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 second 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.

Hey there and welcome back to our series on the BTS ARMY! Last time, we went over BTS's impressive fandom and touched on the first of the 3 principles of the BTS ARMY that we can apply to education communities this fall, Passion. Just a quick reminder on the 3 principles:

  1. 💜 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.

In this post, we're going to dive into Diversity and how different viewpoints and global differences strengthen the ARMY.

🦾Diversity

The BTS ARMY is made up of lawyers, scholars, academic tutors, graphic designers, authors, artists, marketing professionals, and always-online teenagers, all of whom contribute to the overall organizational structure of the ARMY. The variety of skills represented allows the community to flourish, each individual bringing their unique assets to the community.

“No matter the size of the Army, each member can intuitively figure out how they can best contribute to the fandom’s overall goals. Fans across the globe, who come from vastly diverse backgrounds, are encouraged to be as engaged as possible, and to participate in fan projects and campaigns.”

One In An ARMY (OIAA)  is one such volunteer group. Harnessing the power of the ARMY, they collect micro-donations each month for a different non-profit. Other collaborations include a documentary team, a tencent web novel, ARMYcon, and artwork for twibbons and geofilters.

In addition to unique skill sets and projects, the ARMY, by some estimates 136M strong, has representatives from over 50 countries. This melding of different cultures and viewpoints is an interesting experiment of what MOOCs could look like in education in 2020 if we had this level of social engagement from participants.

In 2018, during a contentious wave between South Korea and Japan, tensions were high across the BTS ARMY. An event that became known as the “T-Shirt Incident” (over a shirt depicting an atomic bomb blast worn by one of the members) dragged the band into the controversy. And in doing so, made visible the multi-faceted nature of this contentious debate.

While in many of our social media feeds, we see largely posts and comments that reinforce our own point of view, the diversity of the BTS ARMY allows for much debate and discussion by ARMYs on both sides of the controversy.

“I've learned more history in the last week than I ever learned in school all because I needed to educate myself on Korean Liberation and in doing so learned how many other Asian countries were terrorized at that time. None of this was in my textbooks. Thank you internet.”Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis)

An artifact of this debate was a white paper discussing politics in a digital world, written by a diverse group of ARMYs. The authors are students, writers, engineers, translators, scientists, teachers, economists, artists, editors, and designers. They’re Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Deist, Agnostic, and Atheist. They speak English, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Russian, Portuguese, and German.

Disagreement and discussion are the only ways to devise and discover new, innovative solutions to problems. Incorporating diverse perspectives often means inviting people that aren’t in the (Zoom) room.

How might we build more (moderated) disagreement and tension in our own education communities?

  • It’s easy to seek out like minded people with similar worldviews and interests. However, you’ll learn more if you find people with whom you disagree. This helps us create our own point of view and clarify our arguments. The skills developed by engaging in this type of conversation (digital citizenship and identity politics to start) are essential for our distanced and hybrid education communities for the remainder of 2020.
  • As a learner how can you learn from people you disagree with? You can start by creating an ‘open mind’ list on twitter. These are people you don’t necessarily want to ‘hate follow,’ but it’s good to check in on their tweets to understand their context and perspective. Vicariously is a new app that makes it easy to find new people for your ‘open mind’ list.
  • One tactical tip for building your education community this Fall: invite new people into your online communities that aren’t in your class. Bring someone in with a critical lens that's different from yours to talk about their own perspectives and answer questions on the subject.

BTS and the BTS ARMY teach us to celebrate, encourage, and nurture differences and diversity, which is quite timely indeed. In the meantime, stay tuned for our third and last post on what we can learn from the BTS ARMY for education on Creator Empowerment!


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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