Virginia Tech, is doing with social media in his World Region's class. Boyer is an exceptionally passionate educator who thrives on engaging his students, and for the third time, has managed to turn a YouTube video from his class of 3,000 World Regions students into a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for his students. In the past, Boyer has used YouTube to lure Gary Vaynerchuk (for his Geography of Wine course) , Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez to Virginia Tech to discuss the various projects they've worked on and their life experiences. Much of that happened with little fanfare or attention from the university or the Blacksburg, VA community of which he is a member. This time, though, Boyer managed to turn a YouTube video into to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, leader of the resistance movement in Burma, into an hour long Skype interview with her next Monday, December 7, at 7pm EST.
Even though a few Asian media outlets have requested exclusive broadcast rights of this Skype interview, Boyer is working on his own live-feed of the event to share with other educators and interested parties. Given that Suu Kyi was under house arrest for over 30 years and was just liberated by Than Shwe last year, she's an incredibly influential world figure. While she pretty regularly does interviews with foreign media sources, it's incredible that she's making the time to meet with a class of 3,000 students from half a world away. Most importantly, none of this would be possible without technology.
I could go on and on and on about the work that Boyer and Katie Pritchard do-- I would have never left Virginia for to work in social media + educational technology in the Silicon Valley if I hadn't been inspired by the use of technology in his class in 2009-- but I'm writing because I think that what Boyer and his students have done here and what they've done in previous semesters to get the attention of influential figures-- is absolutely revolutionary and more people, more educators need to know about it. While this sort of news would usually appeal most to a higher education audience, I feel that it's a perfect example of how social media and technology integration can enhance the efforts of an effective, engaging educator and enrich student experience. There are so many stories running through the blogosphere and in the mainstream media that debate whether technology makes a difference in education, and I feel that this is a concrete example of technology positively changing the classroom for the better. Not everyone has access to a class of 3,000 hyped students to get their message across, but there is still much that can be gleaned from his examples of backchannel class communication using the #wrvt hashtag on Twitter and by examining his huge list of parody World Leader accounts on Twitter. At one point in his career, students were barely showing up to class-- now, he's faced with huge waitlists of students every semester who want to take his class but for whom there isn't enough room. If there's a way you could find the time to write about this or mention this huge win for a professor of college geography, please do! Boyer's mentoring and friendship have completely changed my life, and I think his example could inspire millions of teachers out there who want to find new ways to connect with their students. I've enclosed some links below that go into further detail about Professor Boyer's work-- he will also be presenting a panel about teaching a class to 3000 students each fall semester at South by Southwest in 2012.
Gary Vaynerchuk at Virginia Tech
Martin Sheen + Emilio Estevez at Virginia Tech