AMA: Professor John Boyer aka The Plaid Avenger

posted by thereal_plaidavenger to /r/IAmA on Sun, 29 Apr 12 23:47:55 +0100

My life mission: motivating, educating, and inspiring students to be fully engaged in the rapidly globalizing 21st century. In our increasingly connected and complex world, personal (and even our country's) success depends upon a global awareness and global engagement to meet the challenges of our time. Utilizing a variety of topics, technologies, and graphic mediums, I am absolutely passionate about providing the highest quality learning experience that will produce global citizens and leaders prepared to positively shape the future of the the US, and the world. About the Professor: www.thejohnboyer.com/ The Avenger at Work: www.plaidavenger.com

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I have a friend who goes to tech who raves about you. If I were to to visit him next semester, would I be able to sit in on one of your lectures or it is it a more "student only" kind of deal?

As far as I am concerned, my classes are always open to everyone, all the time, under any circumstances. The only pre-requisite: curiosity and a willingness to learn! You are welcome anytime!

As a tech student, classes are almost always available to be sat in on, especially large lecture hall classes such as his.

I had a friend visit my lecture and have visited lectures of his while I was not enrolled.

lol sweet! Thanks for stopping by Steve, and for bringing others!

If you could fight a bear or a t-rex using one tool, which would you fight? How would it go down? Which scotch would you drink over your dead adversary's body?

The tool: Vladimir Putin How it would go down: quickly Which one would I fight: both, simultaneously And given the choice of weapon, I would favo Stoli over Scotch

1) Could you do this in r/VirginiaTech? 2) How did you find out about reddit? 3) What made you want to do an IAMA?

I ran into you the other night and talked with you about the wine class. Party like Putin!

The ever-awesome Technical Assistant Katie P. is the one who got me hooked up on Reddit, and someone just asked me earlier today in another forum to to the AMA. ANd I will ask Katie ow to set up the AMA for r/VT as well later this evening.

You can post a link to it in /r/VirginiaTech at the very least, leading people here.

Or you know. You could do it. Too late though. I did it.

Oh, I thought HokieBird had already done it based on his comments elsewhere, so I didn't check. Swell.

How do you deal with students that aren't getting the points, and seem to not be getting the material?

I actually am putting a lot more emphasis on the students to take ownership of their assignments, and their points and their grades. I fear that maybe higher ed has become too formulaic, and students too apathetic to the whole college experience. It seems that an increasing number of people just come to college to get a piece of paper, not to really challenge themselves and expand their minds. And in this cauldron, students are just going through the motions, and the motions themselves are predictable and boring--the ever-dreaded 'final exam' is a great example of outdated practices that teachers hate, students hate, teachers throw together and then students cram to get through...but has any long-term learning occurred as a result? Likely not. Sorry for the long answer here, but I am really working to build assignments and systems that challenge the student, but also make it clear that they have to take ownership of their decisions, their work ethic, and even the seeking out of additional assistance if they need it. This is college, and we need to get back to the understanding that the hand-holding is over, and everyone needs to push themselves to get the most out of the process...and I embrace that attitude for the instructors too, myself included!

Fantastic answer. I agree, and I'd argue that the decline in self-motivated learning is due to the unfortunate commercialization of education.

We're no longer told to learn and explore the world because of our innate curiosity; we're told to learn and explore so that we can get a job. Really kills it, I think.

I appreciate your effort towards reform of our somewhat broken system, and I applaud the success you've seen so far!

Thanks so much TamSahn!!! You are too kind!

Putting off my essay on constructivism and student-centered instruction to read this AMA. Answers like this make me feel almost as if I'm not procrastinating. I regret not taking one of your classes in my undergrad career, might have to stop in sometime during the next year. Thanks for the AMA, keep up the good work!

Thanks so much pgaliats! You are welcome to drop by anytime, and stay as long as you want! If there is anyway I can help you and your research in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me. My syllabus and detailed instructions on class assignments are yours for the taking!

Thank you for being the kind of lecturer we dream of having - one who promotes curiosity rather than just teaching what is needed for jobs. We have lost many great minds to the mentality of 'school is to prepare you for work'.

School is for learning, for exploring, for being curious. School should nurture the inquisitive, challenge them, and encourage everyone to think for themselves rather than accept the status quo.

So thank you. And I hope to encounter lecturers like you at Sydney University when I attend next year.

Wow! Thanks so much for your kind words and vote of confidence kulykat! Sydney U, eh? That sounds like an awesome place to be! I just got invited to give a talk at a university in Perth, so I will be heading to 'the other hemisphere' myself here soon!

If you could teach any other classes here at Tech, either ones that exist now, or that you want to exist, what would they be?

Oh, nothing already on the books, but I really want to develop a whole class that is just current events analysis. Maybe like a senior seminar type deal, maybe in Burruss, for all graduation seniors. Would you sign up for that?

I would. Mostly cause I haven't taken your class yet and I keep reminding myself that I'm running out of time to actually take a class that you teach.

Great! I will put it on the books for next year!

I would. I feel like that would be a good, interesting way to fill out my schedule instead of having to take 6 BS credits like weight lifting.

hahahaha but weight-lifting would def get you more street cred on Muscle Beach, and I would not want to get in the way of that!

I would totally sign up for that. Excapt I'm already a senior and might have to see about taking it as a grad student.

I will stream it then for everyone who has already graduated!

Hey Professor, I took your class in Spring 07. Hello! I have a few questions...

1.) What is something going on currently in the world that a lot of us might not know about? What should we be reading about that is, at present, under the radar.

2.) What are your thoughts on Invisible Children as an organization, and their Kony campaign?

3.) Favorite beer?

1)The friction that continues to build up in the South China Sea has wide-ranging geo-political impacts that involve the US, China, and everyone who borders that sea. You may remember me talking about it in class way back when, but I think it is more of a current issue now. It continues to build a slow simmer which may eventually come to a boil, and is at the moment actually changing the location of permanently stationed US troops in the Pacific. Look it up, or check out my latest podcast. 2)I think IC is getting a terribly bad rap right now. Jason Russell is a decent guy who cracked under tremendously huge and negative press, as many of us might if we woke up one day and suddenly a million people hated us. THeir underlying mission was to raise awareness about an international criminal, and they have done that, so I am a bit bothered that so many entities want to throw them under the bus, for various reasons. The end game is that Joseph Kony is a piece of human filth that should be in jail or hell, and I'm not going to dogpile on an organization whose mission was to help stop him. 3)All the above.

If world war three is to happen, which factions would fight with which factions and how would it resolve?

Too early to call on the WW3 scenario. Too many rising powers in the world right now, and none of us really know how the re-alignment of powers is going to play out even in the next 5 years, much less 50 years. Anyone who claims they can predict the future of the world power sustem is either crazy or full of shizzle. We are in a period of maximum fluctuation that is completely unpredictable for long-term projections. Kind of like the weather.

