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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.


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sugatacorevent A philosophical approach to SOLE

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

A philosophical approach to SOLE


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: England



For our latest blog post, we spoke to Sugata Mitra about his current experiment, which is bound to get people thinking! You can also listen to the interview in full.

Sugata: “When I think about children and values and beliefs I find most of the time these are actually impose – unlike, for example, a poem. You wouldn’t say to a child ‘you have to like this poem because it’s very famous’. You would say ‘do you think it’s a good poem?’

“In the English language we would say values are acquired.

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For our latest blog post, we spoke to Sugata Mitra about his current experiment, which is bound to get people thinking! You can also listen to the interview in full.

Sugata: “When I think about children and values and beliefs I find most of the time these are actually impose – unlike, for example, a poem. You wouldn’t say to a child ‘you have to like this poem because it’s very famous’. You would say ‘do you think it’s a good poem?’

“In the English language we would say values are acquired. But I don’t see any acquisition going on here <in mainstream education>. I see imposition instead.

“When it comes to belief systems it can get even worse. A lot of our world’s troubles are because of belief systems. <But> if a belief system is editable then I think there’s not much wrong with it.

“In a way science is a belief system: people tell you there’s gravity and you might say ‘how do you know?’ and I would say: ‘here’s the experiments that show that gravity exists’, but then you are not going to do those experiments. You really have to just believe me, so it is a belief system but it is editable.

Children-led belief and value systems

“As time goes on our beliefs change and we say ‘they got it wrong and now we’ve got it right’. However, unfortunately there are other belief systems which our children grow up in which are not editable. They are usually written down 1,000s of years ago and they are in every culture. I’m a bit uneasy with books written several thousand years ago which are not editable and everything in them is supposed to be right.

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Children | Education | Philosophy | Schools | Sugata Mitra

The Big Question

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Language acquisition - Posted by Mike Lyons


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Japan



Is there really a “critical period” for language acquisition?

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Is there really a “critical period” for language acquisition?

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Children | Language

Inspiring families to learn together


  Author - School in the Cloud

  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

The Big Question

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Children: Can they learn without school?


  Author - School in the Cloud



Can children learn without going to school?

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Can children learn without going to school?

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Children | Education | Learning | Schools | Society | Thinking

The Big Question

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Children: What helps them grow?


  Author - James Stanfield



What helps children grow into healthy adults?

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What helps children grow into healthy adults?

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Adults | Biology | Children | Growth | Health | Wellbeing

The Big Question

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Babies: How do they develop?


  Author - School in the Cloud



How do babies develop?

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How do babies develop?

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Babies | Children | Growth | Health | Pregnancy

The Big Question

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Chocolate


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why do children love chocolate?

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Why do children love chocolate?

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Children | Chocolate | Food

The Big Question

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Children: Should they go to prison?


  Author - School in the Cloud



Should children ever go to prison for breaking the law?

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Should children ever go to prison for breaking the law?

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Children | Law and Order | Prison

The Big Question

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Parents Deciding What Children Do


  Author - School in the Cloud



Should parents decide what children should do?

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Should parents decide what children should do?

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Children | Human Rights | Parents | Psychology

The Big Question

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Exams: Help or Hurt a Child Education


  Author - School in the Cloud



How do exams help or hurt a child’s education?

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How do exams help or hurt a child’s education?

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Children | Education | Exams

The Big Question

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Jobs for Children


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why can’t kids get a job?

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Why can’t kids get a job?

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Child Labour | Children | Employment | Jobs | Social Studies

The Big Question

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Long Term Memory


  Author - School in the Cloud



If long term memories aren’t made until we are older, why do events that occur during infancy affect us later in life?

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If long term memories aren’t made until we are older, why do events that occur during infancy affect us later in life?

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Biology | Brains | Child Development | Children | Memory | Neurology | Neuroscience | Psychology

The Big Question

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The technology children prefer in classroom


  Author - James Stanfield



What kind of technology do children prefer to use in the classroom and would they like to use more or less of it?

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What kind of technology do children prefer to use in the classroom and would they like to use more or less of it?

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Children | Classrooms | Education | Education Technology | Learning | Technology

The Big Question

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Learning to Improvise


  Author - School in the Cloud



How can you help a kid who would like to learn to improvise?

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How can you help a kid who would like to learn to improvise?

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Children | Improvisation | Learning | Music

The Big Question

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Global Refugee Crisis


  Author - School in the Cloud



What could #edtech offer to children and communities in a time of global refugee crisis?

