SOLE gets royal seal of approval


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Korakati



You know how most conferences are just a little dull and you end up daydreaming at least once during yet another Powerpoint presentation? Well, not this one. From the outset, when the hall was filled with the children’s voices singing their ‘welcome song’ written and composed by lab co-ordinator Madhura Rajvanski, it was evident this conference was going to be a bit different from the norm.

All the grannies, co-ordinators, teachers and School in the Cloud team gathered in Phaltan, Maharashtra last Thursday for the conference which marked the end of an amazing week visiting the TED Prize research labs in Korakati,

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You know how most conferences are just a little dull and you end up daydreaming at least once during yet another Powerpoint presentation? Well, not this one. From the outset, when the hall was filled with the children’s voices singing their ‘welcome song’ written and composed by lab co-ordinator Madhura Rajvanski, it was evident this conference was going to be a bit different from the norm.

All the grannies, co-ordinators, teachers and School in the Cloud team gathered in Phaltan, Maharashtra last Thursday for the conference which marked the end of an amazing week visiting the TED Prize research labs in Korakati, Chandrakona and Gocharan. We’d travelled by bus, boat, car, plane and van rickshaw and clocked up more hours on the road in under a week than most of us would do in a month (Sugata put it into context by saying we’d travelled the equivalent of Newcastle to Athens!) and yet everyone was still upbeat and full of energy.

In each lab we visited, we were blown away by the generosity and welcome we received, but at Phaltan, where the lab is located in Pragat Shikshan Sanstha’s Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan Marathi medium school, it was taken up another level.

As we arrived, handmade necklaces were placed around our necks and the children greeted us in their own languages, dressed in amazing finery to represent the diverse cultures and religions within the school.

Parents had been up since 6am to create artworks such as this peacock below, made from powdered paint, and the walls of the classrooms were adorned with everything from flamingos to flowers. We were blown away by the creativity of the whole community, as well as by their amazing culinary talents. We not only enjoyed sweet treats in the wonderful Diwali room,

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Grannies | 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 - School in the Cloud

  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

Grannies on tour: India


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Chandrakona



“It is only years later that people will realise the effects of the Granny Cloud on the lives of children. It will be a story of patience and unassuming achievement” – Professor Sugata Mitra

The Granny Cloud is going on tour this month to India. On February 13 2016, a number of these dedicated volunteers are flying out to meet the children and co-ordinators they have been talking to via Skype for years. Only a handful have ever actually met face-to-face.

Along with a conference in Phaltan where educators, children and grannies from all over the world will be sharing their expertise and stories,

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“It is only years later that people will realise the effects of the Granny Cloud on the lives of children. It will be a story of patience and unassuming achievement” – Professor Sugata Mitra

The Granny Cloud is going on tour this month to India. On February 13 2016, a number of these dedicated volunteers are flying out to meet the children and co-ordinators they have been talking to via Skype for years. Only a handful have ever actually met face-to-face.

Along with a conference in Phaltan where educators, children and grannies from all over the world will be sharing their expertise and stories, they will also be touring four or the five Indian TED SOLE research labs – Gocharan, Korakati, Chandrakona and Phaltan to find out more about what happens behind the scenes.

Professor Sugata Mitra will join Dr Suneeta Kulkarni and colleagues in welcoming these amazing individuals to India, where they are sure to go down a storm with the children and teachers they meet on their travels. Look out for updates on the blog, Facebook and Twitter during their trip!

And for everyone’s viewing pleasure, a film some of you may have seen before, but Liz Fewing’s ‘jelly moment’ went down in history so we thought we’d share it again! Liz is already in travelling in India and she’ll be one of the grannies sharing their experience with us.

Thanks to Jerry Rothwell for his kind permission to use this video.

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Grannies | Granny Cloud | Skype | TED SOLE

Long distance friendship is the perfect medicine


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Hyderabad



Most trainee doctors are driven by a desire to help others, but for Shahrukh Khan, his motivation is also deeply personal.

He was just six-years-old when his father died of a heart attack in India. Many years later, when he had only just begun his degree studies in the Philippines, he lost his mother in the same way. It was at this point that Shahrukh decided to become a surgeon or cardiologist.

It has been a long and complicated road to reach the point he is at today – just two years away from becoming a qualified doctor.

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Most trainee doctors are driven by a desire to help others, but for Shahrukh Khan, his motivation is also deeply personal.

