John Herman is an unlikely guru — young, chipper and curious — but he’s in demand as a spokesman for the new revolution in communications media and racking up awards along the way. He teaches media literacy at Epping High School, runs summer camps in improvisational comedy (one in Japan last year), his Web video series Odd Noggin Land has gotten national notice and even the suits at Ford Motor Company want a piece of his brain. So much so that they chose him as one of “100 Top Web Influencers” who would be loaned an advance model of their new “It” car, the Ford Fiesta. Check out his many doings at www.johnherman.org.What did you have to do to convince the Ford Motor Company to name you as a “Top 100 Web Influencer”?Ford wasn’t looking for accomplishments so much as media savvy. On a daily basis, I blog, produce Web videos, live video casts and podcasts, speak at meet-ups; and do it all in a way that is both fun and professional. So you just get to drive a sweet Ford Fiesta with no obligations?I fill out a monthly survey. I get to say whatever I want on the Web. My opinions are unfiltered. I have to make a Web video inspired by a monthly adventure in the car. My first adventure was to drive up Mount Washington. The car fared a lot better than I did with my fear of heights.Is there one big adventure you intend to have before you give it back?My wife is due to give birth to our first child in September. I absolutely intend to drive her to the hospital in the car. When I was given it, I joked that my wife might just have the baby right in the car. None of the Ford representatives laughed.On your blog, you feature a quote from Fellini about dilettantes and dabblers. Is dabbling becoming essential in the new media world?The Web provides infinite opportunity and incredible access for creative endeavors. I created a band awhile back made up of 25 global musicians. We collaborated together online through e-mail, instant messaging and social media to produce an album. Our singer was in Canada. Our percussionist was in Mexico. We had instrumentalists from France and England. Twitter and other social media are all the rage but people don’t take them very seriously, do they? Twitter just underwent a re-branding that showed its true colors. It aims to be the source for what is happening right now at any given minute. As we saw in Iran earlier this year, nothing can escape the micro-blog. A regime can no longer quiet the voice of the people. You’re a teacher. Preparing young minds for the future has to be like trying to hit a fast moving target.The greatest challenge teachers face is that the jobs of tomorrow have not even been created yet. I tell my students that they need to be constantly vigilant and to protect themselves in an increasingly transparent society. It is a strange and scary thought. One photo, video or Web comment can affect a child’s future. If schools are not providing students with the knowledge to make wise choices with social media, then parents and students need to speak up.
This article appears in the December 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine