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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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Students: Find own Big Questions?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Isn’t it better that students find their own Big Questions?

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Isn’t it better that students find their own Big Questions?

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Big Questions | Education | Engagement | Learning | Students

The Big Question

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Children: Can they learn without school?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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More Technology: Would education be different?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How would education be different if we added more technology?

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How would education be different if we added more technology?

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Digital Technology | Education | Education Technology | Learning | Technology

The Big Question

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Intelligence: Does reading improve it?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Does reading improve intelligence?

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Does reading improve intelligence?

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Biology | Brains | Education | Intelligence | Learning | Literacy | Reading

The Big Question

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The Past: Can it teach us about the future?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How can the past teach us about the future?

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How can the past teach us about the future?

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Education | History | Learning | Social History | Social Studies | Sociology | The Future | The Past

The Big Question

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Student Power at School


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Should students have more power to choose their own work at school?

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Should students have more power to choose their own work at school?

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Democracy | Education | Learning | Power | Schools | Self-Learning | Students

The Big Question

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Learning: How do we learn?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How do we learn?

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How do we learn?

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Education | Learning | Learning Styles

The Big Question

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Preparing Students for the Future


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How can teachers prepare students for the future without knowing what the future will look like?

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How can teachers prepare students for the future without knowing what the future will look like?

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Education | Learning | Students | Teachers | The Future

The Big Question

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Learning from Other Cultures


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How can learning about other cultures help our society?

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How can learning about other cultures help our society?

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Culture | Education | Learning | Science | Social Science | Sociology

The Big Question

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Students: How will they learn in 2026?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How will students learn in 2026?

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How will students learn in 2026?

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Education | Learning | Learning Styles | Schools | Students | The Future

The Big Question

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Why People Learn


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why do people learn?

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Why do people learn?

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Education | Learning | Neuroscience | Pedagogy | People | Philosophy | Science

The Big Question

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Learning from Mistakes


  Author - Sarah Cossom



If our brain helps us learn from our mistakes why do some people do it again?

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If our brain helps us learn from our mistakes why do some people do it again?

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Human Behaviour | Learning | Mistakes

The Big Question

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Learning by Ourselves


  Author - Sarah Cossom



If we can learn by ourselves, why do we need teachers?

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If we can learn by ourselves, why do we need teachers?

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Education | Learning | Learning Styles | Self-Learning | Teachers

The Big Question

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Learning a Foreign Language


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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Learning and Teaching of Maths


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What would learning and teaching of mathematics look like without tests?

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What would learning and teaching of mathematics look like without tests?

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Education | Exams | Learning | Maths | Teaching

The Big Question

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Infants learning languages


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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Learning Development in the Future


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How will learning develop in the future?

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How will learning develop in the future?

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Education | Learning

The Big Question

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Learning History


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What are we trying to learn when we study history?

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What are we trying to learn when we study history?

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Education | History | Learning

The Big Question

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Education: why do we need it?


  Author - Indigo Admin



Why do we need to educate ourselves?

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Why do we need to educate ourselves?

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Education | Knowledge | Learning

The Big Question

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Collaborative Learning


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why is it easier to learn things when there are several people learning together?

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Why is it easier to learn things when there are several people learning together?

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Collaboration | Education | Friends | Learning

The Big Question

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Learning with technology


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How far does technology help us learn better?

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How far does technology help us learn better?

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Digital Technology | Education | Education Technology | Learning | Technology

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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Technology in mixed ability Functional English classes


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Does technology speed up or slow down the learning process in mixed ability Functional English classes?

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Does technology speed up or slow down the learning process in mixed ability Functional English classes?

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Education | Education Technology | Learning | Teaching English | Technology

The Big Question

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Importance of Art in Learning


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why and how is art important in learning?

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Why and how is art important in learning?

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Art | Arts | Expressive Arts | Learning

The Big Question

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Learning to Improvise


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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Barriers to Learning


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What are the barriers to learning?

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What are the barriers to learning?