He was just six-years-old when his father died of a heart attack in India. Many years later, when he had only just begun his degree studies in the Philippines, he lost his mother in the same way. It was at this point that Shahrukh decided to become a surgeon or cardiologist.

It has been a long and complicated road to reach the point he is at today – just two years away from becoming a qualified doctor. When he was just 13-years-old, he met someone who, although neither of them knew it at the time, would change his life. That person was retired teacher Liz Fewings, who was Skyping in from her home in London, UK to his school’s new computer lab in Hyderabad, India.

Eight years on, she can still recall their first meeting. “The Granny Cloud session had been arranged through Suneeta (Kulkarni) and I was expecting a group of kindergarten children,” she explains. “I had prepared to read Jasper’s Beanstalk and had my trowel and seeds and everything ready when suddenly in walks a group of teenagers! Suneeta was laughing like a drain but I went ahead with it anyway – they seemed quite happy!”

Shahrukh was put in charge of organising his 9th grade group, which didn’t really take off, but he and Liz continued to talk to each other. He made the most of any opportunity to be part of this early self organised learning environment (SOLE) to improve his English and general knowledge skills.

medium_c954397b-38bb-4e36-8e65-c28a60d93376Shahrukh in the Philippines today

When he was looking to study for a degree,

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Doctors | Grannies | Granny Cloud | India | Medicine

sole_spain_feature Hola! SOLE Spain is born

SOLE Spain

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SOLE Spain

Hola! SOLE Spain is born


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Spain

  Location: Madrid



SOLE Spain has just come into the world, with the aim of creating a new way of training teachers in the future.

Javier Bronchalo, who is the brainchild behind this project, took inspiration from Sugata’s self organised learning environments (SOLEs) to come up with the idea of bringing people together who are interested in disruptive education processes.

SOLE Spain’s goal is to bring the country’s teacher training universities together to create better self-management processes and help empower students to take control of their own learning, SOLE-style.

“The training of future teachers needs restructuring due to learners having different needs now in our ever-changing society,” says Javier.

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SOLE Spain has just come into the world, with the aim of creating a new way of training teachers in the future.

Javier Bronchalo, who is the brainchild behind this project, took inspiration from Sugata’s self organised learning environments (SOLEs) to come up with the idea of bringing people together who are interested in disruptive education processes.

SOLE Spain’s goal is to bring the country’s teacher training universities together to create better self-management processes and help empower students to take control of their own learning, SOLE-style.

“The training of future teachers needs restructuring due to learners having different needs now in our ever-changing society,” says Javier. “We’re inviting everyone interested in disruptive processes in education to join us, where they will experience first-hand the creation and implementation of an educational project based on Prof Sugata Mitra’s work.”

SOLE Spain is using the global School in the Cloud project as a basis for its activities, which anyone can participate in anywhere in the world.

Javier told me that trainee teachers and individuals from other relevant careers will be coming together all over Spain to join in the experience of creating the SOLE Spain project. “We will be working out a methodology together based on Big Questions in primary and secondary schools,” he explains. “The process of how students approach self-regulated learning will be also observed as part of teacher training.”

The team is currently looking to set up a pilot project in different universities in Madrid and possibly Barcelona, to use as a basis to scale up this project with other universities across Spain in September 2016.

Between October and December last year, SOLE Spain’s initial work was in collaboration with trainee teachers at three universities in Madrid: Autonomous University,

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Arts | Fine Arts | Primary ICT | Teacher Training | Universities

Walking out of the forest into a new world


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Mumbai



SOLE is touching parts of the world that few ever get the chance to experience. One such place is the remote tribal regions of Maharashtra in India.

It took over three years to get Internet connectivity to SOLE Wada so children here can participate in Granny Cloud sessions, but they’ve been making the most of the opportunity ever since.

For some of these children, just getting here is a major feat: those living in the tribal villages travel for miles on foot with a schoolteacher from their homes in the forest. They chat with the ‘grannies’ and explore the world through the Internet every week,

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SOLE is touching parts of the world that few ever get the chance to experience. One such place is the remote tribal regions of Maharashtra in India.

It took over three years to get Internet connectivity to SOLE Wada so children here can participate in Granny Cloud sessions, but they’ve been making the most of the opportunity ever since.

For some of these children, just getting here is a major feat: those living in the tribal villages travel for miles on foot with a schoolteacher from their homes in the forest. They chat with the ‘grannies’ and explore the world through the Internet every week, staying overnight at Wada afterwards.

Although Wada is only 120 km from Mumbai it’s in a tribal region and they struggle with resources – this is the only place QUEST Wada could get connectivity in the area.

Most of these children, who are between seven and 14-years-old, attend local Marathi medium schools. In each group there are also a couple of children who live in Wada and have learnt basic vocabulary and computer skills at their English medium school so can help the other children.

Pralhad Kathole co-ordinates SOLE Wada from his home using his own laptop. His aim is for the children to learn English by immersion in the language rather than through fee-paying English medium schools.

Pralhad says he’s already seen a difference in the children’s English skills since it started a few months ago and that although the tribal children were reluctant to come at first, now they love it!

‘Joyful’ interaction

One of the ‘grannies’ who has been chatting with the children since last October is Sheilagh Guthrie, who lives in France. “It is truly joyful interacting with these children,” she says.

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Grannies | Granny Cloud | India

puja_feature Puja Ganguly: SOLE is like ‘flying kites’

TED Lab - Gocharan

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TED Lab - Gocharan

Puja Ganguly: SOLE is like ‘flying kites’


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Gocharan

  Location: Gocharan



When I was a small girl I liked flying kites. They gave me a sense of freedom. As I kept my first steps in school I started missing them. School was fun but the studying part was not. I only remember memorizing books and climbing up the grades. Strangely I never knew why I was reading them and why I don’t remember any of it now. Since then I have been searching a way out.

One fine day when I was struggling through the hard chains of our educational system, I came to know about ‘School in the Cloud’.

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When I was a small girl I liked flying kites. They gave me a sense of freedom. As I kept my first steps in school I started missing them. School was fun but the studying part was not. I only remember memorizing books and climbing up the grades. Strangely I never knew why I was reading them and why I don’t remember any of it now. Since then I have been searching a way out.

One fine day when I was struggling through the hard chains of our educational system, I came to know about ‘School in the Cloud’. I applied for the position of coordinator of Gocharan SinC lab 0 and I got it. When I entered this organization I felt like a newborn as I couldn’t understand any part of it. Suneeta Kulkarni mam was the only person who kept me awake and made me strive forward.

I still remember my first day here. I left my house at 10.30 in the morning to reach the station. Local train was the most convenient way to reach Gocharan as it takes more than two hours by road. After 45 mins a train arrived at the station full of passengers. I couldn’t enter the train as most of the passengers were blocking the entrance. It usually stops for 45 seconds. I ran here and there to find an access.

Finally I could hop into one compartment. I was standing near the door entry as all the seats were occupied. Everytime I met Suneeta mam we never use to fall short of conversations talking about my deadly struggle in the local train. Sometimes she felt so bad that she would pick me up from my place to save the day!

As soon as I reached the place it made me remember my slum project experience which we had to do in class 12.

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Gocharan

new_language_feature SOLE? It’s like learning a new language

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

SOLE? It’s like learning a new language


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: London



SOLE is increasingly being used in many different settings, including some where it might not seem a natural fit, such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Traditionally an area which relies on individual learning or teacher-led in a classroom, it was little surprise that Prof Sugata Mitra caused a bit of a stir when he gave a keynote speech about learning needing to be far more self-organised at an IATEFL conference.

But this was actually the catalyst for a pilot study carried out between SOLE Central and International House in London to look at the potential for using SOLE to help adults learn English as a foreign language.

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SOLE is increasingly being used in many different settings, including some where it might not seem a natural fit, such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Traditionally an area which relies on individual learning or teacher-led in a classroom, it was little surprise that Prof Sugata Mitra caused a bit of a stir when he gave a keynote speech about learning needing to be far more self-organised at an IATEFL conference.

But this was actually the catalyst for a pilot study carried out between SOLE Central and International House in London to look at the potential for using SOLE to help adults learn English as a foreign language.

Although this was only a small study, early findings suggest that while SOLE is not suitable for teaching higher level grammar, it can be effective in terms of language fluency and confidence, especially with less able students. One particular student whose command of English was notably lower than the rest seemed to flourish in this environment. After just four weeks, he was able to stand up in front of the class and give a three minute presentation without any difficulty.

medium_203ca1ba-b1d5-4734-bf61-58f16b6a78ba

Eighteen multilingual students with an average age of 24-years-old from various different countries – including Japan, Colombia and France – took part in daily one hour-long SOLE sessions over a four week period in 2015. The sessions were run by three International House teachers who had between six months and eight years’ teaching experience.

They followed the usual Big Question format where the teacher sets the question then the students are given 40 minutes to work in small self-organised groups to come up with the answer, following up with a short presentation of their findings.

