I’d like to say that I fell out of the habit of blogging, but the truth is that blogging just isn’t a habit that I’ve yet acquired. I’ve tried, and I used to write more but I have a habit of overthinking things. I tend towards long sentences and complex sentence structures with complicated punctuation, and somewhere amidst all of the punctuation and the words and complicated phrasing, I get frustrated. I get frustrated, I lose sight of my original thought and I stop. I give up.
After what I’ve lived through this weekend, I’m not allowed to do that anymore. (ETA: Full video of the Suu Kyi Skype interview can be found here.)
Like all good things that happen in my life, it started with a tweet. Call him a mentor, call him a friend, my former professor of from Virginia Tech was announcing his weekly office hours and I hadn’t stopped through in awhile. Sure, I had seen him tweeting about Aung San Suu Kyi and I knew that his class had pulled off a great feat in viral videos when they lured Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen to Virginia Tech to discuss their latest movie “The Way”… but I didn’t know that he was literally in the process of landing the interview of the century with the Nobel Prize winner. I did my usual thing– asked how things were, threw a few tidbits of edutech knowledge thought he should know about, and then I was all, “Oh, if you land that, get in touch with Skype! They’ve got Skype in the Classroom, I bet they’d totally be interested in what you’re doing.” (They were incredibly lukewarm about it– or about even having contact with me.)
I found out via another DM that they did it, they actually did it… they actually landed a date with Aung San Suu Kyi. NO BIG DEAL, YO, SHE ONLY HAS A NOBEL FREAKING PEACE PRIZE. No big deal at all, y’all, she’s just a major pro-democracy figure in Burma who had been put on house arrest for eleventy billion years and who is pretty much at the top of the list of Hillary Clinton’s newest BFFs.
Since moving to California from Virginia, I’ve floated between a few jobs, met some incredible people and internauted for my first startup in the Silicon Valley. Not long after, through yet another incredible tweet, I landed my dream job working in educational technology. I wake up some mornings and I still can’t believe it– someone actually pays me to tweet and Facebook, and post things for them on the internet, what?!– and I’m not sure that I ever really will.
Within ten seconds of getting the DM of a lifetime, I grabbed a pen and launched my RSS reader that’s full of edutech, edureform and educator blogs. I made an almost illegible shortlist of my favorites– only the best for Suu Kyi, people!– and I set about composing one of the most hurried and typo-ridden but enthusiastic e-mails of my entire life.
From the time I hit the send button on the e-mail to the moment I finally heard back from someone, I was an absolute nervous wreck. Would it take? Would it stick? Would it work? I had approached my dream-team of bloggers about writing something on the Plaid Avenger– when the someone I heard back from remarked about my voice and enthusiasm, I was less of a nervous wreck and more of a starstruck blog fan. I had never expected to be the one telling the story, and yet I couldn’t get the words on the screen fast enough.
After a day of editing and pulling apart and repackaging my initial e-mail into something more eloquent than my original rambling, I had concrete posts that were picked up by EdTech Digest and the Cool Cat Teacher blog. I realized later that there were STILL typos (I accidentally typed 30, not 20 and didn’t catch the mistake when discussing how long Suu Kyi had been on house arrest– sorry guys!) and that what I had written could still be tweaked, but none of that felt like it was of much consequence to me. Two people whose work I admire felt that I had a compelling, relevant story and they were more than willing to share it through the networks they’ve built. If nothing, the most incredible application of technology I’ve ever known to happen would be out there for other educators to learn from and adapt to their own classrooms, right?
I flipped when I watched the story break on Saturday afternoon, and I was incandescent with happiness when it meandered through the educators on Twitter. Retweet after retweet filtered through my Search column in Tweetdeck, but was it enough? Would more people hear about it? When the retweets were going so fast that I couldn’t keep up, I was blown away. When a Google Alert showed that a blogger from Ireland and Audrey Watters at Hack Education had also written about the story… ugh, guys, I just can’t, I can’t even… I can’t begin to fathom it at all. I would never have pursued a career in social media without having been inspired by the work that Professor Boyer + Katie do in their class, and there I was in the incredible, humbling position of being able to use the knowledge I’ve gained in the career they inspired me to pursue to help them get the world out what I agree is the, “Best Use of Skype, Ever.” My mind was and still is completely blown by the entire thing, and I know it will be for a long time to come.
I “attended” the Skype interview from my office in San Francisco this evening– a #wrvt Twitter friend improvised a UStream broadcast through their app on the iPhone– and even though I was joining from 3,000 miles away, I could feel the energy and the electricity and the overwhelming sense that history was being made right in front of my eyes. I wasn’t physically there, but I was still entirely blown away by the dignity, grace, wisdom and inspiring words Aung Sun Suu Kyi shared with my former professor and students. I was so crying at my desk (excitement + happy + exhaustion) and I so, so didn’t care.
I’ve said these things publicly and privately on Twitter today, but I’ll say them again here and now and all together this time…
Learning opportunities like what Professor Boyer executed on Skype with his class this evening are what educators and technologists should aspire to do every day. Many educators do aspire to these things and make them happen, but many more who would like to adopt this model are unable to because of limited technology funding, crippling budget cuts and poor decisions on the parts of policymakers who advocate ineffective education models and policies. At the end of the day, we’ve got to fix this mess, we’ve got to make education better and we’ve got to do everything we can to encourage students to want to learn. We need to make education the best that it can be and we need to do that now; if we can’t fix education, what can we do right? Is there even point to the rest of the work that we as a society do if it can’t be improved?
We live in an incredible era of seemingly endless technology and endless promise. I can only hope that these incredibly lucky
#wrvt students are inspired to change and improve the world by Skyping Suu Kyi from class this evening. I was one of them a few years ago, and through technology, I was one of them again tonight.