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Education | Learning

The Big Question

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21st Century Classroom


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Can SOLE offer a solution to the 21st century classroom or is it still in search of pedagogy?

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Can SOLE offer a solution to the 21st century classroom or is it still in search of pedagogy?

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21st Century | Classrooms | Education | Learning | Pedagogy | Schools

The Big Question

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Access to Internet during Exams


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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World without Exams


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How do you imagine a world without exams?

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How do you imagine a world without exams?

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Education | Exams | Learning

The Big Question

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Teaching Children to Read


  Author - Sarah Cossom



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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Teachers vs Students


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why do teachers think students can never be more intelligent than they are?

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Why do teachers think students can never be more intelligent than they are?

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Education | Intelligence | Learning | Students | Teachers

The Big Question

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Learning outside of School


  Author - Sarah Cossom



If you didn’t have to go to school, what would you learn?

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If you didn’t have to go to school, what would you learn?

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Education | Learning | Schools | Self-Learning

The Big Question

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Schools in 100 Years


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What will schools look like in 100 years?

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What will schools look like in 100 years?

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Education | Learning | Schools | The Future

The Big Question

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What learning can do


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What learning can do to you?

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What learning can do to you?

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Education | Evolution | Learning | Teaching

The Big Question

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Individual Learning


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why do individuals learn differently?

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Why do individuals learn differently?

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Cognition | Education | Learning | Learning Styles

The Big Question

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Why Learn?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why do we have to learn?

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Why do we have to learn?

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Education | Learning

The Big Question

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SOLE's Effective way of Learning?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Are SOLEs an effective way of learning?

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Are SOLEs an effective way of learning?

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Education | Learning | SOLE

The Big Question

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If Students Interests influenced Learning


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What would happen if we let students’ interests drive the learning and did not have to follow a standard curriculum?

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What would happen if we let students’ interests drive the learning and did not have to follow a standard curriculum?

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Curriculum | Education | Learning | Students

The Big Question

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Best way to Learn


  Author - Sarah Cossom



What is the best way to learn?

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What is the best way to learn?

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Brains | Cognition | Education | Learning | Learning Styles

The Big Question

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How do we Learn?


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Do we all learn the same way?

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Do we all learn the same way?

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Cognition | Education | Learning | Learning Styles

The Big Question

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Classroom Design


  Author - Sarah Cossom



How can classroom design have a positive effect on the way we learn?

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How can classroom design have a positive effect on the way we learn?

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Architecture | Classroom Design | Design | Education | Learning

The Big Question

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History


  Author - Sarah Cossom



Why do we learn history

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Why do we learn history

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Education | History | Learning

as if by magic - feature As if by magic

TED Lab - Chandrakona

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TED Lab - Chandrakona

As if by magic


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Chandrakona

  Location: Chandrakona



Some people think what happens in a SOLE is a little bit magic; they might well be right. But if you happen to drop by the Chandrakona lab lately, magic is exactly what you’ll see.

When faced with a science question they couldn’t answer these Indian children did what comes naturally to them: look to the Internet for help.

A small group of boys turned to YouTube to teach themselves about chemical reaction and science so they could learn magic tricks to perform for their ‘Grannies’ over Skype.

And as their next session approached,

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Some people think what happens in a SOLE is a little bit magic; they might well be right. But if you happen to drop by the Chandrakona lab lately, magic is exactly what you’ll see.

When faced with a science question they couldn’t answer these Indian children did what comes naturally to them: look to the Internet for help.

A small group of boys turned to YouTube to teach themselves about chemical reaction and science so they could learn magic tricks to perform for their ‘Grannies’ over Skype.

And as their next session approached, they gathered the materials they needed to take to the lab: one water bottle, a rubber balloon, a funnel, a little baking powder and some vinegar and water.

Firstly, they filled a quarter of the bottle with water. Then they put some baking powder into the balloon using the funnel. After they had put the funnel onto the water bottle and mixed the vinegar in the water, they were ready. “Now we will show the magic,” they said. “The magic is the balloon will blow up automatically.”

