Endless opportunities


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Guatemala



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Communities | Computers | emerging markets | Endless

paradisegoa2 A little bit of paradise

Paradise School Goa

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Paradise School Goa

A little bit of paradise


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - Paradise School Goa

  Location: India



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Curriculum | Goa | India | School setting | Teaching

Sarah Leonard UK teacher writes in defence of ‘evidence’ for SOLE

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

UK teacher writes in defence of ‘evidence’ for SOLE


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



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

Dear Peter,

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

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

Dear Peter,

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

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KS2 | Sugata Mitra | Teaching | TED | The Guardian

SOLE Cleveland - feature image SOLE Cleveland goes from strength to strength

SOLE Cleveland

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SOLE Cleveland

SOLE Cleveland goes from strength to strength


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Cleveland

  Location: Cleveland



A few weeks ago Jeff McClellan helped facilitate what he describes as a ‘monster SOLE’ – 260 people self-organising to answer the same question at the same time. In fact, this happened twice in one day when 520 adults from 27 branches of Cleveland Public Library came together to reflect on how to engage people in using the library in different ways. The energy and the enthusiasm of the people taking part that day were clearly inspiring.

This ‘monster SOLE’ is what McClellan talks about when asked for a highlight from his SOLE experiences, but it’s clear he’s struggling to choose just one memorable moment from the last 6 months.

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A few weeks ago Jeff McClellan helped facilitate what he describes as a ‘monster SOLE’ – 260 people self-organising to answer the same question at the same time. In fact, this happened twice in one day when 520 adults from 27 branches of Cleveland Public Library came together to reflect on how to engage people in using the library in different ways. The energy and the enthusiasm of the people taking part that day were clearly inspiring.

This ‘monster SOLE’ is what McClellan talks about when asked for a highlight from his SOLE experiences, but it’s clear he’s struggling to choose just one memorable moment from the last 6 months. He could just as easily have described his delight at the fact that schools in the Cleveland Region had performed over 1,000 SOLEs by the end of May (a whole month earlier than they were aiming for).

Or he could have talked about what it’s like to experience a Friday afternoon at Oak Leadership Institute when every single student – from Kindergarten through to Grade 8 – takes part in a SOLE at the same time, with different questions for each class based around one central theme.

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Or his excitement about the number of collaborations he has been involved in, such as with Dr Gina Weisblat at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, who decided to incorporate SOLE into her teaching of community healthcare workers, health professions affinity community (HPAC) afterschool programs across the state of Ohio, in their AmeriCorps program. Or the fact that John Carroll University now uses SOLE as part of its Non-profit Master Degree Program by integrating it into the Masters Course in Quantitative Statistics and Non-profit skills for Cultural Competency.

Or the success of some training he ran at the end of a busy school week of testing,

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Cleveland Public Library | Cognition | Collaboration | Health | Health Care | Kindergarten | Oak Leadership Institute | Schools | Teachers | Teaching

Grannies to the core


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Pune



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grannies | India | TED Prize

as if by magic - feature As if by magic

TED Lab - Chandrakona

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TED Lab - Chandrakona

As if by magic


  Author - School in the Cloud

  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

SOLE inspires teenager to follow her dreams


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Mumbai



Gouri Ajay Chindarkar was one of the first children in India to experience SOLE, in her village in Maharashtra. Seven years later, she’s studying for a degree in Computer Engineering at Mumbai University.

The 19-year-old says SOLE has played a ‘big part’ in making her life easier. Researching and quickly understanding any subject comes naturally to her and she is also able to communicate confidently with people from all walks of life. “In my opinion it is a better way to learn,” she says. “SOLE gives us very practical knowledge which can be used for our day-to-day life.

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Gouri Ajay Chindarkar was one of the first children in India to experience SOLE, in her village in Maharashtra. Seven years later, she’s studying for a degree in Computer Engineering at Mumbai University.

The 19-year-old says SOLE has played a ‘big part’ in making her life easier. Researching and quickly understanding any subject comes naturally to her and she is also able to communicate confidently with people from all walks of life. “In my opinion it is a better way to learn,” she says. “SOLE gives us very practical knowledge which can be used for our day-to-day life. It is the perfect place for those who want to learn in their own way and better their understanding.”

Gouri is in the 2nd year of her degree, which she tells me is ‘going very well’. She’s not sure exactly what career path to take when she graduates yet, but is considering working as a developer, testing and designing programmes.

Unlike in the UK, where recent figures show just 14% of students on computer engineering degrees are female (there are similar issues in the US), on Gouri’s course it is nearly a 50/50 split.

“I was interested in computers from my childhood and very early I decided that I want to become a computer engineer – when I was about 12/13-years-old,” she says. “SOLE is the main platform that helped me a lot to come close my dream.”

Granny Cloud sessions

The first SOLE at Shirgaon was set up in 2009 with the main emphasis on Skype sessions with e-mediators – the newly formed “Granny Cloud”. The main problem the children faced initially was language, as all their lessons were in Marathi but the Internet and the Granny Cloud sessions were in English.

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Computer Engineering | Granny Cloud | India

cleveland_feature Inspiring future community leaders through SOLE

SOLE Cleveland

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SOLE Cleveland

Inspiring future community leaders through SOLE


  Author - School in the Cloud

  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.

cleveland

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

Korakati - feature Korakati: where learning happens against the odds

TED Lab - Korakati

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TED Lab - Korakati

Korakati: where learning happens against the odds


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Korakati

  Location: Korakati



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natural challenges

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

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

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 - School in the Cloud

  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