Sex education at my high school school was limited to a single day. The boys would go in to a classroom with their P.E teacher equipped with a condom and a banana, the girls would get a visit from a lady from Procter & Gamble equipped with bags of free sanitary products. By the end of the day most children would be left with more questions, you can either ask your friends and risk the humiliation of not knowing what those with bigger sisters knew, or much worse, you could ask your parents. I always thought that it was part of the plan that kids would go and It appears that this particular gap in education still exists, a few days ago I read a BBC report that said education in school is not up to scratch.
Talking to my wife about the BBC article she made the comment that this isn’t the same situation as it was when we were at school, she had picked up on a learning network on Youtube where teenagers were coming together and creating networks to learn from each other, swap tips and furthermore create solutions to missing gaps in the market. I had heard of learning networks before, they are those pretty pictures of nodes and edges, but it is quite hard to make the leap from pictures to what is actually happening in the interactions between people who want to learn.
One stand out channel that my wife showed me is called Precious Stars, the story behind it is pretty interesting. The channel itself is ran by a 17 year old girl from the UK who at the age of 11 she was diagnosed with ME and joined an online support forum. On the forum she found a group of girls discussing reusable menstrual products, interested she researched further only to find a lack of easily accessible information and products for young girls. She joined forums, started working out what she didn’t know, shared this information on other forums and friends at school. Fast forward 5 years and the girl is one of many popular interlinked Youtube channels where girls discuss their experiences with reusable products and offer an alternative to what is taught by the rep that comes in to school.
The teenager took it further, finding that the market didn’t sell exactly what she was looking Bree convinced her parents to invest in a sowing machine and set up a shop. Finding that people trusted her advice and wanted to buy other products from her she got in touch with a few suppliers and now runs a little side business. More recently she has started to get her business involved with charities to help with girls who can not afford sanitary products.
You can watch her journey on her Youtube channel:
I find this absolutely fascinating, what interests me about her learning network is that it was never planned. Reading her blog posts it appears that the network grew organically to fill a gap in her own education and she found that talking about it with others was the way to learn quickest. There was certainly never a business plan or investors. In this circle of Youtube channels there are videos on similar subjects such as well being or diets. all of them supporting each other and leaving comments.
Precious Stars is a nice little example to demonstration how teenagers are doing incredible things on Youtube but it doesn’t stop at sanitary products. Boys are particularly interested in demonstration and sharing their skills around games such as Call of Duty or Minecraft.
If only we could bottle up whatever it is these teenagers have that spurs them on to create these learning networks. When it comes to online learning perhaps we should be talking more of a lead from them. I wonder what they would make of some of the analytics tools we use on learner data when applied to their audiences.