The boys then fitted the balloon onto the mouth of the bottle, causing the baking soda in the balloon to fall down into it, mixing with the water and vinegar. The balloon then automatically blows up, as predicted!

“All who were at the lab including the kids clapped when they saw the magic,” says co-ordinator Joydev Goswami. “They were very much excited because their first experiment which they had learned from YouTube was successful. They told the Granny that they had wanted to work out how to blow a balloon without air pressure.”

Those present were really impressed not only by the tricks, but by the level of understanding shown by the children about what they were doing.

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Chemical Reaction | Chemistry | Education | Learning | Magic | Science

cleveland_feature Inspiring future community leaders through SOLE

SOLE Cleveland

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SOLE Cleveland

Inspiring future community leaders through SOLE


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Cleveland

  Location: Ohio



You’d imagine trying to get 1,000 high school students engaged in the same activity at the same time would be challenge enough. But not for Jeff McCellan: he decided to add a little extra chaos to the mix by making it a SOLE (self organised learning environment) as well.

Jeff has been using SOLE in classrooms across the Cleveland region for over a year. When one of his funders said they were interested in exploring this pedagogical approach to engage large numbers of students around issues that matter in the community, he thought big.

So they set about the task of gathering 1,000 students from Cleveland and North East Ohio to focus on just one question: What is in your heart and mind about the ownership of power in your community?

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You’d imagine trying to get 1,000 high school students engaged in the same activity at the same time would be challenge enough. But not for Jeff McCellan: he decided to add a little extra chaos to the mix by making it a SOLE (self organised learning environment) as well.

Jeff has been using SOLE in classrooms across the Cleveland region for over a year. When one of his funders said they were interested in exploring this pedagogical approach to engage large numbers of students around issues that matter in the community, he thought big.

So they set about the task of gathering 1,000 students from Cleveland and North East Ohio to focus on just one question: What is in your heart and mind about the ownership of power in your community? This question goes right to the heart of a community still reeling from a recent incident where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in a park by police in Cleveland.

In March 2016, 45 different schools came from 15 different districts, along with about 20 community members, including representatives from the mayor’s office, and took over an entire building on the Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus.

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After gathering everyone together in a lecture theatre and an auditorium to set the scene, they broke out into 37 different rooms where SOLEs happened simultaneously around the Big Question. The biggest room had 40 students; the smallest 20, so as you can imagine it was pretty lively! There was one SOLE facilitator in each room, as well as a high school student acting as a support facilitator.

“We were interested in hearing what students thought about where power lies within their communities,” explains Jeff. “One of the aims was to give them a question that would be open enough to give them the freedom to do that –

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Communities | Education | Leadership | Learning | Students

Greenfield Arts - Feature How powerful ‘fantastic and curious learning’ really is

TED Lab - Greenfield Arts (Room 13)

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TED Lab - Greenfield Arts (Room 13)

How powerful ‘fantastic and curious learning’ really is


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Greenfield Arts (Room 13)

  Location: Newton Aycliffe



2015 was a year of unexpected opportunities, amazing connections and wonderful learning experiences for the SOLE lab in Room 13.

Located in Greenfield Arts in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, UK, it is one of the original seven TED Prize labs and recently celebrated its second birthday.

Co-ordinator Katy Milne marked the occasion in style by joining the Granny Cloud and other educators for the India tour in February 2016.

“One of the most powerful and rewarding things for me is the understanding the Engine Heads (the committee of students who run Room 13) have developed and the language they have found to express and reflect upon how they learn,” says Katy.

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2015 was a year of unexpected opportunities, amazing connections and wonderful learning experiences for the SOLE lab in Room 13.

Located in Greenfield Arts in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, UK, it is one of the original seven TED Prize labs and recently celebrated its second birthday.

Co-ordinator Katy Milne marked the occasion in style by joining the Granny Cloud and other educators for the India tour in February 2016.