A few years ago I dressed up as the plaid avenger for halloween and came to one of your classes. You said you would give everyone 3 points on their final grade because I showed up...I was not actually in your class at the time. Did you actually do that, or do you actually remember me coming?

hahahaha wow...I cannot honestly say I remember the outcome of that class visit by a plaid impostor!

How did you bypass ludicrous and went directly to plaid?

That 'Spaceballs' reference is not lost on me BTW. Nicely played!

I took a picture with you. It was my facebook profile picture for a while... I also drank a bottle of definitelynotwine in your geography of wine class earlier this semester, and my friend kicked it over after it was empty, although I had thought that occasion was less noteworthy

done and done

edit: definitely no hoverhand there

You kinda look like Darryl from Walking Dead in that picture. If he were wearing a plaid facemask.

Wow. A Walking Dead reference in my AMA. I feel like a more successful man now.

unfortunately i don't look much like murphy from the boondock saints in real life

I stand corrected: A Boondock Saints reference now makes me feel even more manly. I almost got to see those guys at the SxSW conference, as the whole cast was there releasing a Boondock video game.

Thanks so much for doing this! I'm one of the moderators over in r/VirginiaTech, and I've added a sticky at the top of the page to direct people over here.

ciaran667 eluded to this - for those of us who have never been able to fit your World Regions class into our schedule, or simply couldn't get into it, have you considered streaming lectures? I've definitely wanted to get in on it, and considered sitting in some classes, but alas, my schedule with other classes never allowed for it (well, that was usually the case).

Also, if you had to choose between your real identity and the Plaid Avenger for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Sure thing Hokiebird! As referenced in another answer, I am working diligently to put all course lectures on-line at iTunes U and at http://www.plaidavenger.com/worldregions/ and then start live streaming everything I do in live class scenarios. In fact, I am going to experiment with full-on live streaming in Summer Session 1, if anyone is interested in watching...no need to be enrolled in the class, it will just e streamed to the world

How's Virginia Tech feel about that? I love that you're doing it and I've "sat in" on some of Standford's professors lectures online.

I think VT is all cool with it. It is an exciting time for higher ed, with all the experimentation and on-line innovations that are occurring...it really is the Wild West right now, and none of us know what higher ed is gonna look like even 5 years from now. So it is in the university's best interest to have some irons in the fire of experimentation too.

That gives me faith that the US Educational system isn't a complete lost cause. Have you ever thought about politics? You'd be a fucking amazing Secretary of Education. Save our kids, Prof.

lol thanks for that vote of confidence slammy! But I'm afraid I have lived my life too honest, too open, and too hard core to ever run for political office. Those people now have to spend their whole lives kissing ass and 'not inhaling' to ensure they have spotless records so that the mega-corporations of Democrat Inc and Republican Corp. will fund their campaigns to get into office. I could never be a part of such sleaze, and they would never have me anyway. And I follow on old quote from Groucho Marx I think (or maybe it was W.C. Fields?), who said "I would never join any club that would accept me as a member"

Thats how absolutely rotten US politics has become!

This is awesome - I assume it won't be taking place in Burruss, though?

This summer? lol, no I don't think we can fill Burruss in summer! But in Fall, yes we are back on again!

When I get emails from Blacksburg Alert about road closures it tells me to contact John Boyer if I have questions. Are you that awesome that you are in charge of transportation or is there an impostor running around?

hahahaha...I am actually in charge of all communications, transportation issues, and ninja training for the entire county of Montgomery, so I stay pretty busy. Actually, there is is another John Boyer who is a real deal awesome professional guy in charge of that stuff for Blacksburg. And I only know this because just as Yoda was dying, he whispered in my ear: "There is another John Boyrrrrrrrrr <cough, cough> <death>"

Have you ever thought about streaming lectures worldwide?

ABsolutley. We are working on putting all lecture materials on-line, and have started doing that on iTunes U and my site at www.plaidavenger.com...specifically, http://www.plaidavenger.com/worldregions/ Once we have the course video lectures established, then I will build a time frame to be on-line live to talk to folks from around the globe. Wouldn't that be cool? It will be much the dame format as my current on-line live office hours

As a Canadian Redditor I'm more than a little excited at the prospect of leaning from you in any way possible after reading some of your responses to questions in this AMA...........eh.

Thanks for the international shout-out Galifrey! Please feel free to join in the fun anytime! I am actually doing live on-line office hours tonight at 8PM eastern standard time, and perhaps we should talk about and develop some sort of list-serve,alert to let all interested parties know when we are going live on-line, streaming video on-line, or provide new content on-line. Interested? I can assure you of this: everything I ever produce will be totally free on-line 24/7 access. I am all about opening up channels of knowledge and discussion in education, not building walls around it to 'protect' it.

I see you put them up on vimeo. Any plans to putting them up on youtube for faster streaming?

A lot of the content is already on YouTube. I will let Katie P hook you up with those details.

Does anyone still call you Coach Boyer?

Hmmm....I've been called Coach just once or twice this semester. It has been over a year now since the totally awesome GaryVee came up with that moniker. Most folks in attendance that magical night have graduated, or are getting ready to!

Do you believe that outside of your classroom, your message to not just know the material, but understand and see connections is carried on by a lot of members of your class?

I sure hope so. That is actually my main mission in teaching: to inspire people to continue lifelong learning and exploration. I get a lot of emails and messages from former students that affirm that notion, but I would ask students past and present in this forum right now to also respond to your question, as those are the real folks to ask.

Although I already had a strong interest in current/global events prior to taking his class, I would say after my friends and I took this most of us continued the trend of observing and analyzing the world. In fact, I dedicate my lunch breaks to catch up on and study the news.

Thanks for that KajuKattri! Keep up the good work....for life!

What are your thoughts on college sports and particularly football? Do you think that overall the football program has a positive or negative affect on the culture at VT in regard to curiosity and learning?

For bonus points, did the post Sandusky/Paterno riots at Penn State affect your view at all?

