Children Of The Revolution: 24 Hour Learning on UKedchat

Children of the Revolution. Justice: crowd shot by Phil Swift

I’m flattered to have been mentioned on the transcript of the awesome teachers (tweachers) Twitter discussion ukedchat last week, so I thought I should write a post about it. ukedchat is one of the exciting discoveries I’ve made over the past few months and I always try to attend at 8pm every Thursday.

If you want to get involved just add the #ukedchat hashtag and watch the discussion unfold. Each chat topic is voted on by teachers and chats themselves are often moderated by teachers too. It’s an engaging and brilliant hour that sparks exciting new ideas and lets you learn more about new (and older) teaching practices. It’s also great to hear feedback about what really happens in the classroom.

I put forward the notion of 24 hour teaching on the discussion topic 109: Given the chance, what would you keep, change, adjust or improve in our Education system, and why? hosted by @MrLockyer. The concept of 24 hour teaching might sound scary and shift working might not appeal to all, but in actual fact, I’m not advocating 24 hour teaching at all, but 24 hour learning.

For me, 24 hour learning crosses the bridge between what happens out of class and at home. I hear you shouting ‘homework!’ at me, but what images does this conjur up? Sitting at desks writing maths sums or coursework. That’s all good, but it doesn’t touch upon my idea either. In reality, most schools and teachers are probably fighting a battle to retain learners attention at home – and even in school with mobile devices – against social networks like Facebook. But what if you utilise those networks somehow to engage students to learn and even show their peers and parents what they are working on? Wouldn’t that be incredible?

You can see examples of this sort of thing on Rockhaq, a music journalism community that I have set up. This is not just a blog, but a safe social network with gaming and blogging features that have been built in by WordPress core developers. I piloted Rockhaq with some adventurous colleges in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire over the past 6-8 months and student engagement went through the roof. In fact, I had to step in every single day to approve new work.

One of the best things that has come out of Rockhaq is that students were writing reviews at all hours of the day and night, over half-term holidays, weekends – nothing was off-limits time-wise. I actually feel overwhelmed to be able to say that I have managed to get students, most of whom had no real interest in writing, to write in their own time regularly, purely because they became addicted to Rockhaq. Learners also got excited about winning ‘music missions’ (music-related assignments). When this happened, some posted on Facebook about what they were doing and how great it was. Their friends quickly took notice and started asking lots of questions. The end result was user engagement that not only extended way beyond school, but into other schools, other groups of learners and other cities.

The student at the top of our leaderboard for 2012 is a great example. Mark Wong was told about Rockhaq by his teacher, and I don’t think he’ll mind me saying that he really had no desire to join the community to write reviews at all. After he saw one of his fellow students being given a free CD album as a music mission, his interest was ignited and he ended the year by being our top student. In between, he has written reviews on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, his heroes Muse and even Chopin and Beethoven. He has engaged in discussions about the art of bass playing with students from other cities and this has inspired his work even further. Mid-way through his stint on Rockhaq Mark was writing about 3,000 words a week. Not bad for a student that couldn’t see the point in writing beforehand. It’s a modern-day digital success story.

This is the crux of what I mean by 24 hour teaching, or learning. Bridging the gap between the school buildings and the learner’s home environment, and tapping into what really matters to them and the tools they use every day. By doing this, learners end up ‘learning’ all the time, often without even realising it. Yes, teachers will have to put some work in if they want to build something like this themselves and manage it, but that is the point of having a safe social environment for students to work and engage in. It needs to be regulated, and this has taken up a lot of my time. I have to say though, when I chose the top student reviews every (Music) Tuesday, I was overcome with pride at the quality of the work the learners were producing. It is this that has really kept me going.

I’m sure if more teachers open their minds to 24 hour learning, they’ll see a change is gonna come. It’s cool to say that 24 hour teaching/learning is a revolutionary idea and thanks to ukedchat for that. What really matters to me though is not the revolution itself, but what happens to the children of this digital revolution.

Here’s to the next lot of Rockhaq students that will be joining in September 2012 and taking us through to July 2013. Phew!


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