Tuesday, December 6, 2011

invent the future

Last night, one of my favorite professors, John Boyer, hosted a Skype session with Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi in his 3,000 student World Regions class. I was lucky enough to take this class as a second-semester freshman in 2009. While Boyer's compelling antics remain unchanged, it has been wonderful to see his innovative approach to teaching develop over the years.

World Regions was one of my favorite classes at Virginia Tech because it allowed me to really, truly learn the information. The curriculum involved mini quizzes throughout the semester and two exams while also providing an opportunity for class credit through attending foreign movie screenings. The classes were so engaging that hardly anyone ever skips. I felt so knowledgeable about current events when I was in this class--something that is hard to obtain when you live in the bubble that is Blacksburg, Virginia for 9 months out of the year. Boyer approached the course creatively and enthusiastically. The amount of effort he dedicated to creating valuable resources made the class that much more meaningful. The Plaid Avenger, Boyer's online comic book persona, brings life and a sense of fun to learning about world issues.

Last year, I had the opportunity to study Boyer's Plaid Avenger franchise in my Integrated Marketing Communications class. For a group project, I helped develop a marketing plan for expanding his personal brands to other schools and ultimately other countries. At the end of the semester, a friend and I went to lunch with Boyer and his Plaid Avenger team (graphic designer, web designer, assistant) to discuss revamping his website with some of our ideas from the project. It was truly an awesome learning experience to be able to see behind-the-scenes of such an innovative educational powerhouse on our campus.

Recently, Boyer has used social media networks as a way to connect with influential leaders and artists. Last semester, he sent a YouTube video to entrepreneur and wine enthusiast, Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuk came to Burruss Hall here on campus and gave an awesome speech relating to his book The Thank You Economy. One of the premises of the book is taking the time to get to know people and personalize your interactions with them. You'll go far with this mindset in both the professional and personal world.

After sending a YouTube video to Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez this fall, Boyer was able to secure a visit from the father-son duo to campus. They visited to show a screening of their new movie The Way and provide a brief question-answer period.

I think that the Skype session last night further reinforces the movement towards a new phase of education. The technology we have today allows for faster communication with more people all over the world. Boyer has been doing this for quite some time now with his online Podcasts--free mini lectures on current events. Now he is expanding this method of teaching by including other perspectives from all over the world. I am so excited to see where this goes from here. Maybe I will have to sit in on some of his classes during my last semester in college in the spring.

Check out the video of the Skype session from last night. This is also a great article about the night.

One of my favorite parts of the discussion with the Burmese democracy leader? Her response when asked by a student "How do you stay so focused and motivated to achieve your goals?":

"I was brought up to think that duty was one of the most important things in life. Perhaps this is out of fashion now…perhaps people do not think any longer that duty is important and that really the most important thing is to enjoy yourselves….Throughout the years when I have had to face many difficulties, I was upheld by this conviction that nothing was more important in my life than commitment to duty…You could try, try thinking of duty as the most important thing in your life. I think you will find that it opens up a lot of vistas for you that you never realized before existed. It’s not a narrowing process, it’s in fact an opening up process."

-Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

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