six_year_olds_india_feature SOLE comes naturally to six-year-olds in India

TED Lab - Phaltan

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TED Lab - Phaltan

SOLE comes naturally to six-year-olds in India


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - TED Lab - Phaltan

  Location: Phaltan



Non-digital natives never cease to be amazed at how quickly small children learn to interact with technology, especially since many of us hadn’t even encountered computers until we were in our teens or older.

And at Area 4 Phaltan SOLE lab in India researchers are seeing first hand just how naturally this comes to very young children just six and seven-years-old.

Phaltan is an important research centre for SOLE. It is one of two School in the Cloud labs created inside a school and here Grades 1 to 7 are all involved in self-organized learning. Not only did the children help design the lab,

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Non-digital natives never cease to be amazed at how quickly small children learn to interact with technology, especially since many of us hadn’t even encountered computers until we were in our teens or older.

And at Area 4 Phaltan SOLE lab in India researchers are seeing first hand just how naturally this comes to very young children just six and seven-years-old.

Phaltan is an important research centre for SOLE. It is one of two School in the Cloud labs created inside a school and here Grades 1 to 7 are all involved in self-organized learning. Not only did the children help design the lab, they also take responsibility for it and have participated in many different kinds of ‘experiments’, including connecting with George Stephenson High School in the UK for joint SOLE sessions.

A key focus of research at this lab is to see what happens with the younger children. While early intervention is effective in most educational circumstances, School in the Cloud research director Dr Suneeta Kulkarni and one of the grannies, Prasanna Hulikavi, (now on a break to work on her doctoral research) were particularly keen to see how SOLE would impact Grades 1 and 2.

“We realized straight away that they had none of the inhibitions of the older children,” explains Suneeta. “From their very first day in the lab they just rushed to the computers to try them out – they had no worries about breaking anything or doing it wrong. The teachers were amazed how quickly found Google and began searching without anyone telling them anything.”

Suneeta told me how the teachers at A4 Phaltan have embraced SOLE even though they don’t completely understand it, instinctively recognising that it’s working for the children. “There was one teacher who was very strongly against it and was very angry with me the first time we welcomed the children to the lab and told him he should ‘stay away’,” explains Suneeta.

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Digital Technology | Granny Cloud | Technology | WhatsApp

uganda_feature Hello Sugata, Hello Uganda!

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central, Project Hello World

Hello Sugata, Hello Uganda!


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central, Project Hello World

  Location: Uganda



Most of us take Skype for granted these days, but for a group of children in sub-Saharan Africa it’s nothing short of magic.

Yesterday morning Sugata beamed into Hello Hub Uganda to talk to a group of children who had never used this technology before. Initially, there was a lot of nervous giggling while it sunk in that when they waved, this strange man on the computer screen responded to them in real time.

However, within a matter of minutes the community at St James Primary School gained in confidence, with one student asking Sugata where he was in the world.

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Most of us take Skype for granted these days, but for a group of children in sub-Saharan Africa it’s nothing short of magic.

Yesterday morning Sugata beamed into Hello Hub Uganda to talk to a group of children who had never used this technology before. Initially, there was a lot of nervous giggling while it sunk in that when they waved, this strange man on the computer screen responded to them in real time.

However, within a matter of minutes the community at St James Primary School gained in confidence, with one student asking Sugata where he was in the world. When he responded with a description of the harsh reality of weather in North East England this time of year, their faces were a mixture of fear and disgust – they decided pretty quickly they weren’t keen on the idea of winter!

“It’s a lovely moment when they realise they’re actually talking to a real person who can see and hear them too,” explains Katrin Macmillan, CEO and founder of Projects for All, which is installing these Hello Hubs – solar-powered outdoor computer stations – across sub-Saharan Africa.

But this wasn’t just memorable for the children – it was also a significant event for Katrin Macmillan and Roland Wells. They were inspired to set up Hello Hubs after watching Sugata’s TED talk ‘Build a School in the Cloud’ so having him Skype into the project was a dream come true.

“Seeing children access the Internet for the very first time is a moving and humbling event to witness and it’s great to link Sugata into a Hub as he’s the reason we’re here,” explains Katrin. “Without him we wouldn’t know so much about child-led education and his research helped to define this project.

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Africa | Environment | Skype | Technology

first_ted_prize_feature First TED Prize lab has global reach

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central, TED Lab - George Stephenson High School

First TED Prize lab has global reach


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central, TED Lab - George Stephenson High School

  Location: Newcastle Upon Tyne



It hardly seems two years ago that George Stephenson High School opened the doors of the first School in the Cloud lab in the world. Head of Design and Art Amy-Leigh Hope, who was there from the beginning, shares some of her highlights below. You can also watch a new video of Amy in action in a SOLE session, filmed as part of Jerry Rothwell’s upcoming documentary The School in the Cloud.

Some of Amy’s highlights since the opening:

Interacting with other schools – UK and across the world

“I have been lucky enough to meet and work with many amazing people,

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It hardly seems two years ago that George Stephenson High School opened the doors of the first School in the Cloud lab in the world. Head of Design and Art Amy-Leigh Hope, who was there from the beginning, shares some of her highlights below. You can also watch a new video of Amy in action in a SOLE session, filmed as part of Jerry Rothwell’s upcoming documentary The School in the Cloud.

Some of Amy’s highlights since the opening:

Interacting with other schools – UK and across the world

“I have been lucky enough to meet and work with many amazing people, from Newcastle University to schools in America, Australia and beyond,” says Amy. “We have Skyped into a SOLE session alongside schools in New Jersey, had visitors from Australia and shared many ideas, resources and experiences.”

One of her favourite sessions was linking up with a local middle school to take part in a joint science SOLE with Year 7 children around the Big Question ‘Can science solve world hunger?’. “Being pestered by the children for more lessons like this afterwards was a very proud moment.”

Seeing the room grow and develop

Amy says the room has gone from strength to strength since it opened – so much so that it’s now difficult to get in for a session as it’s often fully booked! “I know I am lucky to work in a school where teachers and senior management totally embrace SOLE,” says Amy. “Working alongside such a dynamic team has developed my own practice and created a buzz in the school among both staff and students.”

Skyping into India

Last year Amy’s Year 7 class Skyped into Phaltan SOLE lab in India,

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TED Prize

Africa’s got SOLE


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Ghana



If you’d told Joe Jamison a year ago that instead of standing in front of his students as usual this term he’d be sitting on a dusty floor in an African village drinking from a fresh coconut, he probably would’ve laughed you out of his classroom.

But that’s exactly where he found himself this September, as part of his new role as pedagogy innovation specialist for Pencils of Promise (PoP). I spoke to Joe just before he went for the blog and his story touched so many people that I caught with him again to find out how it went.

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If you’d told Joe Jamison a year ago that instead of standing in front of his students as usual this term he’d be sitting on a dusty floor in an African village drinking from a fresh coconut, he probably would’ve laughed you out of his classroom.

But that’s exactly where he found himself this September, as part of his new role as pedagogy innovation specialist for Pencils of Promise (PoP). I spoke to Joe just before he went for the blog and his story touched so many people that I caught with him again to find out how it went.

“It was such a good trip but it’s almost too hard to put words around it,” says Joe. “I try to paint a picture to explain it to people and just can’t do it justice. Before I went, people working in international education told me what to expect and I couldn’t get my head around it and now that I know for myself, I’m having difficulty getting other people to understand what it’s like!”

Joe’s focus is on educational programs but when he saw the situation first hand in Ghana, he realised he had to take a few steps backwards. “I saw the structures they were using to teach in and realised I was looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in practice: just after physiological needs is to feel safe, so before learning is even a thought for these children we’ve got to step back and look at the basics first,” he says.

School facilities in Ghana are often pretty rudimentary: it’s not unusual for children to have their lessons under the shade of a mango tree with a chalkboard pinned to it. Joe tells me how PoP is doing a tremendous job by building safe,

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Africa | Education

One small step for a frog, but a giant leap for Cambodia


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Location: Cambodia



Have you heard the story about the frog in the well? Well, for Chantha Poeng this Khmer proverb perfectly illustrates why School in the Cloud is so important for Cambodia.

