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Participation... through Sharek!

George Stokes

George is the founder of Sharek and head of Innovation and Data at SAFA British School. As a frequent reader about all things education, he enjoys sharing ideas through various events and publications. He is driven to find innovative solutions to improve learning in schools.

Follow @gstokes_learn

Follow @Sharek_ae

Website: www.sharek.ae Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Nick Croft via YouTube. Image credit: Nick Croft via YouTube.

If you were to tell me, two years ago, that the platform I created for my class to share their educational videos with each other would reach 10,000 students, I would probably have just laughed. However, without any promotion other than word-of-mouth, that is what happened.

At this point, I should probably explain what Sharek is and why I decided to go to all of the effort to build it. So, in a nutshell, the name “Sharek” means “participate” in Arabic, which perfectly represents its purpose to turn students into active participants of their own education, as well as acknowledging Dubai as the birthplace of this idea.

Sharek is a social-learning platform, one which hosts educational video content created by students, for students. It started “‘Sharek’ means ‘participate’ in Arabic.”off simply because I loved the learning benefits experienced by my students when they were creating videos to help themselves process and understand concepts learnt in class. However, I hated the hassle and long-winded process of trying to share these with other students in the school. I wanted two things: the video creators to gain the recognition and praise they deserve; and the other students to have the opportunity to learn from condensed, bite-sized videos produced by their peers.

See for yourself…

YouTube link

I believe the key to the platform’s natural popularity lies in the fact that it has been built completely from the perspective of the user. I was a class teacher (and am now head of Innovation and Data at SAFA British School) with a genuine desire to improve the learning taking place, both in the classroom and at home. Luckily, a close friend of mine - an extremely skilled web developer and product designer - believed in the project and joined me on the journey. Without his skills, Sharek would not have got this far. There is something really fun about creating a useful product that makes people’s lives easier. We have learned so much over the past two years while working on this project. Who knows how far Sharek’s impact can reach?

Since its birth, Sharek has continued to evolve, but we are sticking to our main aim of providing students with the platform to shine. Students can demonstrate learning skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity, while teachers can now assess these skills effectively and provide online feedback. The teacher can manage homework conveniently, and the classroom can be ‘flipped’ by sending videos home. Consequently, the bond between schools and parents improves as parents become more involved in their children’s learning, by being able to access their accomplishments.

Through our partnerships with 16 schools worldwide, we have helped schools tackle the barriers to innovative learning, such as disengaged students, unnecessarily high teacher workloads and lack of effective software solutions. In recognition of this, we were delighted to win the Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) 2018 Judges Award for our contribution towards learning and educational services.

Of course, most of the credit should go to the amazing students. They eagerly recommended improvements - including brilliantly brutal feedback on the earlier versions of the platform, to poignant suggestions and tweaks to later versions. We would like to thank them, as well as the supportive teachers who have got behind Sharek. We now know exactly what areas we need to further improve in order to make it even more useful to students, teachers and parents moving forward.

One of the key pieces of feedback we have received from students is that Sharek needs to be a mobile application. This means “Teachers will be alerted when their student has completed a task.”that they will be able to receive alerts on their phones or tablets whenever their friend uploads a new video, or when a new competition has been launched, or if their teacher has sent them a new piece of verbal feedback on their homework. Teachers will be alerted when their student has completed a task, and parents will be notified when their child has a new project to view. Once we considered all of the benefits that this would provide, it was an easy decision for us. We are now working on creating a mobile app, which will take the profile of learning to a new level; and make education more visible, engaging and accessible for our users.

The future is exciting for Sharek - which can be found at www.sharek.ae - as well as education as a whole. Through social media and better communication, networks of innovative teachers around the world are shaping the future of education themselves through blogs, books and podcasts, or by creating the tools they need themselves through projects such as Sharek. We can’t stop there, though. Let’s empower our students to become the creators of educational content, because when we teach, we learn.

Nobody can be 100% sure about how education will look in 10 years time, but as Abraham Lincoln famously said: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

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