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There are many ways to get involved with School in the Cloud, from running your own SOLE to becoming a Granny or carrying out research with us.


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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.


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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

The Big Question

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Language - Posted by Isha Manchanda


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Goa



How does language evolve? How did we get from Shakespeare to here?

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How does language evolve? How did we get from Shakespeare to here?

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english | Language | Shakespeare

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The Big Question

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Stories - Posted by Isha Manchanda


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Goa



How do we use stories in our daily lives? What makes us storytellers?

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How do we use stories in our daily lives? What makes us storytellers?

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Language | Stories | storytellers

The Big Question

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Languages - Posted by Dillon Lim


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Singapore



Why do some languages die out?

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Why do some languages die out?

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Language | Language Change

The Big Question

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The Alphabet: Who made it?


  Author - School in the Cloud



Who made the alphabet?

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Who made the alphabet?

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Alphabet | Language

The Big Question

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World Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why don’t we all speak the same language around the world?

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Why don’t we all speak the same language around the world?

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Language | Speech

The Big Question

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Accents


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why do people have different accents?

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Why do people have different accents?

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Accents | Language | Speech

The Big Question

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Names


  Author - School in the Cloud



How did things get their names?

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How did things get their names?

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Language | Names

The Big Question

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Chinese Characters


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why are Chinese characters square in shape?

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Why are Chinese characters square in shape?

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Chinese | Language

The Big Question

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Storytelling: Why is it important?


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why is storytelling important?

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Why is storytelling important?

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Culture | Fiction | History | Language | Literature | Story Telling

The Big Question

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Pronunciation of Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



Can we learn the pronunciation of a language from a “silent” teacher?

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Can we learn the pronunciation of a language from a “silent” teacher?

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Language | Pronunciation | Teachers

The Big Question

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Communication between Animals and Birds


  Author - School in the Cloud



How do animals and birds communicate with each other?

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How do animals and birds communicate with each other?

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Animals | Biology | Birds | Communication | Language | Sound

The Big Question

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How Ants Communicate


  Author - School in the Cloud



How do ants communicate?

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How do ants communicate?

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Ants | Communication | Insects | Language | Nature

The Big Question

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Animal Languages


  Author - School in the Cloud



Do animals of the same species speak different ‘languages’ just like humans?

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Do animals of the same species speak different ‘languages’ just like humans?

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Animals | Communication | Language | Nature | Speech

The Big Question

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Thinking vs Talking to Oneself


  Author - School in the Cloud



Is thinking like talking to oneself? what do you think?

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Is thinking like talking to oneself? what do you think?

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Consciousness | Language | Neuroscience | Speech | Talking | Thinking

The Big Question

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Learning a Foreign Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



How can you learn a foreign language?

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How can you learn a foreign language?

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Education | Language | Learning

The Big Question

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Speaking Different Languages in Same Country


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why people speak different languages in different countries (or even in the same country)?

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Why people speak different languages in different countries (or even in the same country)?

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Countries | Culture | Language

The Big Question

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Multi-lingual Dreams


  Author - School in the Cloud



What language do multilingual people dream in?

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What language do multilingual people dream in?

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Dreams | Language | Multi-lingual | People

The Big Question

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English Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why do we need to master the English Language?

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Why do we need to master the English Language?

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English Language | Language

The Big Question

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Infants learning languages


  Author - School in the Cloud



How could an infant learn more than a language at a time?

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How could an infant learn more than a language at a time?

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Babies | Education | Infants | Language | Learning | Linguistics | Multi-lingual

The Big Question

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Language of the Deaf


  Author - School in the Cloud



In which language do the deaf think?

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In which language do the deaf think?

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Brains | Deaf People | Language | Thinking

The Big Question

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Do Japanese think differently to English?


  Author - School in the Cloud



Does someone who only speaks Japanese think differently from someone who only speaks English?

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Does someone who only speaks Japanese think differently from someone who only speaks English?

