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A useful guide to how to run your own SOLE. Our toolkit is free to use and adapt to your own environment through Creative Commons licence.


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School in the Cloud is learning at the edge of chaos; a place to come together to discover and explore self-organised learning (SOLE).


Big Questions


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A great Big Question will get your SOLE off to a flying start, but deciding what to ask is the hardest part! Children love questions with no easy answer.


How do we remember and why do we forget?


  Author - Guest Blogger

  Location: Dallas



Sugata Mitra, founder of School in the Cloud, posed an intriguing question on You Tube: How do we remember and why do we forget? His question was more than just a question. It was a Big Question, and it kicked off Skype in the Classroom’s Big Question Challenge in 2015 — an opportunity for select educators around the world to submit their own Big Question videos which students then answered by forming SOLEs.

Rebekah Davis, a teacher in North Carolina, says her students used self-organized learning to answer Sugata’s Big Question and “surprised themselves with how much they were able to learn in such a short amount of time.”

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Sugata Mitra, founder of School in the Cloud, posed an intriguing question on You Tube: How do we remember and why do we forget? His question was more than just a question. It was a Big Question, and it kicked off Skype in the Classroom’s Big Question Challenge in 2015 — an opportunity for select educators around the world to submit their own Big Question videos which students then answered by forming SOLEs.

Rebekah Davis, a teacher in North Carolina, says her students used self-organized learning to answer Sugata’s Big Question and “surprised themselves with how much they were able to learn in such a short amount of time.” Here’s some of their results:

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Elisa Farrell, a third grade teacher outside of Dallas, Texas says her students used SOLEs to answer Sugata’s question as well. “We’ve had research lessons before,” she says, “but seeing their approach to this question (being deliberately hands-off!) was a good eye-opener on future topics to cover.”

Some of those future topics Elisa mentions could be created by you, or your students!

There’s also further inspiration for Big Questions from Sage Franch:

Or this one from Mark Wood:

 

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Big Questions | Education | Memory | Self-Learning | Self-organised Learning | Sugata Mitra

How to make SOLE more social


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Location: Isle of Man



Helen Moyer hates the word “teacher” despite the fact she’s been one for seven years.

“I remember teachers from my own school days standing in front of the class just relaying facts and I never wanted to do that,” she says. “I want to create an atmosphere where the children see me as a learner as well and SOLE is perfect for that. It’s completely changed the way I teach.”

Williston School, where Helen works, is also a supporter of P4C (Philosophy for Children), which she finds aligns well with SOLE principles. For the past few years they have been working towards letting the children own their learning,

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Helen Moyer hates the word “teacher” despite the fact she’s been one for seven years.

“I remember teachers from my own school days standing in front of the class just relaying facts and I never wanted to do that,” she says. “I want to create an atmosphere where the children see me as a learner as well and SOLE is perfect for that. It’s completely changed the way I teach.”

Williston School, where Helen works, is also a supporter of P4C (Philosophy for Children), which she finds aligns well with SOLE principles. For the past few years they have been working towards letting the children own their learning, embracing new technologies and pedagogical approaches.

Being on the Isle of Man (which is located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland – pictured below) means educators enjoy more freedom to experiment than most: they have their own government, no OFSTED inspections, and can create their own curriculum.

“We’re pushing boundaries all the time and the difference SOLE has made has been incredible,” says Helen. “It’s created a level of curiosity and an ability to share their learning collaboratively which is nothing short of amazing. It’s like the love of learning has been re-ignited within them.”

iseofman3
Helen was first introduced to SOLE three years ago when one of the IT staff returned from a conference where Sugata Mitra was speaking and suggested they try it out.

But the first few attempts weren’t exactly a success. “It was complete chaos and I thought ‘what on earth am I doing?!’” says Helen.

One of her challenges was the amount of high level needs pupils she had in her class, with dyslexia and autism especially prevalent among the students.

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Isle of Man | P4C | Primary School | Social SOLEs | SOLE | Teaching

paradisegoa2 A little bit of paradise

Paradise School Goa

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Paradise School Goa

A little bit of paradise


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - Paradise School Goa

  Location: India



A new venture in rural Goa aims to transform how India approaches mainstream education.

Paradise School Goa’s director, Shilpa Mehta, was born and raised in the UK, re-locating to Goa when her daughter was just two-years-old. When India-Fire was of school age, she decided to set up her own local primary school. Shilpa’s approach to education has been influenced by Maria Montessori’s teaching, which she became interested in before she moved to India.