“One of the most powerful and rewarding things for me is the understanding the Engine Heads (the committee of students who run Room 13) have developed and the language they have found to express and reflect upon how they learn,” says Katy. “They have flourished in a learning environment that has allowed that to happen.

“It is so powerful as they make meaning for themselves and know how to apply their capabilities to any situation. They are also amazing advocates for SOLE and I’m looking forward to extending this further and providing even more opportunities for more learners.”

To celebrate Room 13’s 2nd birthday artists Nicola Golightly and Laura Degnan were commissioned to make the short film and a Little Book of Big Questions, with the first copy being handed to Sugata to mark his birthday which is coincidentally just a day before Room 13’s!

In the past year, Room 13 has:

  • Hosted educators from across the UK, India,The Netherlands, Belgium, France, New Zealand
  • Skyped with Grannies, Suneeta (Dr Kulkarni)in India and new friends across the country
  • Asked Big Questions about the moon, dancing, clouds, the Internet, ourselves,each other, the Victorians and how rivers work, among others
  • Shared experiences with teachers and students and organised SOLE sessions forprimary and secondary schools from across the country
  • Spoken at conferences in the UK and Europe,
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Arts | Education | Grannies | Greenfield Arts | Learning | TED Prize

Video in Kalkaji - feature image VIDEO: In Kalkaji SOLE, it's all about earning respect

TED Lab - Kalkaji

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TED Lab - Kalkaji

VIDEO: In Kalkaji SOLE, it's all about earning respect


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Kalkaji

  Location: New Delhi



It may be a tiny research lab, but Kalkaj in Delhi certainly packs a lot in. There are almost daily Granny Cloud sessions and a seemingly endless stream of visitors since it opened two years ago.

Located in a government girls’ school just a stone’s throw from the original Hole in the Wall, this lab is helping to give young people the opportunity to aim high.

Sometimes I find it’s better to leave others to say the words for you and when that individual is Jaya, who has firm views about how she wants to change the world,

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It may be a tiny research lab, but Kalkaj in Delhi certainly packs a lot in. There are almost daily Granny Cloud sessions and a seemingly endless stream of visitors since it opened two years ago.

Located in a government girls’ school just a stone’s throw from the original Hole in the Wall, this lab is helping to give young people the opportunity to aim high.

Sometimes I find it’s better to leave others to say the words for you and when that individual is Jaya, who has firm views about how she wants to change the world, it’s a no-brainer.

This short interview above, taken from footage by filmmakers Dan Oxenhandler, Will Sloan and Alfred Birkegaard, perfectly illustrates how much a SOLE lab means to children like Jaya, who are inspired to aim high thanks to this interaction.

And it’s not just the children who have benefited from this experience over the past two years, many members of the Granny Cloud also Skype in regularly and love taking sessions here. “From the very beginning they were a bubbly, enthusiastic group displaying a lot of confidence,” says ‘granny’ Edna Sackson, who is based in Melbourne, Australia. “They were able to understand my English and my accent and many responded well in full sentences. It’s great to see how they work collaboratively and offer each other support.”

Sunita Lama, who is based in Dubai, echoes these sentiments. “The Granny Cloud session is always such a boost for a teacher like me and the reason is the innocent effort of each child to participate,” she says. “Though they are young minds, I like to challenge them because critical thinking and analysis are important skills and with so much knowledge available, I personally feel there should be no limitations drawn,

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Comprehension | English Language | Filmmakers | Granny Cloud | Learning | Reading | Skype | Socio-economic | SOLE

chaos_argentina_feature How learning emerges from chaos in Argentina

SOLE Argentina

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SOLE Argentina

How learning emerges from chaos in Argentina


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Argentina

  Location: Buenos Aires



Everywhere he goes, Sugata tests childrens’ limits with one aim in mind: to show there are really no limits on what they can achieve.