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What could #edtech offer to children and communities in a time of global refugee crisis?

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Children | Communities | Refugee | Refugee Crisis

The Big Question

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Access to Internet during Exams


  Author - School in the Cloud



Should we give children access to the internet during exams?

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Should we give children access to the internet during exams?

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Children | Education | Exams | Internet | Learning | Pedagogy

The Big Question

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Teaching Children to Read


  Author - School in the Cloud



How should we be teaching children to read?

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How should we be teaching children to read?

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Children | Education | Learning | Reading | Teaching

The Big Question

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Sharing Knowledge with Children


  Author - School in the Cloud



What is the most important knowledge we could share with children in extreme poverty that would help them and their communities get out of poverty in the future?

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What is the most important knowledge we could share with children in extreme poverty that would help them and their communities get out of poverty in the future?

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Children | Communities | Knowledge | Poverty | The Future

jam_sandwich_feature How to make a jam sandwich, SOLE style

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How to make a jam sandwich, SOLE style


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Bedfordshire



If the average adult sat down to work out how to teach basic coding, they probably wouldn’t naturally think of a jam sandwich.

But that’s exactly what this SOLE group of home schoolers did with their presentation to computer science teachers.

Anna the (real life) robot was given a set of instructions to follow to make the sandwich, which may have resulted in a lot of mess, but certainly got the message across about how to teach the subject far more effectively than a textbook.

Jacqueline Emkes, an e-Learning consultant and part-time maths teacher,

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If the average adult sat down to work out how to teach basic coding, they probably wouldn’t naturally think of a jam sandwich.

But that’s exactly what this SOLE group of home schoolers did with their presentation to computer science teachers.

Anna the (real life) robot was given a set of instructions to follow to make the sandwich, which may have resulted in a lot of mess, but certainly got the message across about how to teach the subject far more effectively than a textbook.

Jacqueline Emkes, an e-Learning consultant and part-time maths teacher, runs SOLEs for home educated children at Biddenham International School and Sports College in Bedfordshire, UK.

They have been running since 2013, supported by the college and the local authority’s PLACE programme for children who are not in school but on the Elective Home Education (EHE) Register.

One of the biggest challenges Jacq faces is the diverse age range of her group – from eight to 12-years-old – which means she is often diverted from her original lesson plan. There are usually around 15-20 children, but the numbers fluctuate as families come and go.

“Inevitably ‘normal’ behaviour rules go out the window,” says Jacq. “Children are soon found scrolling the internet lying on the floor, under a desk, on top of a desk, perched on a table. Anything goes – it’s all learning! The children can move around freely, help other groups and indeed swap groups.”
Jacq’s SOLE makes good use of the safe social learning platform Makewaves where they can upload their work to create movies, pictures and stories to share with the group.

They are also encouraged to critique each other’s work (in a positive and helpful way, naturally!) and even family members and the college’s principal have been adding their own comments to help improve student’s work.

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Children | Computer Science | Education | Food | Human Behaviour | Internet | Jam | Robots | Sandwiches | Sanitation

Khud

Introducing: Khud


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - Khud

  Location: Khud



This blog was originally published on the Khud website on 6th June 2015; it is reproduced here with our thanks.

Khud is a small experiment hoping to make a big impact. Khud’s mission is to give underprivileged children in Pakistan (and maybe beyond?) a fighting chance.

The Pakistan education crisis has multiple insane dimensions. To boil it down quantitatively:

*25 million children do not go to school
*1.25 Million teachers are needed

Qualitatively the news is not good either. The children that are in school are not exactly getting a great education.

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This blog was originally published on the Khud website on 6th June 2015; it is reproduced here with our thanks.

Khud is a small experiment hoping to make a big impact. Khud’s mission is to give underprivileged children in Pakistan (and maybe beyond?) a fighting chance.

The Pakistan education crisis has multiple insane dimensions. To boil it down quantitatively:

*25 million children do not go to school
*1.25 Million teachers are needed

Qualitatively the news is not good either. The children that are in school are not exactly getting a great education. The rote-learning based system does not prepare them to tackle the world in a truly productive way.

Khud is not going to reinvent the wheel. We plan to take insights from:

*Socrates and his method around letting students arrive at their own conclusions
*Maria Montessori and her approach that encouraged children to play and teach themselves
*Sugata Mitra and his approach around self organized learning

The plan is to start this experiment in a school on the outskirts of Lahore. Make mistakes, gather data, learn – be agile. Then scale.

