Two years ago, Adilyn Malcolm, from Littleton, Colo., had never heard of dubstep. It wasn’t until she was doing some online research for an elementary school book report on Michael Jackson that she learned about this style of dancing. The 12 year old used the internet to stop, rewind, and watch videos of the best dubstep music dancers in the world like Marquese Scott, something she admits a traditional dance class wouldn’t allow her to do.
“I just go on YouTube, look up random stuff like ‘How to Dubstep” or ‘How to pop and lock,’ and to learn the move I probably watch the video over and over and over,” she says. “I probably watched like millions until I figure out how they do it.”
The results are incredible.
Percussive guitar, also known as fingerstyle guitar, is a challenging compositional approach whereby a musician incorporates percussive elements onto the guitar body. And even though Usman Riaz couldn’t find an instructor in his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, there was one place available for him to watch the best players in the world and learn from them: YouTube.
“I wasn’t really prompted to, like, do something different, it was just out of necessity,” he said.
By mastering these skills from the internet, Riaz has been able to pass on his talents globally, impressing the TED team and becoming one of their youngest fellows to date.
Amira Willighagen knew she wanted to learn to sing opera when she was seven. She wasn’t old enough to operate a computer, but with her brother’s help, she watched YouTube video after YouTube video of her favorite opera performers, singing along, and mimicking their body and lip movements.
By nine years old, and without a single music lesson, she had mastered opera singing, not only taking the Holland’s Got Talent stage, but winning the entire competition.
Now 11, she hopes to create a new generation of opera lovers. “I want to show people that opera is not boring, but really fun,” Willighagen said. “If I had a choice between chocolate cake and opera singing, I would really choose opera singing.”
When Patrick McCabe, from San Antonio, Fla., was 13, a typical bout of summer boredom unexpectedly set him on his future career path when he stumbled upon websites that gave him step-by-step instructions on how to build robots.
“I’ve always liked creating things,” McCabe says. “And I found some electronics that I could actually create, and that just sparked it.”
McCabe took advantage of the internet’s passionate robot-making communities, like instructables.com and letsmakerobots.com, which allowed him to learn by copying others. Over time, as he honed his skills, he was able to contribute back to this community by sharing his insights and ideas on his own website.
Building robots has lead McCabe to not only snag a full scholarship at his dream school, MIT, but he also had the opportunity to be a summer intern at Elon Musk’s SpaceX, where he learned how to build rockets.
Josh Wardlow and his training partner, Larry Pinson, wanted to learn the martial art of Jiu-Jitsu, but they had a big problem: they lived in the small town of Tupelo, Miss., and the nearest training center was four hours away.
Luckily, they discovered an online Jiu-Jitsu school—gracieuniversity.com—that could help them achieve their Jiu-Jitsu dreams and be leading examples that the sport can be successfully learned from the internet.
“The thing about learning online is that it takes a lot of dedication, it takes a lot of discipline, and you pretty much need to be your own coach,” Wardlow said. “And you have to find a partner who is just as willing to put in the time and the effort as you are.”