At the risk of wildly offending all you awesome college students, as well as the entire sports program, I am actually just not into sports that much. I totally appreciate seeing a game live every now and again, but I do think that perhaps too much emphasis and energy is expended in that direction at college, from both the university and student perspective. Sports and team camaraderie are an awesome component of the entire college experience, but are universities without a huge sports program really worse off? I think not academically, and probably not even culturally, so I just don't buy the theory that sports programs have to be given unlimited power and authority because they bring in so much money that the university system would just collapse without them. Overall, I think in today's educational environment, too many people are coming to college just to 'get a piece of paper' so they can supposedly 'get a good job' (I think this theory no longer is true), and given that shallow initial interest, of course their is increased demand to go to party schools with good sports programs...since the 4 year experience is just going to be a Club Med time-killer for them. Now am I suggesting that that group of people are the majority in school right now? Absolutely not, but even if they constitute 5 to 10 % of the students, they are affecting the entire system by increasing demand at hot schools like VT, which means that tuition can increase (simple market forces), as well as the reality that those folks are taking seats from potential students who may really be serious about expanding their minds and skill sets. That make sense? Sorry for the rant. And the Penn State situation mostly made me sad for the victims of course, but also for Paterno and the program, as my grandfather was a life-long fan who I used to watch football with before he passed. Just goes to show why you should never cover up obvious wrong-doing, as a million good deeds can be undone by a single horrific act. ALways keep that in mind!

Your honesty and critical perspective is right on. I agree 100%.

What is your opinion of online education? Will online universities become more popular and reputable at the expense of traditional institutions or is the internet just a supplemental educational tool?

Not yet, and maybe never. First off, all of the on-line universities and the on-line courses that are available all over the place lack one critical component that is going to take a while to evolve: accreditation and verification. Anyone can now start an on-line college in their basement and put some smack-ass class videos on-line...but if no one recognizes it as legit and there is no verification that the student who signed up for the class is the entity that actually took the class, then the class/degree doesn't mean squat. I thin what you will see is that major (and minor) universities will continue to expand their on-line menus, because they already have the legitimacy and accreditation which are the main reasons people get a college degree in the first place! I do think it is an exciting time for innovation and education though...the idea of putting a million great courses on-line on everything from philosophy to welding and letting the American public get as smart as they want is totally fascinating and exciting to me. I think it is basically going to become the next generation of the American Public Library system...which in its day was a great program to disseminate more information to more people than ever before. Good stuff!

Thanks for the AMA! Could you provide proof that you're the real Plaid Avenger?

Sure thing TamSanh....I am new to Reddit, so how do I prove my identity?

take a picture of yourself, with a piece of paper with the time, date, and some kind of shout out to reddit written on it. try to draw the alien or something. upload to your twitter or imgur.com and link it here.

By the way, loved your class last semester. Don't have any questions at the moment though.

Alien pictures? This proof of identity is getting stranger by the minute. And thanks for the class shout-out tuxubuntu!

scroll up to the top of the page, next to the reddit logo on the upper left hand side is the reddit alien, the mascot. try to draw him!

I did my best. How do you like the pic?

Either with a tweet from your personal account, or with a photo of you and a shoe on your head, or a tweet from your personal account with a photo of you and a shoe on your head, or announcement on http://www.plaidavenger.com/.

hahahaha a shoe on my head? ALright, let me go load up my camera with film and I will get that to you in a bit.

You came to my school once and I really appreciate your approach to expressing complex ideas to not so complex thinkers. My question: In your opinion, what is the single most important dynamic in the realignment of world power in the 21st century, and to whom is it going?

Thanks so much for your kind words Comrade! With no reservations, the rise of China is causing the biggest single re-calibration of world power and culture right now. BUT I am already to the point of thinking that while CHina will affect a lot in the coming decades, so will the 'rise of the rest' as it is now being coined. That is, all the formerly poor/peripheral countries like India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nigeria, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Gulf countries, Indonesia, Vietnam...hell, the list can go on....are now catching up, some fast. We are moving to a non-Western dominated world, one that is characterized by many world powers, and many more regional powers, that is going to radically affect economic, political, military, and cultural relationships the world over...and is going to change how the game is played in a big way.

Pip, pip! Good show, old chap! Raise a glass to the John Boyers of the world! My clan is from the Johnstown/Pittsburg area. You?

lol thanks Adriot! I will now forever assume that your great grandfather and my great grandfather fought next to each other in the French and Indian War! Good times!

You should make wine class on Tuesday worth 100+ points. It'd help out a lot.

I just got back from Zeppolis an hour ago. I'm pretty drunk. They give you a lot of wine there

Sober up! You should never get that far overboard when you are doing food and wine together! Moderation! Moderation! Moderation!

But how was the food? And what was your favorite food/wine pairing?

It was my first wine dinner. It really wasn't what I expected it to be. It seemed more like a dinner, and then a wine tasting. They didn't serve the first wine until everyone was almost done eating. The food was really good though. I'll probably go back.

Either way, my favorite wine was the Jean-marc burgaud Boujolais Villages. I don't know if you know what was being served, so that's the full name if you wanna go out and try it. It was great. I tried to pull out my inner Gary V in the tasting. I tasted a lot of blackberry and a little bit of sour cherry. I couldn't really get much of anything else.

Anyway, pretend that you have some students that didn't do as much as they should have early in the semester, but for the past month or so have been doing everything. They've done all the quizzes and are sitting about 100 points short of an A after they factor in their projected scores for the finals and the remaining movie... Anything else they can do?

Glad you enjoyed the Beaujolais! That was the wine I made fun of in class last week! In terms of class, we still have the movie on Wednesday night (if there are any tickets left) and the final exam and wine label exam on Thursday! Still plenty of possible points to go!

Bummer! I factored in the points I think I'll get from those. Oh well!

I really did like the beaujolais though. Everyone seemed to. The second wine we tasted (I don't remember the name) ended up being flawed so they opened another bottle. That was pretty cool

From the perspective of someone who found your course through iTunes U I would suggest that it would be good if it was a bit more organized. There is a place for course notes, course materials, where you can at least add the comics and maybe plug The Plaid Avenger's World. Of course, I would prefer that the book was in iBooks format. Wouldn't it be nice for students to a have a copy that was always up-to-date? The multimedia and built in study tools also make iBooks attractive.

I totally agree Ijudy! We are working on it! All of those suggestions are already on our to-do list!

This pesky college job keeps getting in the way of me getting those iTunes U courses done! And the iBook is a serious undertaking too! If only the Bill Gates foundation would slip me a couple million, I could really get this stuff done a lot faster!

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm Professor Boyer's technical assistant and we are working to make "mini courses" with each chapter of the book/videos on iTunes. Exactly what you described is what we are working towards and hope to have a few up the summer and more videos recorded. We're using iAuthor and want it to be interactive as possible. Cheers!

Wow, fellow VT student here. Attended nearly all of your classes as it was always fun to hear your stories and the detailed knowledge about the current events. The class discussions made the class even better, one of my favorite classes I took at Tech.I never missed your movie nights either, they were awesome! It is great to have you here on reddit.

My question: How did you approach Aung San Suu kyi for a video conference? It was a great video conference to watch, by far one of the best things Tech has done.

