The Sum of Human Knowledge at Their Fingertips.

edwardvanhalenThink about this for a moment. Today’s kids are the most connected generation in history by far. They literally have the sum of human knowledge at their fingertips. That is really easy to say and type but think about what it means for a moment. Yes. It’s huge.

Never before has a human being had access to on-demand knowledge like today. This almost unimaginable social construct is a force that cannot be underestimated – be it for good or bad, it is transformative.

I used to teach private music lessons as a younger man. Later I would go on to teach adults and at the college level but sitting in a small room with kids every week (about 50 each week) didn’t just show me something about how kids acquire and master knowledge. It showed me that media increased the pace this knowledge was mastered.

In 1978 Edward Van Halen released a short guitar solo that preceded a huge hit for the band, a remake of a Kinks song called “You Really Got Me.” As a young guitar player the blistering tone and technique of this little tune was awe inspiring and I set out to learn how to play it. The process was to first secure the vinyl record of the song. This meant, of course, going to a strange thing called a “Record Store”.

I’d get back to my house and plop the disc on my stereo turntable, guitar in hand to parse each note by ear. Then, I’d train my hands and fingers the technical gymnastics required to perform the piece. As a fairly adept guitarist (I had been playing professionally for about a year) this process took several months before I could pull it off.

For those students that were interested and capable, I would teach them the song. Having the benefit of someone who already knew the song and my use of a relatively new way of communicating guitar work called “tablature” my students would master Eruption in 3-4 weeks. Easily half the time it took me.

Twenty years later, there is a 12 year old playing this previously mind blowing song on every street corner in the world. The rise of publishers like Hal Leonard and video instruction increased the availability and pace of learning. Every popular song is now transcribed and easily available to anyone. Combined with the Internet, learning specific songs and techniques is a fast paced affair. Not only are we overflowing with great players, they are becoming younger and younger experts at their craft.

The easy availability of media is the fuel behind this mega-leap forward in the speed at which modern kids acquire knowledge. And now, from Lubbock to Africa, the sum of human knowledge fits in your pocket.

Never before has the stage been set for so much potential. How will we step up and use this tremendous force for the good of our kids, our nation and the world?


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