Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 5.52.28 AMI’m about to teach a lesson about researching and connecting. Who wants to learn about researching? Exactly nobody. I survey my audience. Teenaged Facebook fiends drifting off into space. Think quick. We need excitement. The best theatre is performed live…on the spot. So it is with teaching.

“Pay attention,” I say. “You may want to take notes.” Notes. An offer no student can refuse. A few pens rise through the air. “Today, I’m going to teach you…stalking.”

Stalking? Fantastic! Undivided attention…

“Ima stalk that girl who likes my boyfriend…”  Don’t worry, kid, I’ll clarify later.

“We watched three experts in our documentary. We need to know if they’re credible. They might be stupid. I don’t know.” Puzzled looks. I continue, “You know how they always interview that dumb person on the news who says, ‘But he was such a good neighbor, never gave me any trouble…’” Students nod.

Random person yanked off the street, spun as the expert:

“Excuse me, sir, what do you think about the national deficit?” 

“I’m glad you asked. I do my part by buying two burgers at the dollar menu…”

“How do we know if these are the people making an impact in the world? Dig in. Investigate.”

Stalking interests students. There are a ton of Discovery Channel shows about crime and stalking. Stalkers get ratings. Researchers…do not. Unfortunate, because I think researchers do more good for humanity. It’s all in the spin.

“Not like crime-show stalking,” I clarify. “Nothing creepy. Research!” A few students look disappointed. They’ve been had. The bait and switch complete, I continue.

I show them how to connect with real people in real time. How to leverage their research skills, find interesting people in their field, and how to make real-life contact. How evaluate whether the person’s worth his or her weight in salt, and if so, how to reach out.

“Man, this guy’s important,” they say after checking into United Nations Food Guy. They decide running all agriculture grants for Gates is probably a big deal.

“Look! He even has a Twitter! I’m going to follow him!” I look over. Someone has reset the screen savers on the student computers to pictures of our experts. A very good sign.

“This girl invented a new kind of rice that feeds a ton of people. At 18!” Yes, she did. The message I want to send is, “And you can, too.” 

Eventually, they realize we’re not stalking. There’ll be no horse heads in beds, no string of Facebook messages. No cyberbullying. Maybe just an inspired tweet or two with a scientist.

The world is about connections. When we connect, we are unstoppable. It’s a skill no one can take away. It’s a skill I’ve never seen taught in a book.

The power of the world is in our hands with social media. We can research, email, and tweet. We can connect with our heroes. We can use our power to create change, we can be someone’s hero. There are no limits to what each individual can do because every single person holds the power of the world in their hand in a single phone, tablet, or device. Like any good hero, this superpower is limitless. Using “the force,” is such a simple lesson. Using it to be a force multiplier…that is where the true magic begins.

Students can do this.

I ask a question. “What’s the number one thing people love to talk about?”

One girl shouts out, “Themselves!”

“Exactly. You’re not stalking–you’re building relationships. You feel good when people get to know you. Being on the world stage is no different. You connect. You make real friends. And when you make friends with others who want to change the world…you change the world.”

And hopefully, inspire others to do the same.


[image: Peter Sellers as Det. Jacques Clouseau]