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Consciousness | Japanese | Language | Psychology | Thinking

The Big Question

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Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



What is language?

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What is language?

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Communication | Language | Linguistics

The Big Question

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Universal Language in Educational Technology


  Author - School in the Cloud



Should there be one universal language in educational technology?

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Should there be one universal language in educational technology?

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Education | Education Technology | Language | Technology

The Big Question

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Composition


  Author - School in the Cloud



What is the best composition?

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What is the best composition?

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Arts | Composition | Language

The Big Question

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Speaking Different Languages


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why do people speak different languages?

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Why do people speak different languages?

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Communication | Language | Linguistics | People

The Big Question

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Languages - What do they have in common?


  Author - School in the Cloud



What do different languages have in common?

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What do different languages have in common?

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Language

The Big Question

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The Alphabet


  Author - School in the Cloud



Who made the alphabet?

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Who made the alphabet?

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Alphabet | English Language | Language

The Big Question

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Accents of Cats and Dogs


  Author - School in the Cloud



Are cats and dogs speaking the same language but just in a different accent?

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Are cats and dogs speaking the same language but just in a different accent?

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Animals | Cats | Communication | Dogs | Language | Nature

The Big Question

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Communicating if there is no Language


  Author - School in the Cloud



How would you communicate if their were no language?

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How would you communicate if their were no language?

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Communication | Language

The Big Question

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Sentences


  Author - School in the Cloud



What is a sentence?

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What is a sentence?

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English Composition | English Language | Language | Literature | Sentences | Writing

The Big Question

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Most Spoken Language?


  Author - School in the Cloud



What language is spoken by the most people?

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What language is spoken by the most people?

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Language

The Big Question

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English Language for Non-English People


  Author - School in the Cloud



Why is it difficult for non-english speaking people become fluent in english?

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Why is it difficult for non-english speaking people become fluent in english?

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English Language | Language

mexico_feature SOLE translates into a better future for Mexico

SOLE Mexico

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SOLE Mexico

SOLE translates into a better future for Mexico


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Mexico

  Location: Mexico City



My grasp of the Spanish language is limited to ‘hola’ and a few rusty phrases leftover from travelling many years ago, so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find myself in the middle of a Spanish-speaking classroom. 

‘How would you like to join a SOLE in a few minutes?’ SOLE México co-ordinator Oscar O’Farrill typed on Skype as we were about to start the interview.

I was prepared for asking the questions, rather than being on the other side, but when you work with self organised learning environments you have go with the flow from time to time!

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My grasp of the Spanish language is limited to ‘hola’ and a few rusty phrases leftover from travelling many years ago, so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find myself in the middle of a Spanish-speaking classroom. 

‘How would you like to join a SOLE in a few minutes?’ SOLE México co-ordinator Oscar O’Farrill typed on Skype as we were about to start the interview.

I was prepared for asking the questions, rather than being on the other side, but when you work with self organised learning environments you have go with the flow from time to time! Naturally, it was complete chaos, but the smiling, excited faces made it clear from the outset how much SOLE means to these children.

Oscar has been running SOLEs since 2013, initially in a community centre in Tres Marías, Morelos, and for nearly a year in a public school in San Luis Potosi, a small rural community about four hours from México City. Despite many ongoing challenges, SOLE México is going from strength to strength, with exciting plans on the horizon.

Oscar, whose eclectic career includes working in human resources for Coca-Cola and representing his country in ice hockey as a teenager and later as a rugby player, is at the heart of plans to expand SOLE across the country.

A back injury cut his sporting career short and he turned to coaching instead, but always had an interest in psychology, which he went on to study at degree level. “I’ve always been amazed about learning processes,” says Oscar. “Every day I think ‘how does learning happen and how can I make it better?’. My mind is 100% thinking about how the mind works. It’s my passion and I want to find out more.”