Thanks kewistar! The Aung San Suu Kyi event was actually inspired by a student in the class who was actually from Burma, and then she got really inspired after I showed a flim in class and talked about the situation there. She really pushed the whole project into happening, as she made contacts and started networking through her family and friends and got some attention of peeps in the Beltway, some of which has inside contacts to Suu Kyi in Burma. Then we organized did a shout-out to her, and had everyone help make it go viral (in a limited sense) until the video made its way to AUng San Suu Kyi herself! You can read articles about it here: http://thejohnboyer.com/in-the-news/

ANd see the shout-out we did here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGSf_xjFX0o

And you can actually watch the whole thing unfold here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjjwW9L2P68&feature=related

Thank you and the fine lady from Burma who made this all happen. Also thank you so much for the links, it is one of my favorites now :).

Hi, I wanted to say that I LOVED your World Regions lecture series offer on iTunes U. Thank you so much for offering it to us. I wait eagerly for your next series.

I have two questions - 1, where should I go from here if I wanted to continue learning about world political and economic conditions? Do you have any books or textbooks that you would recommend as a follow-up to your course?

2, Of course I know of your own book, and I am very excited to order my own copy! I noticed that on Amazon there are different versions, IE the Arab Revolution edition, Western World, Hong Kong etc - are these entirely different books, or is it just that there are special chapters added? If so is there a copy out which includes all of the "special edition" information?

Thanks so much for checking out and supporting our endeavors on iTunes U! We are definitely going to be producing a whole stand-alone course with them that has tons more video and assignments, so stay tuned!

As per where to go from here, if you email me at joboyer@vt.edu I will try and compile a list of readings from around the globe on a variety of world topics. Of course I will post it to the website as asap as well. In the meantime, keeping up with world events has become ever easier thanks to the great international news resources that are readily available on the web. You can see the list of places I go at www.plaidavenger.com, but a single great resource that has links to actual news stories and actual credible news sources from around the world is http://www.worldpress.org/ Go browse that for a while and see what you think!

In terms of my textbook, I put out a new edition every year, and we have a new cover theme and 'name' for each edition...BTW this is not to scam students (like the 43rd edition of your Chemistry book that has not changed in 100 years) but because my book incorporates current events and analysis and world leaders so heavily, that updates are a necessity. The only exception to the textbook labeling rule is the one you have seen named 'The Western World Edition' which was a special requested printing that only has the first 12 chapters of the full book...those 12 chapters cover just the western'westernized regions that I call 'Team West', thus the name of the book.

I was reading my sister's course books one time, and I noticed a cocktail recipe in the foot notes. How do you get away with this stuff?

That's pretty awesome I have to admit.

I will be taking your class next year (upcoming sophomore) and my friend said to try and become a T.A. How exactly would one do this? Also I am SUPER excited to take your class-- heard you learn a ton of stuff and it's entertaining.

Just hit me up in the first week of class if you want to be a volunteer TA. We are going to be utilizing more 'crowd-sourcing' assistance in the future for a variety of jobs. In a class of this size, it may end up being a system that is duplicated by other professors who want to teach bigger classes, but have to physical resources to support their endeavor. Students helping students! Hell yeah!

Thanks for doing this! Having seen you at She Sha and around downtown numerous times, I have to ask:

  1. What is your favorite flavor of hookah?
  2. What are your top 3 favorites beers of all time?
  3. What is your favorite classic cocktail?

1) I am partial to the citrus family when it comes to flavors. Lemon usually works for me in many contexts of food and beverage, and smoke. 2)I have no top lists for any alcohol, as they are very season/producer/food/company dependent. I will tell you my favorite go-to styles for spring/summer are hefewiezens, craft-brewed lagers, altbeirs, and I am especially fond of a very rare style to stumble across called Berliner Weisse. 3)Again, too many to list, but if you are into wickedly well-crafted cocktails, do yourself a favor and go visit Lucky's in downtown Roanoke. Some of the best I have had recently, and most experimental!

I wish I could retake your class. I feel like I didnt get as much out of it as I should have.

You are welcome to come back to the class anytime! You don't have to be signed up, and as mentioned in other questions above, I am putting a lot more of it entirely on-line, available anytime!

Do you plan on continuing the large class size here at Tech?

Do you plan on increasing the number at all?

How do you overcome the technological limitations of Burress, such as the wifi issues I've heard about?

Has the course changed at all over its tenure, i.e. gotten harder or anything?

Why are there currently open spots for WRVT for this coming fall semester? Has student perception changed?

How many hours/week do you think it takes to get an A in this class?

Is it possible to "audit" your course with Tech? i.e. 'take' the course without getting a grade put on your final transcripts? I want to take the class, but already fulfilled all my CLE's and don't want to worry about the grade affecting my GPA.

Yes, I will continue experimenting with the ultra-large class format, but we keep trying new approaches and hybridizing the class into more of a on-line and live approach. So we will keep doing it, but it just may never be the same experience twice! Which is the way I think it should be in this time of maximum innovation and change.

The number may increase if we go more on-line, but it can't get too much bigger given the constraints of grading materials for that many peeps and trying to still keep an environment that students feel they are truly engaged in and can ask questions in.

We are still waiting on increased wi-fi connections, and will continue requesting it.

You have to ask the students if the course is easier or harder, but it is definitely different than it was years ago. It is now more student-centered in terms of different assignments you can choose from, and unlimited attempts at geting points (which seems like it would make it easier) but the student now has to take much more ownership of their work and plan and be motivated to finish their stuff (which I guess makes it way more challenging and harder).

The University actually now holds something like 1000 seats for incoming freshman, who don't register until this summer, so there looks like a whole bunch of seats open right now...and any seats still unfilled by Fall will become open again to the entire student body. Maybe it will fill, maybe not; but I'm going to teach the best damn class I can no matter what!

There are now so many options for earning points, it is impossible for me to gauge how much time it takes students to earn an A, as it depends on the path and work ethic of each individual student.

Yes, you can always audit my course. I highly recommend against anyone ever auditing any class, EVER. Why? Because we are humans, and we all get busy and have to prioritize our time and efforts....and when push comes to shove, no one ends up going to a class they audited, as there is no incentive (positive or negative incentive) to do so. Sorry, its just the truth!

As a EE at VT and an employee at CNS, I just wanted to let you know the wireless issues aren't exactly our fault. 802.11g just wan't meant to serve that many people in such a small/cramped space. We are replacing the older access points on campus with 802.11n access points to help resolve some of these issues. A big factor in this is the individual clients though. We've had multiple discussions where we bring in representatives from Cisco, Dell, HP, and Apple to resolve issues like this. It really digs down to badly written drivers on the clients that do not load-balance the access points appropriately resulting in a single access point having 90% of the clients rather than them being properly distributed.

I just wanted to let you know that we're continually working with all of the vendors involved to come up with a better campus wireless environment.