On his recent trip to Argentina, he put 6th grade students to the test at School 20 in the Barracas area to see if they could answer questions years ahead of their time. Similar challenges are being replicated all over the world, including at Greenfields SOLE lab in the UK last month.

SOLE Argentina has been piloting the SOLE approach at this location for just over four months, with the support of Buenos Aires’ Ministry of Education.

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Everywhere he goes, Sugata tests childrens’ limits with one aim in mind: to show there are really no limits on what they can achieve.

On his recent trip to Argentina, he put 6th grade students to the test at School 20 in the Barracas area to see if they could answer questions years ahead of their time. Similar challenges are being replicated all over the world, including at Greenfields SOLE lab in the UK last month.

SOLE Argentina has been piloting the SOLE approach at this location for just over four months, with the support of Buenos Aires’ Ministry of Education. So far, they have worked mainly on Big Questions linked into the curriculum.

On this occasion, Sugata took them to the next level by giving the children a question five or six years ahead of their time, similar to those required for university entrance courses.

This was the question: What is Fordism? Talk about this system and explain the causes of its decline.

No sugar-coating, no simplification of the language, no indication of any sources they should consult. And of course, Sugata’s standard tease: “This question is generally answered by 18-year-olds. Do you think you can answer it too?” Naturally, students are up for this new intellectual adventure.

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With just five small netbooks to share among 18 children, the magic of collective knowledge construction begins. Students move around their desks, talk to each other and work hard for half an hour. When they encounter a problem, they turn to co-ordinator ‘Professor Rodrigo’ who was appointed to the role by his own classmates.

“Educational authorities present are a bit scared it won’t work, that students won’t understand the texts they encountered,

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Chaos | Education | Fordism | Learning | Toyotism

European Researchers - feature image European researchers are 'rethinking education'

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

European researchers are 'rethinking education'


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



SOLES are all about empowering children to take control of their own learning. Now researchers are hoping it can also work for young people at risk of dropping out of education altogether.

Early school leaving (ESL) is linked to unemployment, social exclusion, and poverty. While there are many reasons why young people decide to give up on education and training, such as family issues or learning difficulties, many simply become disengaged.

And as there is no single reason for early school leaving, there are also no easy answers. However, EUROSOLE, a new European-wide research project being led by Newcastle University’s SOLE Central,

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SOLES are all about empowering children to take control of their own learning. Now researchers are hoping it can also work for young people at risk of dropping out of education altogether.

Early school leaving (ESL) is linked to unemployment, social exclusion, and poverty. While there are many reasons why young people decide to give up on education and training, such as family issues or learning difficulties, many simply become disengaged.

And as there is no single reason for early school leaving, there are also no easy answers. However, EUROSOLE, a new European-wide research project being led by Newcastle University’s SOLE Central, aims to come up with some workable solutions over the next three years.

Researchers will be exploring how a new approach to the problem – where young people rather than educators take a leading role in their education – can help foster a lifelong love of learning. It will build on the idea of ‘traditional’ SOLEs, where the emphasis is on stimulating curiosity and engagement in learning within a social and collaborative atmosphere.

“Many young people leave school early because they feel disengaged,” explains Dr Anne Preston, of Newcastle University’s SOLE Central, who is leading the project. “We know that a lack of active involvement in their own learning plays a key role in the high percentage of early school leavers in Europe. But if you change the balance of control between teachers and students you can alter these dynamics and come up with effective preventative measures to tackle the issue.”

One of the main aims of the project is to create four sustainable alternative SOLE spaces in Newcastle (UK), North Tyneside (UK), Dublin (Ireland) and Lahti (Finland) to test this alternative approach.

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Education | EUROSOLE | George Stephenson High School | Learning | social exclusion

village_soles_feature It takes a village to raise a SOLE

SOLE NYC

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SOLE NYC

It takes a village to raise a SOLE


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE NYC

  Location: New York City



SOLE NYC in Harlem has got its work cut out. Simply introducing the concept of self organised learning is a challenge in most schools, but at John B. Russwurm PS 197M they are also using it to engage particularly hard-to-reach students.

