Thanks to the forces of the internet, anyone with a stable connection and smart phone can create educational content. Knowledge is no longer just passed down by teachers to students – but also from peers online, academics or even just curious members of the public. This democratisation of teaching has led to the rise of a new kind of educator – the edfluencer.
THE ERA OF THE EDUFLUENCER
So what’s an Edfluencer? Well they are just like your regular influencer; they inhabit online platforms gathering large amounts of followers by producing content. But, there’s one important difference, instead of promoting hair gummies or teeth whitening kits they are promoting knowledge – whether that be offering revision tips, scientific demonstrations or even telling viewers how to identify dinosaur bones from rocks (apparently you have to lick them!?)
Edfluencers aren’t anything particularly new – in fact ‘EduTube’ (educational YouTube) has pretty much been there since the start of the platform. What is new is our increasing reliance on and celebration of these non-traditional educators. With many kids no longer able to attend to school in person and many parents balancing home schooling with home working – Edfluencers have become god’s gift to struggling families. So much so, that in their analysis of websites visited by kids on school devices Go Guardian found that YouTube came out top, beating other directly educational websites like Khan Academy and Quizlet.
But it’s not just YouTube – Edfluencers have inhabited all forms of social media. TikTok in particular has championed education with initiatives such as #EduTok and #LearnonTikTok generating a wealth of educational content. Now kids can learn about algebra from a Canadian Drag queen (Onlinekyne), physics from NeilDegrasseTyson and even history from fellow kids.
Various lockdowns have introduced opportunities for more learning from non-traditional sources. But its not just on social media that a new breed of influencer is developing. The BBC’s introduction of an educational schedule to help parents and teachers with home-learning, blurs the boundaries of what counts as education and as entertainment. This trend in ‘edutainment’ content is something Giraffe has identified in previous research.
As a consequence of this increase in edutainment content, the line between celebrity and teacher is blurring. The BBC’s recent introduction of three hours of primary school programmes every weekday is dominated by programmes like Celebrity Supply Teacher and Horrible Histories– where celebrities and comedians play the role of educators.
But it’s not just on TV, increasingly celebrities are creating their own online lessons. The most notable being Joe Wicks wildly successful PE with Joe Wicks, David Walliams 11am reading livestreams, Myleene Klass’s digital music lessons and Children’s Illustrator Rob Biddulph’s daily ‘draw with Rob’ YouTube series.
BUT TEACHERS AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE
It’s unlikely that we will be abandoning teachers for Edfluencers for any time soon. In fact, what most Edfluencers do is what academics have termed ‘micro-learning’ – teaching kid’s useful tidbits rather than broad concepts, but its an interesting indication of what’s to come.
Now young people are not only students but can be educators themselves sharing knowledge online with their age peers. And many teachers are turning to TikTok to help create educational and entertaining content for their classes. Increasingly, we are seeing the boundaries between entertainment and education, influencer and teacher blurring.
Are we looking at a future where teachers need to be both educator and entertainer? Will social media channels become a viable way of teaching kids? With lockdowns accelerating these trends the next couple of months we should see even more boundary blurring with the lines between educator and entertainer becoming increasingly difficult to define.