John Green, author of Looking For Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars (among other great novels), was recently featured on TED Talks in a talk called The Paper Town Academy. This talk is phenomenal and you should watch it here. He talks about cartography, fake towns, fake towns turning into real towns, and (most prominently) the idea of a Learning Community.
John Green’s talk focuses on the idea of being a part of a learning community. A learning community is a community which heralds the idea of intellectualism and the act of learning new things. There is a new learning community developing on YouTube and that is what I’m going to talk to you about today. I believe that the YouTube learning community represents a shift in the mentality of, at least, some people. A mentality where we no longer feel insecure about our desire to learn and be intelligent.
The reason I think this community is so special is because of the way I was mocked for my want to be a part of the learning community. I was once at a bar with some friends. We were all chatting and they were all talking about music – a passion that my friend holds above all other passions. I was relatively isolated and alone as most of the people there were friends of friends. I was like an 8th wheel (which is weird because with 7 others around you would think I could engage someone in conversation). We were talking and someone mentioned something – I use vagueness here because I cannot remember what the subject was. What I do remember was popping into the conversation saying “Wow, that really reminds me of the thinker.” Before I could even elaborate, speak further my friend responded, and I will never forget the response I got. “Really?! You’re talking about art and the thinker in a bar? Really?” And then he continued to ignore me. And there I sat – sad and even more alone than I had been before.
I share this story because I wanted – oh so desperately did I want – to be a part of the community that wants to learn. He did too, but he wanted to be a part of the music learning community. But because he viewed the community of learning I wanted to be a part of as “intellectual” and as (I somewhat assume) “pretentious” he would constantly shut me down, mock my comments of intellectual attempt, and disengage me from any group I was a part of.
I believe the YouTube community of learners can change that. Do you love physics? Check out Minute Physics on YouTube. Do you love slow motion and want to learn something unique? Check out Smarter Everyday. Do you love History? Check out Crash Course (Done by John Green). Science? SciShow! These are all YouTube channels that cater to the YouTube Learning Community.
However, this doesn’t solve the problem entirely. I didn’t just want to learn, I wanted to engage in the community of learners. I wanted to talk, discuss, and engage in deep discourse about the world around us and how we perceive said world. While I found some of this in college, I also found that students more often would just wait for me to answer questions in class (because I rose my hand and engaged in classes) rather than engage each other. They merely wanted to achieve a grade (not even necessarily a good one), an arbitrary hurdle which dictates apparently how smart we are.
If you look at the channels that I have put above, you will see that the comments section is actually filled with engaging and encouraging comments. People ask questions, answer other people’s questions, and generally engage each other as a learning community. This is how YouTube has helped me out of the alienated funk that my friend put me in. This is a place, sacred and secluded from those who don’t want to engage the learning community, where learners can engage with each other about learning. Learning thus becomes about learning the things that you want to learn, understanding the answers to the questions that YOU want to ask, and not jumping through the arbitrary hurdles set forth by school districts who decide what you should learn, how much of it you should learn, and how proficient you should be at it by testing you and assigning a symbol which represents your perceived intelligence.
I hope that this community will continue to grow and that learning, in any capacity, will be completely acceptable – whether it be understanding literary works of art, the deep rooted history of Batman or Superman, the ability to recite poetry, the laws of economics, the laws of physics, etc.
Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist