Manchester Musician

The social network for students, tutors, alumni and music professionals at The Manchester College.


This page reviews the 1st 2 years of Manchester Musician and sets out aims for the year 2009 - 2010, to bid for funding to continue this network and change habits within the music department.
The proposal is to continue runnning www.manchestermusician.co.uk, as an intervention to promote digital habits for learners, teachers and managers, and to encourage institutional change.
Prepared by Pete Whitfield.

What is it?
ManchesterMusician.co.uk is a ning social network for The Manchester College music department that has been running for 2 years with a membership of current and past students, teachers and music professionals. (The Manchester College is an FE and HE institution, created from the merger of MANCAT and City College.) The network has hosted conversations, tutorials, self-publishing, communication, peer support, collaboration and virtual guests, extending the opportunities and access for learners in ways that would not be possible within the physical college structure. It is a response to the changing competencies and expectations of students, and a space that exploits informal learning and makes connections between education and industry. It is a semi-institutional space, with the focus and local relevance of a college space, modeled on the open web and designed to lead learners beyond the walls.

What do I plan to do next?
I'd like to continue to run ManchesterMusician.co.uk and seek £6,000 per annum to build on existing established activities, and to deliver a series of short modules promoting 'Digital Skills and Habits for Musicians'. The aim is to disrupt current models of teaching and learning practices in order to bring about institutional as well as individual change, by demonstrating the transformative potential of technology. Disruption will be at 3 points; the students, the teachers and the department management, targeting elements of the curriculum that can be improved with a tech intervention. Activities would focus on the wide range of tools and services that musicians use to learn, create and develop. The modules would direct learners, teachers and managers to explore and evaluate the many sites and services that musicians typically employ, choosing the ones that suit their personal needs. I undertake to regularly blog the progress and experience, broadcast and share findings within the music team, the wider Arts cluster and across the college, and produce an annual report with analysis and recommendations.

Why is it too important to drop?
Digital skills are at the forefront of government strategy across all aspects of life and learning.
Traditional teaching and learning needs to be supplemented and extended with online provision, and digital skills and habits support not only current learning, but career development and lifelong learning.

In short, if learners do not develop the skills and habits to use online tools confidently and competently then they are not adequately prepared for 21st century employment. This is particularly relevant in the creative industries, where fluency with digital technologies is already a vital skill, but one not comprehensively represented by current curriculum content. If teachers do not embrace these digital habits, they are not best placed to serve current and future learning needs.

The premis for delivering learning activities for 'Digital Skill and Habits for Musicians' has evolved from my own use of the social web in teaching, learning and as a professional musician at www.realstrings.com . I will publish the materials as OER (I will need guidance on this). Within the ning network, each module will include multi media tutorials, contributions from music professionals using the service or tool, and forum discussions for case studies and peer support.

The senior managers and teachers of the team are as much the target for this initiative as the students themselves, and to run this project I have gained assurances that the department will support and engage with the network. Changing the habits of the course team are key to institutional change.

What activities will learners undertake?
The 'Digital Skills and Habits for Musicians' modules will evolve as new services develop, but my current proposal is to cover digital sound, digital images, self publishing, social networks and information. Click here for the development page.
I will also continue with some of the successful activities established over the past 2 years: virtual guests, current music industry debates, peer evaluation of student compositions etc. These all have direct correlations to learning outcomes of the college's music courses and learners' coursework. Where possible, discussions will be student lead and learners will be encouraged to dictate content of the network, perhaps putting students in charge of facilitating on a weekly basis.

How will it extend access and opportunity for learners?
Although there are core modules, common to the variety of music courses, students are required to choose 1 of 3 strands - technology, performance or business. The network gives learners access to discussions, resources, teachers and students that may not be part of their institutional course but are still relevant to their personal learning. The network also gives learners the chance to interact beyond their own class community.

We have a big community of learners, teachers, alumni and practitioners, ManchesterMusician.co.uk let's you connect with them.
Music is a networking and collaborating business, so it is important to get students into digital habits as part of their college experience.
Everyone gets a profile page where they have a digital identity, sharing and showcasing their own music, photos, videos, info and blogs.
Students ask questions about the business of music and get feedback on their own music. Virtual guests from the music industry regularly join the network and answer questions.

The network is a community of practice, within the focus of an institution. A place that has no physical equivalent, where learners, tutors, alumni and professionals connect and discuss, and where learners can express themselves and develop an online identity within a COP that has some security of being specifically related to the learners' institution. Conversations go on across courses, levels and campuses, beyond the restrictions of classrooms and timetables, harnessing some informal learning styles within the context of an institution.

Activities are not course specific but related to core modules of all courses. such as practices of the music business, creative and technical skills, music language, professional practice. This is a virtual space to create activities that formal course structures do not permit.

How do the planned activities relate to learning theories and JISC strategies?
The network has a constructive perspective to its learning activity design: the Digital Habits activities would have an essentially individual focus, while forum discussions and blogs have a social focus.
But activities would also have a situative perspective, where the peer support of a social network contributes to a 'caring and sharing' community.

Although the network is an informal learning space, its design has intended learning outcomes;
students who engage with the various activities will be able to select, use and evaluate web services to suit their own creative, self-publishing and learning needs, use a COP to discuss and challenge opinions and theories, question industry guests about professional practice, make and maintain social connections with peers and professionals.

This initiative reflects recent research on the use of social web services in t&l and offers an enhanced learning experience, as highlighted for support in the immediate future in the JISC strategy 2010-2012.

The network supports key areas of effective practice in a digital age, by extending access and choice, promoting exploration and inquiry, facilitating communication and social interaction, connecting members with music professionals (including alumni) fostering digital habits and literacies, developing an online identity and building confidence to self publish.

How will the funding be used?
I'm asking for £6,000 per annum. £1,000 would be used for 10 virtual guests, who undertake an initial Skype interview, which provides an introduction to a week-long forum where the guest respond to members questions. £4,000 would fund me (PW) for 4 hours a week (for 40 weeks) to develop activities, manage the network and report on findings. A further £1,000 would fund broadcasting and sharing of practice. This proposal has the full support of the department's management team.


Video insights and feedback in support of this proposal.
Screen shots from the site.

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FE students feedback about using technology in their learning.

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Peer Support in a social network.

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Staff and students feedback about the Manchester Musician ning network, as part of the SPLICE project.

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Video used as a tutorial.



An example of a virtual guest (Ken Lewis). This provided an introduction to a forum, open for 1 week, where Ken answered questions from students.

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A early video review of the site, in particular the virtual guests. March 2008.

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