This makes me happy to hear. A lot of the classrooms get some pretty terrible wifi, even when i'm sitting within eyeshot of the AP and less than half the class is using it. Seems they listen though, I bugged them about the connections in Dietrick and after a few back and forth emails, they rearranged the APs and added a few. So much better now.

Agreed nosjojo. I think CNS does a great job responding to demands, but it is a colosal task given the size of our university and the massive demand from 30,000 users...or more! And of course I am sure their budgets are getting slashed like everyone else's in there trying economic times.

Thanks for that shout-out vtbrian! I want to publicly second your comments! I know that Burruss is a big challenge, mostly because of its size, age, and also because there is not a big demand to have it hardwired for thousands of access points outside of the single class I teach, and that is only in the Fall. I just want you to know I fully support CNS and think you guys rock!

1) What would be your top suggestions for teaching large lecture hall style classes? (I'm especially curious in the context of a graduate instructor, who might not have the same time/resources/etc)

2) What do you think is the best way to assess student progress/comprehension? Projects can show more than essays, which can show more than multiple choice exams, etc, but each gets more and more difficult to handle as you increase in students. What's your opinion?

3) I see you use PollEverywhere; how do you think this compares to 'clickers'?

1)Im really a big fan of the 'Flipped Syllabus' concept I have been pushing lately: the points accumulation system that allows students to pick their own fate when it comes to assignments and assessments. And increasingly we should be thinking of crowd-sourcing other students to 'help' with course management, possibly even grading duties. I know it may sound outrageous to have students helping grade other students work, but if they are well-trained in what you are looking for, and there is no conflict of interest, I think the 'volunteer TA' tool may be a solution especially for graduate students with limited or no resources. 2)Im increasingly a huge fan of on-line blogs that involve news curation combined with individual expression. As you have suggested, the thought is that anything other than multiple choice takes too long to grade, but I think it is worth the extra work...and the ease of access makes it so much smoother than having to build systems and tests, and then manage those tests. In addition, the work is out there for the student to have permanently, and add to their dossier if they want, and over time they can go back and easily compare work they did as a freshman vs as a senior, at the click of a button,. What a great way to detect growth and knowledge building over the college career! As suggested above, peer review from other students may possibly be a way to better manage a large volume of said work in a large classroom setting. 3)PollEverywhere destroys clickers. Clickers are fossils already. They were always a technology in search of a commercial use, which is the opposite way that technologies usually evolve.

Awesome, thanks for the reply. I think I'll incorporate some of this into my class next fall. Though I'll have to be careful with 'volunteer TA's' and staying on the good side of FERPA.

Thank you Rory! And yes, do be careful that the bureaucrats don't hunt you down! Let me know if there is any way I can help your endeavors!

What do you see in America's forseeable future in regards to the growing decline of the integrity of our political and economic infrastructures. Most of my news honestly comes from here and comedy central so I don't trust my opinion on what's going on, but with all of the shady activity our government has been involved with lately while securely standing their ground and essentially showing their teeth to the American people it has to make you wonder what their true interests are. I could just be a paranoid (possibly even fringe :|), but I don't see anything good over the horizon and I wanted to know if you could confirm or alleviate my fears about America essentially going down the shitter.

I wouldn't start building the bomb shelter yet iambill! I agree that hard American economic and political power is shrinking in today's world, our political system is in a total corrupt shambles, and American news sources are no longer a very good international source of reality...but the greatest asset of our country is our ability to self-correct when things get too out of whack. And to be sure, I think that auto-correct is coming soon, and it will not be without upheaval and hard times for many.

The truly great thing about the internet and all 21st century modes of communication is that they have essentially made it impossible for governments to lie to their own people anymore...well, lie effectively to their own people. Remember, a hundred years ago, the only way the American people would have know that the Germans were the 'bad guys' who we should fight in WW1 was because the government and the media informed them of such. And even into modern times, most Americans take their cues of what the US govt should or should not be doing from the government itself!

Not to be a conspiracy theorists (which I am not) all govts have their own self-interest in mind when they spin a story or event; that is not new. However, the freedoms of information that the internet has heralded in has become a game-change. It is much harder to convince 300 million people about a questionable war or murky US foreign policy when the repercussions of them are reported in a million on-line sources by a million people.

Given that, we are certainly of shaky new ground of how societies are going to function when a government can now so quickly be held accountable for its actions....but this evolution has just started! The masses of citizens still don't pay much attention, and so govt is still largely operating with the SOP, but change is coming! At least I think it is.

And that is back to the point of America's strength: we are a extremely resilient society that will eventually get so ticked off at political gridlock and the concept of materialism as the central ideology of our society that more and more dissatisfied people will start becoming politically active again. e.g. see Boston Tea Party, civil rights movement of the 1960's, human rights movement of the 1970's, labor union protests, anti-Vietnam War protests, and my personal favorite, the movement to repeal Prohibition. Love the 21st Amendment!

Hey Dr. Boyer, A grad school friend of mine raves about you and your class. He says you always have a mug every class and always swore there was something other than "coffee" in it. Is this true?

This is true. My coffee also contains a gamma radiation blocker which is necessary for me to be able to control the Incredible Hulk inside of me.

HULK SMASH PODIUM! HULK SMASH COMPUTER! HULK SMASH STANDARDS OF LEARNING ASSESSMENTS!

In the rapidly changing world of Globalization, is the idea of a 'college degree' becoming more and more obsolete? While some professions may still have a standard degree, it seems like due to bureaucracy and inefficiency, most colleges are not quick to update their material to an ever changing world. i think this is why many students are leaving college and not really knowing anything about the real world, because what they were taught is material that could be a 1-2 years old, or longer. Because of this, I feel like students should perhaps either get a liberal arts degree, go into a specific profession, or create their own curriculum with new books and materials without college, and learn to teach themselves so that they can learn new things quickly and effectively themselves.

Thoughts?

Generally speaking, I could not agree more with your comments. I do believe that the college degree is now extremely analogous to the housing market in America that started the economic crash 3 years ago. Like houses, education has become an entitled commodity that has become part of the 'American dream'...that is, we are all supposed to get a house and get multiple college degrees, because we are all equal and all deserving of it, and it has become the expected norm that if we fail to acheive, then we are "losers" in our society. Seriously, think about it. Those with only a high school diploma are looked down upon in our society, even if they are successful plumbers or mechanics or secretaries that have fulfilled lives. Thus, only 'winners' can get good jobs and lead happy lives and the winners have houses and multiple degrees...of course they also have gigantic student loan debt and inflated mortgages on those homes, but that has been conveniently forgotten until just recently.

