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May 21, 2011
Everything I Know, I Learned from YouTube
It was an innocent conversation, designed to relieve the stress of being stuck in traffic and late for her college graduation ceremony. I started it when I asked my daughter, “How do you know how to do all the technical and design things you know?” She was graduating with a marketing degree and had not taken any graphic design courses, but she is way better at Photoshop than I am. That’s when she said those seven little words that have been haunting me ever since.

“Everything I know, I learned from YouTube.” 

She then told me that she studied for all of her business and law tests on YouTube, that any time she needed to do research she checked YouTube first, and that all of her social media, website, and design know-how came from videos on YouTube. And all I could think of was, $120,000+ private college education — most of which we have yet to pay for — and I could have given her a computer and said, “Go. Learn.”

It was lucky that at that point we were in the parking lot because it is very bad form to have a heart attack while driving in traffic in Philadelphia. The police don’t like it when you do, and the paramedics tend to look at you funny.

My blood pressure diminished a bit while watching the graduation ceremony. All the kids were so happy and excited that it was contagious. Lots of cheering and whoops and hollers, plus a slew of creative cap tops designed by the architecture and design graduates distracted me nicely. Then the keynote speaker was introduced.

Presented as a “serial entrepreneur and educator,” the gentleman gave an inspiring speech chock full of good advice and tips for success. It really was quite good except for one little detail: this man dropped out of college during his first semester and never went back! At that pronouncement the entire audience blurted out a collective “WHAT?!” Obviously we weren’t the only family in debt for tuition.

It’s been nearly a week since graduation and — after having my blood pressure checked twice — I have processed my daughter’s statement and I am at peace with it. I have always known that you learn much more working and doing than in school, and that the main purpose of college is to make connections, contacts, and “grow up.” In that context, my daughter’s college career was a major success.

But what about YouTube? Do I forgive it, embrace it, condemn it, or at least try to get it to help with our college loans?

It finally occurred to me that my daughter treats YouTube exactly the way I use search engines and directories. Forget how to spell something? Google it. Need a phone number? Switchboard.com. Want a precise definition? Thesaurus.com. We are, all of us, attached at the hip to our computers, and is that such a bad thing? With her YouTube habit my daughter has created not only a system for learning new skills and information, but has the wherewithal to keep doing it for the rest of her life. As long as the power doesn’t go out, that is.

The only question that remains is…does YouTube offer graduate degrees?

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Rhonda Wenner is a Very Old Advertising Person who has been there, done that, and seen quite a bit.
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