“I didn’t want to do this in a school where everyone was doing ok – I wanted to do it here because I knew it could make a real difference,” says Natalia Arredondo, who is the driving force behind SOLE NYC and is overseeing the research into reading comprehension, social skills and how young students navigate Big Questions.

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SOLE NYC in Harlem has got its work cut out. Simply introducing the concept of self organised learning is a challenge in most schools, but at John B. Russwurm PS 197M they are also using it to engage particularly hard-to-reach students.

“I didn’t want to do this in a school where everyone was doing ok – I wanted to do it here because I knew it could make a real difference,” says Natalia Arredondo, who is the driving force behind SOLE NYC and is overseeing the research into reading comprehension, social skills and how young students navigate Big Questions.

Professor Sugata Mitra officially opened SOLE NYC on 14 October 2015 as the first dedicated American SOLE research lab. It joins five other labs in India and two in the UK that have all been created as part of his 2013 TED Prize wish to build a School in the Cloud.

New York’s schools are the most segregated in the whole of the USA, with students divided not only by race, but also by socio-economic status. SOLE NYC is in a high poverty and low income area, where most families live on well under $25,000 a year.

Jungle adventure

Most of PS 197M’s students come from less well-off African American families, along with those from Hispanic and Asian backgrounds. “Some kids have difficult home lives,” explains Natalia. “This can have a knock-on effect on behavioural issues and make it difficult for them to engage in class.”

Natalia sees her role as SOLE lab co-ordinator as also part counsellor, trying to talk to the students to see what’s going on and offer a bit of stability in their lives.

This SOLE lab, which is being funded through Newcastle University’s SOLE Central,

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Human Behaviour | Learning | Social Science

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 - Sarah Cossom

  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

new_start_feature A promising new start

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A promising new start


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



This September, for the first time in 14 years, Joe Jamison didn’t walk into his classroom excited for the new school year.

However, it’s not yet another disillusioned public school teacher story: Joe’s so fired up about education that he’s prepared to step way outside his comfort zone.

So much so that he’s done something he vowed he would never do – get an office job. Although granted it’s a little different from the norm: they’ve just put him on plane to West Africa.

Joe’s now working for Pencils of Promise (PoP) after a series of serendipitous events which began after he watched Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize talk.

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This September, for the first time in 14 years, Joe Jamison didn’t walk into his classroom excited for the new school year.

However, it’s not yet another disillusioned public school teacher story: Joe’s so fired up about education that he’s prepared to step way outside his comfort zone.

So much so that he’s done something he vowed he would never do – get an office job. Although granted it’s a little different from the norm: they’ve just put him on plane to West Africa.

Joe’s now working for Pencils of Promise (PoP) after a series of serendipitous events which began after he watched Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize talk.

“I saw Sugata’s talk and was blown away. I thought ‘Oh man, I have to find out how to do that in my classroom’,” he says. “So I took it, tweaked it and played with it a little and in the first week of the new school year in 2013 I just hit the ground running with my 5th graders. I was fortunate to have a lot of admin support behind me and the kids took to it very quickly – it just took off.”

Joe has worked closely with the School in the Cloud team at Newcastle University ever since and when it came to selecting a class to feature as part of the Work Wonders Project collaboration between Sugata, Microsoft and PoP, his was an obvious choice.

Once they’d see him in action running a SOLE with students at Lawrence Intermediate School in New Jersey, USA the PoP team wanted Joe onboard to help set up SOLEs (self organised learning environments) in their schools in Ghana.

When I spoke to him last week he was about to embark on his first trip outside of North America,

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Education | Learning | Newcastle University | Skype | TED Prize

colombia_feature Changing education in Colombia

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SOLE Colombia

Changing education in Colombia


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Partner(s) - SOLE Colombia

  Location: Colombia



“The SOLE community in Colombia is growing. We know something big is coming, and we know this is the paradigm shift our education needs to empower children all over the country.”

