The community of learners on YouTube

by Sayraphim on July 11, 2019

So John Green is a YouTube educational powerhouse along with his brother Hank. And John did a TED X talk in 2015 titled “Paper Towns and why learning is awesome”.

I’ll add the whole video at the bottom of the post, but he talks about learning communities online and specifically on YouTube near the end of the video:

But to me, the most interesting communities of learners that are growing up on the Internet right now are on YouTube, and admittedly I am biased. But I think in a lot of ways, the YouTube page resembles a classroom… So, here’s something all of these videos have in common: they all have more than half a million views on YouTube. And those are people watching not in classrooms, but because they are part of the communities of learning that are being set up by these channels.

And I said earlier that YouTube is like a classroom to me, and in many ways it is, because here is the instructor — it’s like the old-fashioned classroom — here’s the instructor, and then beneath the instructor is the students, and they’re all having a conversation. And I know that YouTube Comments have a very bad reputation in the world of the Internet, but in fact, if you go on comments for these channels, what you’ll find is people engaging the subject matter, asking difficult, complicated questions that are about the subject matter, and then other people answering those questions. And because the YouTube page is set up so that the page in which I’m talking to you is on the exact same page as your comments, you are participating in a live and real and active way in the conversation.

And because I’m in comments usually, I get to participate with you, and you find this whether it’s world history, or mathematics, or science, or whatever it is. You also see young people using the tools and the sort of genres of the Internet in order to create places for intellectual engagement instead of the ironic detachment that maybe most of us associate with memes and other Internet conventions, you know “Got bored – Invented calculus”, or here’s Honey Boo Boo criticizing industrial capitalism

[“Liberal capitalism is not at all the Good of humanity. Quite the contrary; it is the vehicle of savage destructive nihilism”]…. I really believe that these spaces, these communities have become, for a new generation of learners, the kind of communities, the kind of cartographic communities that I had when I was in high school, and then again when I was in college. And as an adult, re-finding these communities has re-introduced me to a community of learners, and has encouraged me to continue to be a learner even in my adulthood, so that I no longer feel like learning is something reserved for the young.

So I find this really interesting (which is a phrase I’m noticing I use a lot, especially when it comes to edutube) but what has sparked my interest this time around is about the COMMUNITY aspect of this. I’ve always known that there are content CREATORS out there, and there are AUDIENCE for those videos, but what I hadn’t thought much about is how the content creators are also audience for other videos and channels, that the creators are learners too and they are watching other videos to learn while making their own videos to teach. And they wouldn’t just be watching videos in their chosen field – while I make humanities videos, I watch not just history and humanities videos but also science videos, maker videos, pop culture videos, vintage toy videos and videos about various comic universes. To name a few.

Creators are also audience. Creators are part of the community. In other social media, such as facebook, twitter or instagram you are both audience for other content creators (viewing, commenting and liking other people’s posts and images) you are also a content creator, posting your own posts and images. Youtube is like this too, that creators are also audience for other creators. This is a community where so many people engage with both roles.

And I know this is pretty obvious, really, but I hadn’t considered it strictly from this point of view before, and it’s changed how I picture the ‘community’.

Full video if you’re interested:


Featured image from Twitter via here:

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