For Oscar,

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Granny Cloud | Language | Learning | Skype | Spanish

sole_searching_feature It's time to ask SOLE-searching questions

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

It's time to ask SOLE-searching questions


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



SOLE researchers are getting ready to ‘hack’ the largest education research conference in the UK.

As far as we know, this is the first time that self organized learning has been integrated in this way and it’s likely to come as a bit of a surprise to many delegates at the BERA (British Educational Research Association) conference in Northern Ireland this week.

Gone will be the traditional conference set-up of an attentive audience listening to an authoritative speaker, replaced instead with an audience-led exploration of the technology/pedagogy divide.

Getting down with the kids: a self organized conference session is being led by SOLE Central research fellow Dr Anne Preston.


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SOLE researchers are getting ready to ‘hack’ the largest education research conference in the UK.

As far as we know, this is the first time that self organized learning has been integrated in this way and it’s likely to come as a bit of a surprise to many delegates at the BERA (British Educational Research Association) conference in Northern Ireland this week.

Gone will be the traditional conference set-up of an attentive audience listening to an authoritative speaker, replaced instead with an audience-led exploration of the technology/pedagogy divide.

Getting down with the kids: a self organized conference session is being led by SOLE Central research fellow Dr Anne Preston.
 Participants will be choosing one of three Big Questions put forward on social media in the lead up to the conference. “Who knows what might happen?” says Anne. “It’s likely, in true SOLE style, to descend into total chaos for a while, but hopefully something meaningful will emerge by the end of it all.”

The idea for this session originally stemmed from the reaction to a keynote given by Sugata Mitra last year at the IATEFL conference. Many English language teaching professionals in the audience notoriously walked out when he suggested that in future teaching would be redundant.

“While we have readily embraced most of what the Internet has to offer with hardly a murmur of dissent, when someone suggests it can also be used to help children teach themselves, it causes a lot of soul searching (no pun intended!) from a fair few educationalists,” says Anne.

So who is right and who is wrong? The indignant teachers or the professor who leads SOLE Central at Newcastle University, a team dedicated to bringing together researchers,

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BERA | Digital Technology | Education | Language | Pedagogy | Technology

Being a ‘granny’ is not as easy as it might look


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: India



The Granny Cloud has been up and running since 2009 when Sugata first put out an appeal in a UK newspaper for grandmothers with a spare hour a week who would like to talk to children in India and help them with their English skills.

There are a handful of loyal stalwarts still remaining from those early days, many of whom form a self-organised core team to help to recruit, interview and advise new recruits.

But there are far more who have fallen by the wayside, often daunted by the prospect of actually being a School in the Cloud granny once reality sets in.

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The Granny Cloud has been up and running since 2009 when Sugata first put out an appeal in a UK newspaper for grandmothers with a spare hour a week who would like to talk to children in India and help them with their English skills.

There are a handful of loyal stalwarts still remaining from those early days, many of whom form a self-organised core team to help to recruit, interview and advise new recruits.

But there are far more who have fallen by the wayside, often daunted by the prospect of actually being a School in the Cloud granny once reality sets in.

Dr Suneeta Kulkarni, research director for School in the Cloud based in India, says she can completely understand how they feel. “It can seem completely overwhelming to start with,” she admits.

“There’s a lot more tech available now than when we first started and I know that can put some people off, but this is not the crux of the interaction. If you’re comfortable with it, then use it by all means, but it may actually hinder the process if it’s a brand new group not used to computers or the English language.

“It’s really just about chatting with the children about whatever takes your, and their, fancy. When you start with a new group you need to get a feel for their environment, who they are and what they like. I’d always say don’t go in with a plan – just go with it. Just say ‘hi’ and take it from there. At the end of the day, the primary aim is to have fun, and that goes for the granny as well as the children!”

Suneeta often advises new grannies to think of those initial sessions as a bit like turning up at a family gathering where there just happens to be a group of children who are really keen to talk to you!

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Education | Grannies | Granny Cloud | Language | Teaching English

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