Khud - map

Wish us luck. Share our story. Connect with us.

To keep up with the story, follow Khud on Twitter: @salahkhawaja

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Children | Education | Sugata Mitra | Underprivileged

Skyping with children - feature image Skyping with the children - Not always easy! by Jackie Barrow

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

Skyping with the children - Not always easy! by Jackie Barrow


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



The Granny Cloud reaches out to groups of children across a range of different locations using Skype. It’s fantastic! If the connection is good, you can see each other, hear each other, send text messages, send files and links, share your screens with each other and take photos of each other. So the Grannies conduct sessions where they chat with the children, read stories, play games, make things, do quizzes, sing, dance, share jokes, pictures and video clips, search the internet and share findings. In fact all the sorts of activities that grandparents might share with their grandchildren or good teachers with their pupils.

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The Granny Cloud reaches out to groups of children across a range of different locations using Skype. It’s fantastic! If the connection is good, you can see each other, hear each other, send text messages, send files and links, share your screens with each other and take photos of each other. So the Grannies conduct sessions where they chat with the children, read stories, play games, make things, do quizzes, sing, dance, share jokes, pictures and video clips, search the internet and share findings. In fact all the sorts of activities that grandparents might share with their grandchildren or good teachers with their pupils.

NLSM 23Oct09 smiles all around

But what can’t you do over Skype? Well, you can’t always see how many children have joined the session. You can’t feel how hot, or cold or stuffy or dusty the room might be. You can’t sense the mood of the children or the group dynamics. You can’t know if they’ve been squabbling or joking before they came up to the screen.

You can’t judge the body language or the facial expressions with the same accuracy as you could if you were in the same room. You can’t tell whether the children are hungry or thirsty, tired, frightened, upset.

It’s difficult to assess over Skype whether the child who has just wandered away from the screen has lost interest because they can’t understand, needs the toilet, is feeling unwell or is feeling undermined by the bright, slightly pushy child who has taken control of the microphone.

You can’t always tell whether that long delay before any sort of answer to your last question is offered is because they have absolutely no idea what you are asking or whether in fact one of the children has gone over to another computer to search for the answer to relay to the child at the front.

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Children | English Language | Granny Cloud | Internet | Language | Learning Styles | Reading | Skype | Stories

got_sole_feature So you think you've got SOLE? Sugata Mitra explains the science behind it

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SOLE Central

So you think you've got SOLE? Sugata Mitra explains the science behind it


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



Sugata recently appeared on BBC World Service’s The Forum programme to talk about SOLEs and his idea for school exams in the future. We thought you might like to hear some of what was discussed on this blog.

“It’s important to understand the sense in which I use the word ‘self organising system’,” says Sugata. “It’s not organisation of the self. I find increasingly that people mix it up with self-regulated or self-directed learning and that’s not what I’m talking about.

“A self organising system is basically a concept that comes out of maths and physics which is that if you allow a system to be chaotic then,

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Sugata recently appeared on BBC World Service’s The Forum programme to talk about SOLEs and his idea for school exams in the future. We thought you might like to hear some of what was discussed on this blog.

“It’s important to understand the sense in which I use the word ‘self organising system’,” says Sugata. “It’s not organisation of the self. I find increasingly that people mix it up with self-regulated or self-directed learning and that’s not what I’m talking about.

“A self organising system is basically a concept that comes out of maths and physics which is that if you allow a system to be chaotic then, under certain circumstances, you get spontaneous order.

“I think I’ve seen that happen with children quite accidentally; initially I had not a clue that was what was happening. Yet over the last 15 years, in instance after instance, I’ve seen groups of children who simply don’t know any English confronted with the internet in English and making sense of what they see.”

Sugata also talked to BBC host Bridget Kendall about how hole-in-the-wall developed into School in the Cloud in a way that would not have been possible before the Internet, and how it has changed the way children learn.

“When a group reads together they somehow read at much higher levels of comprehension than an individual child,” he explains. “This was not something I’d seen before. The limitations of reading in print means you can’t easily read the same book at the same time in a group, but you can on screen.

“We’ve seen instant amplification of comprehension – as soon as one stumbles, another one steps in to help, creating this spontaneous order.”