To make it feel less like a traditional classroom,

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Education | Teaching English | TEFL

Greenland: the land where snow and SOLE come together


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Greenland



It seems fitting that in the lead up to Christmas we should take a visit to the most northerly SOLEs we know: in Greenland.

Nestled just beneath the Arctic Circle where spectacular Northern Lights displays are a common occurrence, children in two villages – Atammik and Kangaamiut – are learning more about the world beyond their classroom through the Granny Cloud.

These remote Inuit communities rely on fishing and tourism and the region is sparsely populated – each school has only around 20 children. It’s a very different environment from the usual Granny Cloud locations and as a result a ‘granny cluster’ of four volunteers was created to Skype in each week from all over the world to talk to children from Grade 1 upwards.

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It seems fitting that in the lead up to Christmas we should take a visit to the most northerly SOLEs we know: in Greenland.

Nestled just beneath the Arctic Circle where spectacular Northern Lights displays are a common occurrence, children in two villages – Atammik and Kangaamiut – are learning more about the world beyond their classroom through the Granny Cloud.

These remote Inuit communities rely on fishing and tourism and the region is sparsely populated – each school has only around 20 children. It’s a very different environment from the usual Granny Cloud locations and as a result a ‘granny cluster’ of four volunteers was created to Skype in each week from all over the world to talk to children from Grade 1 upwards.

I spoke to Anna Bolethe Rakel Heilmann, who originally brought the grannies to Greenland, via Skype from her workplace in Maniitsoq, a haven for ski enthusiasts. The snow there is currently about half a metre thick, with skiing now possible on the small fjords inbetween the islands. Usual transportation, however, is by boat, plane or helicopter.

Last week Anna set foot on the sea ice for the first time this winter, an experience she says always makes her a ‘little nervous’ as she’s about to cross, especially when she can hear the ice cracking beneath!

While we were speaking she had to shed a layer of clothing, remarking that, at -15 Celsius, it wasn’t really that cold (it can be more than -20 during the day at this time of year). It’s worth noting that they use the term ‘day’ loosely in Greenland this time of year as there’s not a lot of daylight to go round: in Anna’s hometown the sun rises around 10.30am and is on its way down again by about 1.30pm.

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Granny Cloud | Northern Lights

SOLE NYC feature image What’s the code for New York?

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SOLE NYC, SOLE Central

What’s the code for New York?


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE NYC, SOLE Central

  Location: New York City



A leading kids’ coding expert recently lamented that teachers are making computer class ‘way too boring’. Well, he obviously hadn’t sat in on a SOLE Code session recently!

As part of international Hour of Code week, two SOLE classrooms 3,000 miles apart linked up for joint sessions where they not only tackled the Big Question: What is a computer bug? but they also bugged and debugged a lite version of the infamous Flappy Bird game.

“Creativity is key to successful coding,” explains Dr Anne Preston, who is part of the collaborative team at Newcastle University running these sessions.

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A leading kids’ coding expert recently lamented that teachers are making computer class ‘way too boring’. Well, he obviously hadn’t sat in on a SOLE Code session recently!

As part of international Hour of Code week, two SOLE classrooms 3,000 miles apart linked up for joint sessions where they not only tackled the Big Question: What is a computer bug? but they also bugged and debugged a lite version of the infamous Flappy Bird game.

“Creativity is key to successful coding,” explains Dr Anne Preston, who is part of the collaborative team at Newcastle University running these sessions. “You can teach coding by getting children to sit in front of a computer on their own, but where’s the fun in that? By using self-organised learning, the children collaborate to devise questions they want to solve, and also come up with their own answers. That way, the learning really stays with them as it’s tailor-made for each different group.”

On Wednesday 9 December, children from Amberley Primary School near New York, North Tyneside, UK had the chance to learn more about computational thinking and develop their coding skills. They were working alongside fellow students in their more famous namesake SOLE NYC at John B Russwurm PS197 elementary school in Harlem, the location of Sugata’s Mitra’s latest TED SOLE research lab.

Dr Shaimaa Lazem, who leads the joint coding project between Newcastle University’s SOLE Central and Open Lab, was extremely pleased with how everything went. “The children collaborated really well,” she says. “They even thought of something we hadn’t considered, designing their own ice-breaker by gathering in front of the big screen and asking each other questions about Newcastle, New York, and a typical school day.”

During the follow-up SOLE session “What is a computer bug?” on the Friday,

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Amberley Primary School | Coding | Flappy Bird Game | TED