Everyone’s a Teacher, Everyone’s a Learner

cc licensed ( BY NC SD )  flickr photo shared by gcouros

Sunday night for me was kind of filled with “aha” moments as I saw some pretty real and relevant examples of teaching and learning, and how the world has truly flattened.

My current music obsession has been The Avett Brothers, and their new album, The Carpenter, which is fantastic.  For the first time, in a long time, I have been inspired to pick up my guitar and play (I could not tell you my favourite song by them because they are simply awesome, so here is a YouTube playlist of some acoustic versions that I really have enjoyed).  Interested in seeing them in concert, I looked up their website and noticed on their YouTube channel a contest where they asked fans to submit a cover of their song “Live and Die”; a brilliant marketing campaign as the more people that upload their own versions of the song, the more likely it will be seen, and the more likely people will hear about their album (a page taken right out of the book of Lady Gaga).  What I thought was really cool about this, was that Seth Avett actually gave a lesson on how to play the song:

I was inspired by how they actual artist was teaching others how to play their song.  Many people, including myself, are self taught to play the guitar because of the resources on the Internet from sites such as Ultimate-Guitar.Com, and YouTube, but it is a totally different vibe when you are learning from the artist themselves.  Funny thing was that song “Live and Die” was probably not even in my top five on the album, yet when it feels like the performer is actually talking to you, and teaching the song, you instantly have a different connection.  Brilliant.

I watched some of the “amateur” versions and I particularly liked the cute version below as it just seemed like a normal occurrence of our everyday lives caught and shared on video:

What is normal yet still leaves me in awe, is when you see artists connecting with fans in a totally engaging way through the medium of social media, and even some of them creating with these same fans as evidenced by a new remixed Bon Iver album:

American folk band Bon Iver asked people in August to remix the songs from its Grammy-winning album Bon Iver, Bon Iver, giving music makers the necessary web tools and audio files to work their magic.

This week, Bon Iver unleashed the 16 best recreations on a remix-only album exclusively on music-streaming service Spotify. Bon Iver had the final say on the winners, but the remixes were first put to a public vote to narrow the choices for the band

It is getting harder to tell the difference between the “professional” and the “amateur”, but when we all create together, doesn’t it make it more likely that we can create a better product?

Fast forward to later in the night, and I headed out to the movie “Pitch Perfect” (which was actually quite entertaining), and I was mesmerized by one scene where Anna Kendrick (who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Up In the Air“) sings a song where she uses a cup as an instrument.  When I came home after the movie, I was surprised to see that this performance was not original, but was actually learned from seeing a viral video as discussed by Kendrick below:

I don’t know why I was surprised by this as I have seen popular media do this several times, with probably the most memorable (for me) being Jim and Pam’s wedding entrance on the show “The Office” which was a fantastic recreation of the popular “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” video that went viral on YouTube.  Yet it was a reminder that there are so many more places that we can receive inspiration from now.

So then I looked up the “original” version of the song  (which is actually a remake of a 1940’s song by Mainer’s Mountaineers) where Anna received her inspiration from in the first place:

So what lessons have stuck out for me in this short 12 hour period?

1.  Learning is, and should be, much more participatory than ever.  

2.  We truly can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime, including the “experts” and “amateurs” in any given field.  We need to take advantage

3.  We are truly at this “printing press” time in history for not only schools and learning, but for our world.  It is amazing and honestly, sometimes overwhelming, but we really have to accept and embrace it.

I think this goes beyond simply learning from each other, but also, as John Seely Brown discusses, the environment that we create to make this type of peer-to-peer learning happen:

…learning should be viewed in terms of an environment—combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network—where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way.

What I am most excited about now is that we no longer need to be stagnant in our roles as either “teacher” or “learner”, because now, at any time, we can be either or both.  Isn’t that setting the staff for true “lifelong learning”?

To me, it looks that way.



  1. I love the educational merit of the post, but bringing attention to the Avett brothers is even better…love those guys!

  2. I sincerely love reading your posts. Amazingly insightful and thought provoking. Thank you =)

  3. George, you're blog is amazing :) Graham is write about the quote "A true teacher is an excited learner" and you are one of them. Keep it up!

  4. George, you are the man! I almost wrote you when you posted about the Avett Brothers before (because I absolutely love them), but got busy. When I read this, I felt compelled to write you if to say nothing more than "right on"! Keep up the amazing work, your blog puts mine to shame…I can tell how much effort you put into your posts (especially this one). Be well!

  5. Hi George, I read your posts daily from South Africa and thoroughly enjoy your twitter comments too…thank you for your really inspiring and motivationaln thoughts!

  6. George, I had to come back tot his post because I have a question and greatly appreciate your thoughts. Do you consider parents "learners"? My reason for asking is primarily due to the new CCSS beginning to role out at local schools. What are your thoughts on preparing parents for this transition and possibly suggest resources for us? What if you have a child with LD (or multiple LD's), ESL and ELL students? These kids are already struggling academically and socially. Do these standards widen that gap even more?
    I look forward to your thoughts.
    Thank you , =)
    Sylvia Lima

  7. I absolutely agree. In a perfect world, this would be happening across the nation but the reality is that administrators and teachers are themselves still trying to figure out how to implement into subject matter. How do we get involved when they are in the throes of CCSS as well as implementing SEL standards and assessments? I don't know if the SEL initiative and assessments is being addressed across the nation but it is in our elementary, middle and high school districts.
    Are there opportunities or information resources available for parents if the school isn't a viable resource right now? My biggest fear is not knowing or correctly understanding these new standards and delaying our children even more.

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