Kids’ Global Conversations are Being Livestreamed!

We all want to help students engage in global conversations that will allow them to leverage communities and knowledge, and maybe save the world. But we’re too distracted by the centuries-old debate over how learners should be educated.


One side of the debate was enacted by the Roman Catholic Church between 500 A.D. and 1500 A.D. Throughout Europe, priests transmitted knowledge (scripture) via recitation and memorization while maintaining all-knowing authority.

Beginning in the 15th century, the Renaissance challenged the traditional notion of learning as receiving and forwarded the revolutionary idea that education could emphasize exploration of the humanities and arts.

Under closer inspection, the longstanding debate is predicated upon false binaries. Kids need both direct instruction and inquiry after all. Yet idealogical fissures persist. Specific to communication, one side believes that teachers should talk while students listen. The other side believes that students should learn through dialogue with the instructor and peers. There is also a clash over power. One side thinks that teachers should be in charge of the classroom. The other side thinks that students should participate in curriculum decisions.

noun_selfie-stick_208090Let’s return to the subject at hand: helping students engage in global communication. While we debate the aforementioned pedagogical tensions, children and teens are communicating with people all over the world using skills that 99% of adults cannot comprehend.

Let’s meet some of these teens.

Lele Pons, 18, felt misunderstood in high school. “I’m not like the cool girls. I’m the other girl.”  Then, three years ago, she discovered an app called Vine and started posting six-second videos. “It got to the point where a lot of people depended on me to make them [ ] get a laugh.” Do you know how hard it is to make 260 million people laugh? That’s the number of people who viewed Pons’ Vines in the month of October alone. Pons, like other teens, groks this communication in ways that most adults can’t.

Then there’s Amber Kirk-Ford, 16, from Norfolk–an agoraphobic who blogs and vlogs at The Mile Long Bookshelf YouTube Channel. Like Pons with Vines, Kirk-Ford intuited the medium in ways adults can’t. “I didn’t experience any self-doubt at all when I first started book blogging.” In 2014, The Guardian listed her as one of the “top 10 best books bloggers.”

Meet Zach Clayton, a fifteen year old with over 300,000 followers who says that “everything started clicking” when he discovered YouNow, a new live-casting personal communication platform that features over 100 million webcasts and 4 million members–the majority in their teens and twenties. Slate reports that users like Clayton “flex quick social reflexes, polished improv skills, a knack for summoning audience participation, and an ability to radiate compassion out to a vast, faceless crowd.” Check out Clayton’s work here.

noun_can_179920While we’re debating classroom pedagogy, teens like Zach, Amber, and Lele are teaching themselves 21st century communication with a worldwide audience! Resolving those debates won’t help us plan a lesson in September that actually helps kids master real-time communication and feedback loops–literacies that will become critical when the new Periscope, Twitch, or Meerkat drops.

One thing is unchanged. Kids cannot learn”unless they are constantly interacting with their environment, making mistakes and then learning from them.” That idea is as true today as when Jean Piaget proposed it. And when educators show genuine interest in how and why teens use their generation’s emerging communication platforms, learning is enhanced.

Rehashing a centuries-old debate about learning might make educators feel like we are in charge. But we aren’t. The power has shifted to young creators and communicators. Take a look, it’s being livestreamed.




Todd Finley

Edutopia Blogger and Asst. Editor || ECU Ed Professor || Founder of Todd's Brain at || Books: Dinkytown Braves and Rethinking Classroom Design.

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