That’s the words of Sanjay Fernandes, speaking about the amazing progress that has been made in Colombia in a matter of months.

SOLEs started running in Colombia last year, with incredibly positive results: over 70 sessions took place in public libraries and kiosks in rural areas, supported by 20 SOLE ‘ambassadors’.

This year the SOLE team decided it was time to expand to allow people of all ages to participate in this life-changing learning experience throughout the country.

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“The SOLE community in Colombia is growing. We know something big is coming, and we know this is the paradigm shift our education needs to empower children all over the country.”

That’s the words of Sanjay Fernandes, speaking about the amazing progress that has been made in Colombia in a matter of months.

SOLEs started running in Colombia last year, with incredibly positive results: over 70 sessions took place in public libraries and kiosks in rural areas, supported by 20 SOLE ‘ambassadors’.

This year the SOLE team decided it was time to expand to allow people of all ages to participate in this life-changing learning experience throughout the country.

And they have some powerful allies on board: the Ministry of Technologies and the Ministry of Culture and Colciencias (the government agency responsible for science, technology and innovation). “Their support has been tremendous and working together with them we plan to run SOLEs with over 150,000 children in schools, libraries and public kiosks in rural and urban areas,” says Sanjay.

They are currently at the design stage of this year’s project, including everything they learned from last year’s pilot to make sure SOLEs can adapt to Colombia’s cultural requirements.

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This process involves designing educational tools that allow SOLEs to occur organically, without the need for constant follow-ups, but rather as a method that allows people to discover the answers they need to improve their living standards on their own.

“It is equally important to develop a system in which we are able to receive their data to both measure the impact of SOLE and what needs to be done to improve next year,” explains Sanjay. “Our purpose is to find a way in which SOLE becomes a life-changing agent within their communities,

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Education | Learning

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

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


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  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

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 - Sarah Cossom

  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

The Granny Cloud on tour: first stop, London!


  Author - Sarah Cossom

  Location: London



“The Granny Cloud could become to learning what Skype is to instantaneous video-conferencing.” – Prof Sugata Mitra

Anyone accidentally stumbling upon a gathering occurring just off Liverpool St in London last Saturday could have been forgiven for thinking they’d walked in on a reunion of old friends.

In fact, most of the people in that room – who had travelled from all over the UK and Europe to be there – had never actually met in ‘real life’, but had shared many hours together online, as part of the Granny Cloud*.

The Granny Gathering,

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“The Granny Cloud could become to learning what Skype is to instantaneous video-conferencing.” – Prof Sugata Mitra

Anyone accidentally stumbling upon a gathering occurring just off Liverpool St in London last Saturday could have been forgiven for thinking they’d walked in on a reunion of old friends.

In fact, most of the people in that room – who had travelled from all over the UK and Europe to be there – had never actually met in ‘real life’, but had shared many hours together online, as part of the Granny Cloud*.

The Granny Gathering, organised by Liz Fewings, was a day filled with food, laughter and ideas and the chance to chat with Newcastle University’s Prof Sugata Mitra about the School in the Cloud and how the ‘grannies’ are a vital part of its future.

Technology – the most challenging part of making the School in the Cloud work on a daily basis – was even on our side as we managed to have an excellent Skype connection with Suneeta Kulkarni, research director for the School in the Cloud, who joined us for the entire session from India.

From hearing about learning hairdressing (with truly hair-raising results!) and construction via the Internet in further education from PhD student Cathy Ellis (who is researching the use of SOLEs in this environment), to how children in the USA and Ghana come up with the same answer to a Big Question, there was plenty to discuss.

For example, how YouTube is bringing about a revolution in how we acquire skills. Sugata was imagining a future where retired lawyers and plumbers could be called upon online and raised the question whether this could be a natural extension of the Granny Cloud.

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Big Questions | Comprehension | Grannies | Granny Cloud | Internet | Learning | Newcastle University | Pedagogy | Self-organised Learning | Skype | Sugata Mitra | TED Talk