Now her daughter has turned 12, she’s taking on another educational challenge: to set up Paradise School Goa – a secondary school in a 400-year-old mansion based purely on Professor Sugata Mitra’s SOLE (self-organised learning environment) principles.

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A new venture in rural Goa aims to transform how India approaches mainstream education.

Paradise School Goa’s director, Shilpa Mehta, was born and raised in the UK, re-locating to Goa when her daughter was just two-years-old. When India-Fire was of school age, she decided to set up her own local primary school. Shilpa’s approach to education has been influenced by Maria Montessori’s teaching, which she became interested in before she moved to India.

Now her daughter has turned 12, she’s taking on another educational challenge: to set up Paradise School Goa – a secondary school in a 400-year-old mansion based purely on Professor Sugata Mitra’s SOLE (self-organised learning environment) principles.

The seed was sown for her latest venture while attending a conference in Jaipur as a Google Educator in 2015. She realised that schools could be communities of collaboration and support, not just places of mass instruction: this was the kind of school she wanted to set up.

When she discovered Professor Mitra’s TED talk shortly after, Shilpa felt it was ‘just like Montessori – but with computers’ and it spurned her on to create Paradise School Goa, with the aim of bringing SOLEs into mainstream education.

“SOLE is a very simple, but powerful idea,” she explains. “I just thought ‘this can really work – let’s go for it!’”

Shilpa met with Professor Mitra in the UK and told him her story. Inspired by his encouragement (he is an advisor to the school) and support from colleagues at SOLE Central in the UK, she is now a partner in Newcastle University’s dedicated SOLE research centre, helping to gather research data.

The school opened its doors in September, with the dedicated SOLE room officially opened by Sugata on 14th October 2016.

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Curriculum | Goa | India | School setting | Teaching

mexico2 SOLE = Socratic Method 2.0

SOLE Mexico

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SOLE Mexico

SOLE = Socratic Method 2.0


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Mexico

  Location: Mexico



Since the last time I spoke to SOLE México’s co-ordinator Oscar O’Farrill several years ago a lot has happened.

To be honest, I’d be surprised if great things hadn’t been achieved in the interim as it was obvious from Oscar’s passion and drive in the previous blog, that SOLE México was destined to make big waves in education.

For one, they’ve trained over 160 teachers. “It’s been exploding like crazy – it’s been amazing,” says Oscar. “There are now 11 people in the team where before it was only me!  We’re now working in several states in Mexico and I’ve been able to see how SOLE works in public schools,

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Since the last time I spoke to SOLE México’s co-ordinator Oscar O’Farrill several years ago a lot has happened.

To be honest, I’d be surprised if great things hadn’t been achieved in the interim as it was obvious from Oscar’s passion and drive in the previous blog, that SOLE México was destined to make big waves in education.

For one, they’ve trained over 160 teachers. “It’s been exploding like crazy – it’s been amazing,” says Oscar. “There are now 11 people in the team where before it was only me!  We’re now working in several states in Mexico and I’ve been able to see how SOLE works in public schools, elementary, high schools, teacher training – all over.”

SOLE México secured a state contract for training 100 teachers from extreme rural communities (including the middle of a jungle) and are now carrying out a follow-up programme where they visit each of the schools to help the teachers make SOLE an ongoing process.
mexico3

Oscar says the importance of a follow-up to teacher training shouldn’t be under-estimated. “SOLE in theory is great, but to take it over a school cycle where many teachers want it focussed on their curriculum and expect regular evaluation, you have to design it around great Big Questions,” he explains.

“We’ve found that one session each week is not enough,” adds Oscar. “To me, SOLE is like Socratic Method 2.0 – basically going to the roots of the knowledge, sharing it and looking for it. Before they had only themselves and the teacher but now we have thousands of years of knowledge easily accessible through the Internet.”

From his experience, it can take several months to fully integrate SOLE as both students and teachers get used to a new way of learning.

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Mexico | Rural Communities | Schools | Teacher Training

Korakati - feature Korakati: where learning happens against the odds

TED Lab - Korakati

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TED Lab - Korakati

Korakati: where learning happens against the odds


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Korakati

  Location: Korakati



Korakati is well off any popular tourist trail: to get there you have to spend many hours on the road, take a boat up the Ganges and finally, a very bumpy van rickshaw up a dusty track passing huts, chickens and children along the way.

There’s an ‘other worldly’ feel about the place, which adds to its remoteness and is one of the reasons Sugata Mitra chose it for one of the TED Prize research labs. He knew just how hard it would be to create, but also just how much untapped potential there was here.