Sugata says that this instantaneous feedback from peers,

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BBC World Service | Children | Education | Internet | Learning | Maths | Physics

Meet the family "unschooling" their kids in an olive orchard


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Umbria



Lehla Eldridge and her husband Anthony Rogers are pointing a laptop out of their second-story bedroom window. Below them, a cinematic Italian olive orchard stretches into the distance. “This is a kind of typical Umbrian landscape,” Anthony says.

I’m amazed by what they’re showing me on Skype. Not only is this the beautiful view from their home, it’s the beautiful view from their children’s classroom as well.

“I think most of the people around here know that we’re the English family who have three children,” Lehla says. “But I don’t know if they know they go to school or don’t go to school.”

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Lehla Eldridge and her husband Anthony Rogers are pointing a laptop out of their second-story bedroom window. Below them, a cinematic Italian olive orchard stretches into the distance. “This is a kind of typical Umbrian landscape,” Anthony says.

I’m amazed by what they’re showing me on Skype. Not only is this the beautiful view from their home, it’s the beautiful view from their children’s classroom as well.

“I think most of the people around here know that we’re the English family who have three children,” Lehla says. “But I don’t know if they know they go to school or don’t go to school.”

Whether or not the local Italians know about Anthony and Lehla’s approach to schooling their kids, you can expect they would be quite intrigued. “The Italian schooling system is very rote-learning driven,” says Anthony, “it’s very structured.” Anthony and Lehla’s approach… is not.

Lehla and Anthony are English, but they’ve been “unschooling” their three children, Amari (11), Olive (11), and Jahli (9) in Italy since 2012. Lehla says her family’s approach is similar to self-directed learning, where “if kids want and need to learn, they learn.”

There’s no “typical” school day for the kids, Lehla says. But generally, they start their day by gathering for breakfast, before the kids all decide what they want to do. Sometimes they’ll do projects, read, go on Khan Academy, or check Big Questions on School in the Cloud. “They choose how they run their day,” says Lehla, “I follow them.”

Prior to engaging with this learning approach, Lehla says there seemed to be a “general unease and closing down of the kids’ spirits, energy levels, and enjoyment in life every time they were in a school setting.” So, she and Anthony explored ways they could school the kids instead.

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Big Questions | Children | Classrooms | Education | Italy | Self-directed Learning | Slavery | Unschooling | Writing

Phaltan School in the Cloud - feature image The 6th Learning Lab is Officially...Open!

TED Lab - Phaltan

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TED Lab - Phaltan

The 6th Learning Lab is Officially...Open!


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Phaltan

  Location: Phaltan



Today we are delighted to celebrate the opening of our 6th learning lab which is located in Phaltan, a small town in Maharashtra, India. Since Sugata Mitra won the TED Prize in 2013, 5 similar environments have been opened in both India and the UK as part of the global experiment in self-organised learning; the final flagship site is due to open in Gocharan early next year.

Initiated by Newcastle University and TED Prize, this lab is the first one located in a school where English is taught as a subject alongside all the others. The language used throughout the school is Marathi,

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Today we are delighted to celebrate the opening of our 6th learning lab which is located in Phaltan, a small town in Maharashtra, India. Since Sugata Mitra won the TED Prize in 2013, 5 similar environments have been opened in both India and the UK as part of the global experiment in self-organised learning; the final flagship site is due to open in Gocharan early next year.

Initiated by Newcastle University and TED Prize, this lab is the first one located in a school where English is taught as a subject alongside all the others. The language used throughout the school is Marathi, which is the official language of Maharashtra state. “Imagine using an Internet where there is hardly anything at all in your mother tongue – that’s what it’s like for these children,” says Dr Suneeta Kulkarni, Research Director for School in the Cloud.

The new learning lab is specifically designed to facilitate SOLEs, where children collaborate to answer big questions using the internet. These child-focused learning sessions are fuelled by curiosity and discovery, providing children with the space and freedom to explore. It is located close to the school gates and overlooks the playground and residential area, so is easily visible to the local community.

Many lessons were learned from building the other learning labs and these have been taken into account during this construction, including the glass windows stopping at eye-level. “That kind of design where the glass is up to the ceiling is fine in the UK but there’s much more light here and it makes it difficult to see the screen – it also gets too hot!” explains Dr Kulkarni.

Connectivity, as with many of the more rural School in the Cloud sites, is one of the greatest challenges here and so a back-up dongle is being used in case the regular broadband fails.

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Children | Comprehension | English Language | Granny Cloud | Internet | Learning | Newcastle University | Phaltan | Self-organised Learning | TED Prize