In an effort to make its people prosperous and happy, the US govt subsidized both the mortgages and student loans of its peoples, and made them ever-more widely available to everyone, and made ever-more debt totally available for everyone to participate in. On its face, this looks really egalitarian I suppose, but the end result has been wildly over-inflated prices for both commodities (as demand has surged, regardless of the true value of the house or the degree) and way too many people way too in debt with no prospect of ever selling that house for what they paid, and also no hope of ever getting a job that will allow them to pay back 100K of student loans.

In that respect, I do feel that the crash is coming for college degrees, just as it hit the housing market...there are too many people getting too many degrees, and paying too much money for them, made possible by over-extension of credit to people who can't pay that money back. Exactly what happened with houses.

Am I suggesting no one go to college? Of course not! I think the college experience is totally awesome for the cultivation of the individual mind and is wildly beneficial to society as well. But that does not mean that every single person in our society should be pressed into a cookie-cutter mold of going through a process that may not be right for them, and may not benefit their personal happiness, just because we as a society have deemed that everyone must go to college or risk being labeled a failure. And getting into alarming personal debt because they feel that 'have to' in order to get even a minimal paying job in today's America.

That's why I try to encourage people to follow their passions as much as possible...a cliche to be sure, but one that is more important now than ever before. Young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to go bust ass and start a new company or evolve out a new idea or technology. Young workers should take pride in physical skilled work like masonry, mechanics, and construction. I sure wish I had a tangible skill! You know how much plumbers and masons get paid in today's world? And they have mad skills that take decades of dedication and work to hone, so I think we need to bring back the level of respect for the people that have real working skills, instead of turning our noses up at the very people who actually keep out world running.

Anyway, I don't know if this rant answered your question or not, so I will try to elaborate better as a follow up if you like.

I took your class in fall of 2010... I was wondering, how do you feel about the recent article that was written about you as a professor, and how you've developed running such a huge class? I thought the article was great, personally and it was pretty cool to see a piece like that written about Tech!

WHich article are you referring to? There have been several

Its a good article, however brief! That is always the way with journalism; you have to squeeze so much into so few words that much is lost. That's why I decided to answer as many questions personally here, and share as many of my resources as possible with anyone who is interested.

Way to ruin the mystery of who the Plaid Avenger is. But thank you for teaching an awsome class!

Also do people actually get to drink wine in the geography of wine class? I've heard mixed things.

Mystery? What mystery? I just know the guy! I had him send me a pic from Bolivia or where ever the hell he is right now. And no, there is no actual drinking in wine class, but increasingly more and more of the assignments are centered around experiencing wine and food and conversation on the students' terms. I am actually thinking of making the class 21+ in the future, and having virtually the entire grade based on wine tastings, food/wine pairing, and keeping a blog journal on their experiences. Its like riding a bike: I can lecture some on how the bike works and can give you tips on how to ride, but mostly you have to get out there and ride!

I took Geography of Wine (and World Regions, back to back) and graduated in '09, but am considering re-enrolling if you do this.

Cool! Just keep checking back with me and I will let ou know the status. Am trying to put a lot of wine lectures in video format available on-line on the boyer wine site by next spring as well, so those will be available anywhere, anytime, to anyone!

I think a good deadline to have that done by should be before spring 2014. No specific implications implied. But thank you for the reply!

Are you subscribed to any other subreddits? Should we expect to see a plaid presence around here?

This is my first day, so I am still getting my feet wet! Where should I proceed in this reddit foray?

You should also check out /r/worldnews. That's right up your alley

I'd recommend r/FoodPorn and r/EarthPorn

Neither are 18+. They're pictures of delicious looking food and the equivalent of nature

There is probably a subreddit related to anything you can think of. anything. I've seen some weird things in this place. There are certainly alot of cool things though. You just have to look around.

Hey Boyer, Yung Hokie here.

Is Geo of Wine only a Spring semester course? I was hoping to take it next semester but can't find it.

And now for a real question:

If you had to listen to one song over and over for the next 5 years, what would it be? (I'm hoping it has something to do with bears not digging on dancing)

What up Yung? You da man. Yes, Wine is only Spring Semester class. And it definitely WOULD NOT be anything concerning bears. Maybe some Daft Punk?

You know you're going to save me a spot in that class next Spring then, right? ;-)

And not a bad choice at all, you gotta be able to break it down during the day!

I heard through the grapevine you were Iced the other day. I understand you couldn't drink it then and there but I hope you at least knelt in your office after class to chug that bad boy.

Did not happen, and it never will. That crap is not fit for human consumption.

Which drink recipe from the textbook is your favorite?

None of them are intended for human consumption, but I've heard the lab rats are partial to the Red Russians.

In your opinion, what's the number 1 up-and-coming wine region?

Also, what wine would you suggest to go with bacon?

Also also, attendance points for posting on your AMA would be awesome ;-D

Cabernet Franc + bacon = money.

Up and coming wine regions are too many to name, but look for great wines and great deals out of Portugal, Greece (and they need the money, so buy their wines!), Romania, Georgia, Southern Italy including Sicily, and Uruguay. I think we are likely to see SW USA wines blow up big time in the next decade too: think Arizona, New Mexico and TEXAS! Tee-has has some outstanding wines, but no one ever thinks of anything coming out of that state excepts steers, oil, and Bushes.

Really glad you are doing an AMA. I have enjoyed your class this semester and I wanted to share the Putin love. This is a man's man.

lol to the Putin love. We simply must try and get him to visit VT at some point. That would be epic. And I totally would let him do a Judo move on me and throw me off the stage.

I heard that you used to be in the Coast Guard and deployed on an icebreaker. How badass was that? How did your CG experience affect you in life?

Yes, my time spent in the US Coast Guard was totally epic, and I encourage everyone in this country to do a stint in the armed services or any other public service prior to going to college...like Teach for America, Peace Corps, missionary work, etc. Give a little back to our awesome society, and learn, travel, and expand your horizons in the process! Oh, and as an added bonus to joining the service is the GI Bill, which is easily the most successful government program of all time! Especially in this day and age, as everyone is going into mad debt getting a college degree, why not serve your country first, and then get support to get your degree?

But I digress. I was stationed on one of only two icebreakers that the US owns, and sadly my ship has since been decommissioned, leaving only a single icebreaker in service for the US! But I guess thanks to global warming there wo't be a big call for breaking ice in the future, so perhaps no harm no foul on that one. I was lucky enough to go through the Northwest Passges and the Panama Canal, and visit Greenland, Iceland, Germany (just as the Berlin Wall was coming down!), and various Caribbean islands and US ports on both coasts. Tedious at times, hard work other times, but an overall enriching and rewarding part of my life. Wish I would have stayed in longer.

I also understand that you are a sort of connoisseur on beer and wine.

Have you ever been out to Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton? If so, what was your favorite beer?

Yes! Blue Mountain rocks! Love their lager! ANd their kolsch is pretty solid too!