One person who probably questioned Sugata’s sanity on more than one occasion was project manager Ashis Biswas,

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Korakati is well off any popular tourist trail: to get there you have to spend many hours on the road, take a boat up the Ganges and finally, a very bumpy van rickshaw up a dusty track passing huts, chickens and children along the way.

There’s an ‘other worldly’ feel about the place, which adds to its remoteness and is one of the reasons Sugata Mitra chose it for one of the TED Prize research labs. He knew just how hard it would be to create, but also just how much untapped potential there was here.

One person who probably questioned Sugata’s sanity on more than one occasion was project manager Ashis Biswas, whose job it was to sort out the logistics involved in constructing the building and getting it up and running. For example, when you look at the glass sides of the lab and then back at the only track they could have come along, it’s nothing short of a miracle that they got here in one piece!

The children at Korakati use the Internet to learn many things: for example, we were presented with beautiful handmade paper boxes topped with a rose when we arrived last month and inside were an origami flower and a jumping frog! The children had taught themselves how to make them using YouTube, with a little help from granny Jackie Barrow.

Natural challenges

There are, however, times when nature gets the better of this lab: the Internet connection, which is made possible thanks to a large bamboo pole erected on the roof, can be unreliable due to the distance from the hub, so a dongle has to be used instead, dangled from an open window. Water is also often scarce, and when there isn’t enough,

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Ganges | Granny Cloud | India | Origami | TED Prize | Tourism

The Big Question

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Sleep - Posted by Mohammad Reza


  Author - Mohammad Reza

  Location: Iran



What happens when we sleep?

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What happens when we sleep?

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Dreams | Sleep

Inspiring families to learn together


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Location: New Jersey



Like many before him, Steven Delpome was inspired to try SOLE after hearing Sugata Mitra talk.

“I was listening to him on the TED Radio Hour and got fascinated by the whole idea,” he explains. Up until then I was a believer like everyone else that you tell children to do things, they practice, learn it and move on. Then the test says ‘they passed’ so they’re good.”

At that point in our chat, Steven pauses to reflect on what he just said: “I’ve moved on so far since then –

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Like many before him, Steven Delpome was inspired to try SOLE after hearing Sugata Mitra talk.

“I was listening to him on the TED Radio Hour and got fascinated by the whole idea,” he explains. Up until then I was a believer like everyone else that you tell children to do things, they practice, learn it and move on. Then the test says ‘they passed’ so they’re good.”

At that point in our chat, Steven pauses to reflect on what he just said: “I’ve moved on so far since then – that sentence makes so little sense to me right now!” he laughs.

Later that year he started experimenting a little in class to see what the kids could do on their own. He didn’t rush into it though – he spent seven months researching SOLE before he took the leap. “I thought ‘let’s try it once and see how it goes’,” he says. So the 6th grade English teacher picked a question off the list of Big Questions  What is irony?

“I followed the pattern word for word and it was fairly brilliant,” Steven explains. He ran the SOLE on the Friday of a long weekend and on the following Tuesday, he pulled the kids aside for 1:1s to see what they remembered. The concept had stuck for almost all of them.

“What impressed me was that they didn’t all have the same answer – they were able to build their own understanding around it,” he says. For example, one girl had found a video online that showed the difference between surprise and irony which made it clear to her.

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Children | Education | families | Libraries | Schools | SOLE | Technology

MagnaRautenbach3 Future leaders get lessons in SOLE

SOLE South Africa

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SOLE South Africa

Future leaders get lessons in SOLE


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE South Africa



“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist

Magna Rautenbach was ready to ‘semi retire’ with her husband to their tranquil country retreat – but then she discovered SOLE and everything changed.

After a rich and rewarding career, she had moved to a game farm near Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, in a region called the Magaliesberg Biosphere.*

And it was in this unlikely location that she discovered SOLE and made the connection with what she’d wanted to achieve in the business world for so long.

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist

Magna Rautenbach was ready to ‘semi retire’ with her husband to their tranquil country retreat – but then she discovered SOLE and everything changed.

After a rich and rewarding career, she had moved to a game farm near Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, in a region called the Magaliesberg Biosphere.*

And it was in this unlikely location that she discovered SOLE and made the connection with what she’d wanted to achieve in the business world for so long.

Frustrated by the “too little, too late” approach to training management-level employees in sustainability, Magna realised SOLE could get the message across where it can make a real difference – at school.

The success of SOLE globally appealed to Magna and she immediately saw the possibilities for South Africa. She particularly liked that SOLE is both transformative and supportive of the current curriculum, knowing that education reform has a track record of stalling when attempts are made to change it.

She launched SOLE South Africa in April 2017 with little more than an idea, a website and a ‘moonshot mission’ to help create 2,030 future-ready leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers by 2030.

