There’s a saying about those who teach, often attributed to Henry Brooks Adams, that goes something like this: “A teacher affects eternity, he never knows where his influence stops.” In this series of screenshots, while it may be subtle, there’s quite a lot going on. On December 5, 2011, Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi skyped in to an interview with Virginia Tech geography Professor John Boyer and his 3,000-student World Regions geography class. The “Plaid Avenger” (Boyer’s online alter ego) and his class previously requested via YouTube an interview with the recently released pro-democracy leader who is on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s shortlist of key world leaders to meet with. What’s clear from Blacksburg, Virginia is the electric energy from this crowd of invigorated and invigorating students and a professor with passion for connecting them to the real world beyond their spirited campus. What’s less clear is who is doing the teaching: Aung San Suu Kyi as a symbol of hard-won freedom who is a living lesson for students even beyond this lecture hall; Boyer for having the guts and simple genius to create an opportunity and bring it into his classroom to make a real and meaningful connection, or the students themselves whose infectious energy is a lesson to anyone who might leave their mark on the world—reminding us all of who we are dealing with when we say, students are “the future”. If lessons include studying, then as you study the reaction of Aung San Suu Kyi to this crowd (click here to watch the Vimeo, pull it toward the end when Boyer allows his students to show their gratitude), remember from where she came and see if you can’t help but smile alongside her elation. Jessy Irwin, a former student of Boyer’s now out in the ‘real world’, brought all this to our attention a few days ago. She for one has been affected by Boyer’s influence. In the right hands, technology tools can really go a long way. What other examples are there of teachers doing something like this? We’d love to hear them and share them here.
By: Victor Rivero