Boyer! I cannot properly express my excitement that you're on reddit. I took World Regions a year and a half ago and I still keep up with what's going on with your class.

Is there anybody you are planning to ask to visit or skype (like with Aung San Suu Kyi)? And who would you like to send a shout-out request to most?

Thanks for tuning in Typist! Yes, I am really keen on having US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta here to talk about the shifting focus of US troops abroad. We are in a huge re-alignment and re-focus of where the US in going to concentrate troops and bases, all of which is extremely geographic and gives huge insights into future frictions, conflicts, and international relationships around the globe.

And he is wickedly keen on the use of drones, and I'd like to hear him answer questions from students about the implications of their future use.

I wish you could sit down and have a nice long talk with about 90% of my college professors.

Boyer can probably guess who this is from my user name, but I just want to comment on his teaching style. I have taken three classes with him and the unstructured course arrangement does one major thing: puts the responsibility on the student.

Students receive from the class what they put into it.

Every semester I have friends that at the end realized they have 500 points when they need 1000+ to pass. They have all semester to accumulate points in many different ways. Hell, I didn't even take the mid-term or final in world regions and I wound up with 40% more than I needed for an A.

I love this. Those who are unmotivated and don't care about actually learning get what they have coming, and it lets those who are genuinely interested in the course excel. It is a justified "weed-out" system that doesn't superficially make courses harder with the aim of intentionally leaving students behind. Students are responsible for their own performance, and this notion of personal responsibility is one I feel is lost on many college students.

Most (if not all) of the answers from thereal_plaidavenger (updated: Apr 30, 2012 @ 08:14:53 pm EST):


Question (steveeurcol):

I had a friend visit my lecture and have visited lectures of his while I was not enrolled.

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

lol sweet! Thanks for stopping by Steve, and for bringing others!


(continued below)

(page 2)


Question (TamSanh):

Either with a tweet from your personal account, or with a photo of you and a shoe on your head, or a tweet from your personal account with a photo of you and a shoe on your head, or announcement on http://www.plaidavenger.com/.

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

I just tweeted this and I'll work on more proof https://twitter.com/#!/plaidavenger/status/196772139351818241


Question (CityOfOne):

I took your class in fall of 2010... I was wondering, how do you feel about the recent article that was written about you as a professor, and how you've developed running such a huge class? I thought the article was great, personally and it was pretty cool to see a piece like that written about Tech!

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

WHich article are you referring to? There have been several


Question (JohnnyCashed):

Are you subscribed to any other subreddits? Should we expect to see a plaid presence around here?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

This is my first day, so I am still getting my feet wet! Where should I proceed in this reddit foray?


Question (slntkilla):

Hey Boyer, Yung Hokie here.

Is Geo of Wine only a Spring semester course? I was hoping to take it next semester but can't find it.

And now for a real question:

If you had to listen to one song over and over for the next 5 years, what would it be? (I'm hoping it has something to do with bears not digging on dancing)

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

What up Yung? You da man. Yes, Wine is only Spring Semester class. And it definitely WOULD NOT be anything concerning bears. Maybe some Daft Punk?


Question (wspnut):

just wanted to say you were my favorite teacher in multiple classes. well done JB! keep it up! much love from Chicago.

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

Sweet! Thanks so much Wspnut! What are you up to in C-town? Love that city!


Question (ciaran667):

Have you ever thought about streaming lectures worldwide?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

ABsolutley. We are working on putting all lecture materials on-line, and have started doing that on iTunes U and my site at www.plaidavenger.com...specifically, http://www.plaidavenger.com/worldregions/ Once we have the course video lectures established, then I will build a time frame to be on-line live to talk to folks from around the globe. Wouldn't that be cool? It will be much the dame format as my current on-line live office hours


Question (mrfisk14):

1) Could you do this in r/VirginiaTech? 2) How did you find out about reddit? 3) What made you want to do an IAMA?

I ran into you the other night and talked with you about the wine class. Party like Putin!

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

The ever-awesome Technical Assistant Katie P. is the one who got me hooked up on Reddit, and someone just asked me earlier today in another forum to to the AMA. ANd I will ask Katie ow to set up the AMA for r/VT as well later this evening.


Question (Cephalopodzz):

I have a friend who goes to tech who raves about you. If I were to to visit him next semester, would I be able to sit in on one of your lectures or it is it a more "student only" kind of deal?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

As far as I am concerned, my classes are always open to everyone, all the time, under any circumstances. The only pre-requisite: curiosity and a willingness to learn! You are welcome anytime!


Question (vtcapsfan):

As a tech student, classes are almost always available to be sat in on, especially large lecture hall classes such as his.

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

You got that right, VTcapsfan!


Question (Action_James):

If you could fight a bear or a t-rex using one tool, which would you fight? How would it go down? Which scotch would you drink over your dead adversary's body?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

The tool: Vladimir Putin How it would go down: quickly Which one would I fight: both, simultaneously And given the choice of weapon, I would favo Stoli over Scotch


Question (t3po7re5):

Does anyone still call you Coach Boyer?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

Hmmm....I've been called Coach just once or twice this semester. It has been over a year now since the totally awesome GaryVee came up with that moniker. Most folks in attendance that magical night have graduated, or are getting ready to!


Question (steveeurcol):

When I get emails from Blacksburg Alert about road closures it tells me to contact John Boyer if I have questions. Are you that awesome that you are in charge of transportation or is there an impostor running around?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

hahahaha...I am actually in charge of all communications, transportation issues, and ninja training for the entire county of Montgomery, so I stay pretty busy. Actually, there is is another John Boyer who is a real deal awesome professional guy in charge of that stuff for Blacksburg. And I only know this because just as Yoda was dying, he whispered in my ear: "There is another John Boyrrrrrrrrr <cough, cough> <death>"


Question (hokiebird):

Thanks so much for doing this! I'm one of the moderators over in r/VirginiaTech, and I've added a sticky at the top of the page to direct people over here.

ciaran667 eluded to this - for those of us who have never been able to fit your World Regions class into our schedule, or simply couldn't get into it, have you considered streaming lectures? I've definitely wanted to get in on it, and considered sitting in some classes, but alas, my schedule with other classes never allowed for it (well, that was usually the case).

Also, if you had to choose between your real identity and the Plaid Avenger for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

Sure thing Hokiebird! As referenced in another answer, I am working diligently to put all course lectures on-line at iTunes U and at http://www.plaidavenger.com/worldregions/ and then start live streaming everything I do in live class scenarios. In fact, I am going to experiment with full-on live streaming in Summer Session 1, if anyone is interested in watching...no need to be enrolled in the class, it will just e streamed to the world


Question (TamSanh):

Thanks for the AMA! Could you provide proof that you're the real Plaid Avenger?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

Sure thing TamSanh....I am new to Reddit, so how do I prove my identity?