The Frog in the Well (Kong Keb Knong Ondong) knows nothing of great oceans and has a very narrow view of the world. He is king of all he sees and never jumps out; the well is ‘good enough’ for him.

“I want these children to stop being that frog – to get out and experience what life is like elsewhere,” explains Chantha. “This is a chance to experiment,

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Have you heard the story about the frog in the well? Well, for Chantha Poeng this Khmer proverb perfectly illustrates why School in the Cloud is so important for Cambodia.

The Frog in the Well (Kong Keb Knong Ondong) knows nothing of great oceans and has a very narrow view of the world. He is king of all he sees and never jumps out; the well is ‘good enough’ for him.

“I want these children to stop being that frog – to get out and experience what life is like elsewhere,” explains Chantha. “This is a chance to experiment, to know and learn new things and have a conversation with the outside world.”

Chantha is the teacher at the School in the Cloud just outside Battambang. It’s the first time we’ve ‘virtually’ met and yet we spend a lot of our time laughing on Skype like we’ve known each other for years. It’s easy to see why the children are so keen to learn with her.

But she has a serious side too: she challenges the young people who come through these doors, encouraging them to be more than they ever thought possible. This approach is a sharp contrast to the country’s traditional, authoritative teaching methods which focus on teachers giving the answers and students learning by rote.

The School in the Cloud, which is run through the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT), is based in a fantastic recycled classroom which includes glass bottle walls and painted tyres and is designed to inspire children to think differently about their education.

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Just two weeks ago the Granny Cloud started to ‘beam’ into Cambodia for the first time, bringing much excitement and confusion along with it. Chantha tells me how the children ran to the wall,

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Education | Granny Cloud | Skype

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 - School in the Cloud

  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 - School in the Cloud

  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

einstein_feature Bringing Einstein into education

SOLE Central

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SOLE Central

Bringing Einstein into education


  Author - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Central

  Location: London



It’s all very well Sugata going into schools, shaking things up and then leaving the teachers to it, but what’s it like from a headteacher’s point of view?

Headteacher John Grove shares his thoughts after Sugata visited his school, Belleville Primary School in Clapham, London, to carry out SOLEs (self organised learning environments) with Years 3, 4 and 5 (seven to 10-year-olds).

“The SOLEs that took place were not quite like the ones we’re used to,” he says. “Sugata wanted to try something a little different and see if the children could answer higher level questions from Science A-Level and GCSE exam papers by working in SOLEs.

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It’s all very well Sugata going into schools, shaking things up and then leaving the teachers to it, but what’s it like from a headteacher’s point of view?

Headteacher John Grove shares his thoughts after Sugata visited his school, Belleville Primary School in Clapham, London, to carry out SOLEs (self organised learning environments) with Years 3, 4 and 5 (seven to 10-year-olds).

“The SOLEs that took place were not quite like the ones we’re used to,” he says. “Sugata wanted to try something a little different and see if the children could answer higher level questions from Science A-Level and GCSE exam papers by working in SOLEs. He had recently conducted the same experiment in Jakarta and Gateshead and we were excited to see how the children at Belleville would fare.”

John says to begin with the children were a little uncertain about their ability to answer an A-Level or GCSE question. However, once Sugata asked the class if they thought they could come up with an answer if they were able to use the internet in groups, they felt a lot more confident!

‘Pure SOLE’

He describes what occurred during the visit as a ‘pure SOLE’. “By this I mean one with an open question, not one restricted to a specific class, topic or theme,” he explains. “It was also ‘pure’ in the sense that the adults did not participate or even tour round the classroom. We try to keep our SOLEs pure – our questions, however, relate to the topic or theme that is currently being covered by the class and are usually done at the beginning or the end of a topic or unit of work.”

All classes involved in SOLEs at the school consist of around 30 pupils,

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Schools | Teaching

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 - School in the Cloud

  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 - School in the Cloud

  Partner(s) - SOLE Mexico

  Location: Mexico City



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Oscar,

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Granny Cloud | Language | Learning | Skype | Spanish