By Tara Baumgarten

The BTS A.R.M.Y. (Adorable Representative MC of Youth, as the BTS fandom have styled themselves) is the most inventive, engaging, global, and effective collective learning platform in the world. This is the third post in a series of 3 mini-posts showcasing what we can learn from BTS and how we can apply these learnings to education this fall.

We can't believe it's time for our last post in this series on the BTS ARMY! We'll dive into Creator Empowerment in this post and learn how encouraging communities to create and flourish actually leads to magic for all. Just a quick refresher on the 3 principles of the BTS ARMY that we've been applying to education communities this fall:

  1. đź’ś Passion: embed learning in a topic you truly care about.
  2. 🦾 Diversity: ensure the community is made up of people who don’t all agree.
  3. 🎨 Creator Empowerment: a circular economy of creating and consuming content.

Our first and second posts covered Passion and Diversity; let's hop into stoking the fires of creators today.

🎨Creator Empowerment

The BTS ARMY has a set of systems and structures that make them effective and efficient at mobilizing their forces quickly. New fans are taught by others and quickly learn how to navigate their way through the fandom. This ability to efficiently and effectively mobilize has led to charity projects, tanking controversial political rallies, towns built in Minecraft, merchandise, and so on.

Sure, in the ARMY, fans consume BTS’s content, shared through Weverse and through fandom members sharing recordings of performances, like the infamous @bangtanfancam. But, ARMY fans go the extra mile (or perhaps the extra marathon?): they’re creating new content, worlds, and means of communication for one another. All of these creations create an engagement loop that feeds the growing ARMY. This engagement includes commenting on one another’s art or writing, volunteering editing or translation skills, writing reviews or recommendations, creating websites, etc.

This type of circular giving is not just to the benefit of one recipient, but also gives back to the entire ARMY community. The value lies not just in the creation of the TikTok video or new emoji itself, but also in the consumption and growth of this work into other projects in the community.

In our distanced, virtual education communities, it's relatively easy to find diverse collaborators to work on projects with to learn from one another’s unique skills and build something you couldn’t possibly tackle alone. Check out the Rhizomatic Revolution Review, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal focused on the art, fandom, economic effects, and sociocultural forces generated by BTS and the ARMY. Here, creators submit their academic articles, creative collections, and supplemental stories to amplify the voices of the ARMY.

How can we motivate (and encourage) participants and creators in education communities to contribute?

  • There are a number of companies building in what Sari Azout calls the “Participatory Economy”: an emerging space that allows creators and fans to share incentives by creating income together. Earning doesn’t have to be income, it could be recognition, network, or skills exchange.
  • As a learner, how can you drive your own creator empowerment? Find a community on reddit that you’re passionate about and begin contributing by creating posts or comments of value to the community. The community empowers one another with points given for providing value.
  • One tactical tip for building your education community this Fall: encourage learners to share products in the open. In this current world of distanced learning, all assessments should be renewable (destined for something greater than the walls of an LMS). By sharing work products in the open, we encourage the engagement loop of the community from within the class and the outside to engage with it by retweeting, commenting, liking, or building upon.

The BTS ARMY shows us just how much a passionate, diverse, group of creators can do with their energy. Our new world of education is built with community as the platform. We know what a powerful tool community and social interaction can be for learning.

This Fall, while many of us are more physically isolated than ever, we can use the power of education learning communities to create more meaningful learning experiences online. We hope the learnings on Passion, Diversity, and Creator Empowerment of this series has armed you with tools to make the most of learning this Fall!

A big shoutout to my ARMY insider, Binh, for editing and sharing her passion for BTS. Upon her review, I recognized a 4th principle we need to apply to education this fall: networking! Binh has relationships with multiple smart, interesting people quoted in this series. That’s the power of ARMY!

Tara Baumgarten is a learning experience designer, preparing learners for the future of work. Recent projects include: an interactive mobile course on coaching, microcredentials for 21st century skills, and a facilitator learning community. She's into startups, the metaverse, mnemonic media, antiracism, and competency based learning. Follow Tara on Twitter @TaraLifBaum to learn more!

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