Question (SnoLeopard):

Do you believe that outside of your classroom, your message to not just know the material, but understand and see connections is carried on by a lot of members of your class?

Answer (thereal_plaidavenger):

I sure hope so. That is actually my main mission in teaching: to inspire people to continue lifelong learning and exploration. I get a lot of emails and messages from former students that affirm that notion, but I would ask students past and present in this forum right now to also respond to your question, as those are the real folks to ask.


(continued below)

Professor Boyer I have been in two of your classes, and I of course loved them both. I have struggled with a physical disability during my college career that makes it more and more difficult to actually attend class, even though I always do the homework and make it to exams. The fact that you are starting a trend of streaming classes while also giving the option of attending the class physically is really helpful to people like me. I can't imagine how much easier and less stressful my whole college experience would have been if more professors or just the university in general could implement a system like this. I love learning, but the requirement of class attendance has just put more stress on me and made it harder to cope with my illness. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to education and technology you truly are a super hero!

Edit: I also wanted to thank you because I got to know my current boyfriend in your class and is probably the reason we're dating. I'm seriously going to have to invite you to the wedding if we get married one day.

Wow, thank you so much for your awesomely kind words wcorissa! That is the kind of vote of confidence and support that keeps me working harder at this stuff!

And I did lol at your relationship story! That is awesome! And not even the first time I have heard something to that effect; I wonder how many couples first met in World Regions and/or Geography of Wine? I would love to hear from others about the 'Love-line' powers of World Regions...hahahahaha.

And I would be honored to attend your wedding!

Awesome you rock!!! Thanks for replying, and I'm glad to see you and Katie Pritchard are getting the word out! Party on!

Why didn't you come to The Cellar on my birthday?? I still owe you a beverage.

Ummm...sorry I missed that! I try my best to celebrate every birthday on campus with every singe VT student. It keeps my dance card pretty full.

I am a VT student, I haven't been in your class, but I do plan on taking it before I am done with my four years. I just want to say its really cool of you to use reddit, and the way you rein your class sounds great.

Thanks so much Iwantztorock! You are too kind!

just wanted to say you were my favorite teacher in multiple classes. well done JB! keep it up! much love from Chicago.

Sweet! Thanks so much Wspnut! What are you up to in C-town? Love that city!

Do you still do the lecture about the Cold War being ended with a cocktail napkin?

You know this!But I think you are specifically referencing my theory that the 'Star Wars' idea was slipped to Reagan on a cocktail napkin...and the idea never got much further than that in real life, even though Ronnie bluffed the Ruskies into thinking that shizzle was real!

if you really want to draw more interest i would suggest listing some of the more predominant guest speakers/visitors you've had to your classes, cause i know that roster is baller.

secondly, what was your favorite part of having Gary Vaynerchuck visit and give away over $20k in prizes last year?

And my favorite part of Gary's visit was watching him get totally blown out of the water by the 3000+ Hokie Storm that hit him when he came on stage. That was absolutely priceless. It is an event that I know GV himself and all the rest of us will remember for the rest of our lives. That was magic. Oh, and he gave closer to $50K away, not $20. That is how fired up the man was!

I wish I had taken one of your classes while at Tech :( Im really enjoying being subbed to your feed on facebook though

I took your class in Fall 2010 and had a blast learning about current events. What made you so interested in the worldly events that you are teaching this badass class?

Its a calling, mainly. But also the more I looked at how our (and everyone else's) governments make decisions and foreign policy, it became increasingly obvious that no one in these countries had an actual clue what their governments are doing abroad...and doing in the name of their citizens, with the citizens taxpayer dollars no less!

That may be acceptable in a dictatorship where the people have no voice in their government at all, but it is totally unacceptable in a democracy for people to not have more input into the foreign policy of their government, as in today's globalized world, foreign policy is now affecting more than domestic policy does! I know, I know! No one believes that, but I do! Here we are bickering about abortion or taxes or guns non-stop in a 24/7 cycle of non-stop political gridlock and polarizing misinformation from both sides...meanwhile, your government makes international trade policy, energy policy, conducts wars, and forms global alliances of all sort without a single citizen having a voice in the process. Seems very odd to me. Always has. With no offence to anyone who is passionate about domestic affairs, I will offer this: I am 100% sure abortion policy will never, ever affect me personally, and also 100% sure that US trade policy does. Americans all have an opinion on abortion or guns, but most remain completely clueless about the South China Sea, the future of NATO, or trade imbalances with Japan.

Seriously, how did our priorities get so far out of whack? I know the old adage that 'all politics is local' but does anyone now still not understand that US policy in the Middle East affects your local food and oil prices? That trade policy with China affects the goods you get at Wal-Mart? That international investment law affects the outsourcing of jobs from your hometown?

That is why I'm passionate about teaching this stuff in America. As the world's biggest economy and technological/military/political powerhouse, I feel it is a moral obligation for us to understand what our government is doing out there in the world in our names, and how it affects us here at home. A moral imperative no less in this age of globalization.

Tell me your life story Dr. Prof. Bro.? Please? I'm curious as to what got you to where you are today and anything in between.

Loved your class. Bookmarked your website a long time ago.

What were your favorite movies to show for movie nights? Which ones did your students like the most?

Also, do you think Putin should still have so much power over Russia?

I love all the movies I show in class, otherwise I wouldn't show them! Okay there was that 'Blood Diamonds' movie I did once as a class requests. Whew; that got painful watching Leonardo DiCaprio for so long, and his death scene lone was about an hour. I died a little bit inside suffering through it myself.

Easily the most favorite films from a student perspective have come from the Latin American line-up: City of God is beloved, Motorcycle Diaries a clos second; and even though it is now dated, Y tu mamá también was a huge hit at the time, especially because it so grossed out American audiences at the end. The totally predictable crowd groan/hurl was always hilarious in the last 10 minutes of that film! (Warning: that film is not for the weak of heart or easily offended by sex/nudity)

And I actually think Putin's power is diminishing in Russia. He still is a powerhouse, but the protests and increasing public demand for accountability and true democracy are defintiely taking their toll on his once-unquestionable rule.

JMU student here, just wanted to say that you're the coolest thing I've heard come from Tech! A couple friends of mine took your class, I heard thousands of students and wondered how that could possibly work, but it sounds awesome.

Thanks for the shout out from JMU! Our sister University up I-81!

As someone who has taken your class, thank you for being the best teacher I have ever had in my 4 years at Tech. I learned so much in your class!

After Aung San, is there anyone else you'd like to skype chat in class with?

Also, what do you think of Julian Assange? In particular his new show which involves skype-ing all those controversial figure? Hulu link

I think we should get US President Obama in the classroom, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Bono. Bono for sure.

I have not checked out Julian Assange's show, but will get on that asap.