The biggest challenge is taking SOLE into underserved schools. There are a total of 25,574 schools in South Africa, with only 4,639 of those really well-established with computers and Internet connectivity. The majority, largely in rural, underserved areas, do not have any technology; some do not even have electricity.

To make SOLE accessible for the majority of children,

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Endless opportunities


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Location: Guatemala



Imagine a tiny computer that contains a wealth of knowledge, as easy to use as your mobile phone – you’ve just visualised the next big thing in the tech world.

Like many great ideas, Endless was the result of taking time to mull over an issue. Its founder and CEO Matt Dalio was traveling in Pune, India, when he observed that smartphones and televisions were literally everywhere. This led him to realise that if you take a smartphone processor and make the television the monitor then you could build the world’s first truly affordable, high-quality PC.

He made the same observations while traveling through Latin America and Southeast Asia,

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Imagine a tiny computer that contains a wealth of knowledge, as easy to use as your mobile phone – you’ve just visualised the next big thing in the tech world.

Like many great ideas, Endless was the result of taking time to mull over an issue. Its founder and CEO Matt Dalio was traveling in Pune, India, when he observed that smartphones and televisions were literally everywhere. This led him to realise that if you take a smartphone processor and make the television the monitor then you could build the world’s first truly affordable, high-quality PC.

He made the same observations while traveling through Latin America and Southeast Asia, but over time he realized that reducing the price of computers might not be enough. There are 2.5 billion people in the world who have access to computers, leaving 5 billion who do not and for over half of them, it’s not because they can’t afford it. Computers are expensive, but this isn’t the most important issue – in most locations people could get loans to pay for it and the cheapest laptop is now around $350.

Alejandro Farfán, General Manager for Endless Central America & Caribbean, takes up the story, explaining the three main barriers to emerging markets embracing computers. “Phones are intuitive and easy to use, where computers are not – for example, we had people saying to us ‘why do I need to double click on a computer when I can just do one click on my phone?’

“There was also a real fear of breaking it (the computer) if they didn’t know how to use it and so they weren’t prepared to make such a big investment just in case. And if you don’t have access to the Internet,

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Communities | Computers | emerging markets | Endless

Grannies to the core


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Location: Pune



We catch up with Liz Fewings, one of the members of the Granny Cloud Core Team, to talk about its origins and what the future holds.

Liz, a self-confessed ‘cloudaholic’, has been part of this project since 2009, when it first began. Like many others, she responded to an article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK which asked for retired teachers to volunteer an hour each week to talk with children in India.

“Back then we were a small band of English men and women, many of whom had never even heard of this strange thing called Skype,

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We catch up with Liz Fewings, one of the members of the Granny Cloud Core Team, to talk about its origins and what the future holds.

Liz, a self-confessed ‘cloudaholic’, has been part of this project since 2009, when it first began. Like many others, she responded to an article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK which asked for retired teachers to volunteer an hour each week to talk with children in India.

“Back then we were a small band of English men and women, many of whom had never even heard of this strange thing called Skype, let alone actually used it,” says Liz. Following a long telephone conversation with Newcastle University, she then had to work out how to install Skype ahead of her first call to India.

“I was so anxious, waiting at home with a reassuring cup of tea within reach,” Liz admits. “And suddenly there was Suneeta (Kulkarni), in a hotel ‘somewhere in India’ with her own mug of tea and a beaming smile – and that was me hooked! Just two ladies chatting over a cup of tea which set the tone for the years to come.”

In those early days, communication was through email and a Wiki, which was rather formal and didn’t offer any real chance for the Grannies to get to know each other. However, following the first Granny Cloud conference in Newcastle, UK in 2010, friendships started to form and a Facebook group was set up shortly after, which remains an important and active community today. Prof Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize nomination was even made through this group!

“Facebook is where we support each other, share new ideas, get glimpses of the centres and keep up to date with what is happening,” says Liz.

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Grannies | India | TED Prize

Sarah Leonard UK teacher writes in defence of 'evidence' for SOLE

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

UK teacher writes in defence of 'evidence' for SOLE


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



In response to your article ‘Sugata Mitra – the professor with his head in the cloud’ Guardian (7th June 2016)

Dear Peter,

So, I am a teacher in my seventeenth year of teaching,

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In response to your article ‘Sugata Mitra – the professor with his head in the cloud’ Guardian (7th June 2016)

Dear Peter,

So, I am a teacher in my seventeenth year of teaching,

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KS2 | Sugata Mitra | Teaching | TED | The Guardian

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