SOLE: A Parent’s View

Something’s changed in our house recently… internet use by my children is fractionally less gaming and on-demand tv and more educational. There’s been an internet revelation and I think that’s down to SOLE being used at my children’s school.

Unlike my generation, today our children are surrounded by constant online connectivity and like many parents I worry about the detrimental effects of continual access to the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an internet luddite, in fact I love the internet, but I do worry that my children aren’t using it effectively. One barrier is that from an early age we, rightly so, teach our children about the potential dangers of the internet but we don’t necessarily teach them how amazing the internet can be when used safely. My husband and I are great at modelling how to use the internet for managing the mundane aspects of our lives – banking, utility bills, grocery shopping – hardly inspiring stuff, so it’s no wonder that all our boys used the internet for was gaming and tv where they are “safe”.  But recently there has been a slight shift towards a more enriching use.

My 10 year old son, Arthur, has a fascination with the  natural world, in particular Space, which he shares with his grandfather. There is a constant email stream between the two of them and to my delight Arthur can now be regularly found searching through the NASA and ESA websites looking for answers to questions posed by his grandad, relishing when he teaches his grandad something new. For me it has also been lovely watching their relationship grow (and who’d have thought that the internet could facilitate that?) SOLE talks about its Cloud Grannies but don’t dismiss all the Cloud Grandads out there.

Then there’s my 8 year old son, Olly, who is obsessed with all things farming. A little while ago I found him very upset in his bedroom. It had dawned on him that his dream of one day owning a farm was “impossible because we don’t have enough money to buy one”. We agreed that this was true, farms do indeed cost more that his dad and I could afford, however his dream was not necessarily over and I went on to explain about banks and loans and business plans. Tears stopped, job done, good mum! Later that day I found Olly at the kitchen table on my tablet, surrounded by writing paper and farming magazines. He was very busy writing his farm business plan. Using his SOLE-acquired internet skills and confidence he had looked up what exactly a farm business plan entailed and was researching and compiling a list of set-up costings. I was amazed and very proud of him.

So I would like to say a big thank you to SOLE and to my children’s teachers. Through regular SOLE sessions at school my boys have learnt that the internet can be a valuable learning tool and they have acquired the skills and confidence to use the internet for more enriching purposes than just gaming and tv (although they do still feature highly!)

Becca Clarkson, UK (proud mum of Olly & Arthur)

Phaltan: two years on it’s an international affair

Today (3 December 2016) is Phaltan Lab’s 2nd birthday. The Granny Cloud was active at this location for over a year before the lab was set up and today we share this lovely blog from Granny Edna Sackson, who knows the children there well. We find out what happened when her class in Australia linked up with India for some lively sessions over Skype! This summer, she also got the chance to meet the children in person for the first time and you can read more about it at her blog link below.

“Hands on heads. Now shoulders. Where are your shoulders? Well done!”

This is the first time Jess and Tyler, two Aussie Year 6 students, interact via Skype with preschoolers at Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan (KNB), Phaltan as part of the Granny Cloud project. The little ones on the other side stare wide eyed at these two strangers on the screen. Who knows what they they are thinking!

On the Phaltan side, the session is facilitated by 13 year old Shruti, whose English and computer skills were enhanced by her own Granny Cloud experiences over a number of years. She confidently guides, encourages and translates as required. This is part of an experiment to introduce this kind of exposure at a much younger age to gauge its impact.

After a while, the children begin to warm up and join in, first one, then another, as Jess and Tyler slowly introduce the body parts and sing the song “Heads and Shoulders, knees and toes’. Their excitement is evident through their muttered exchange of observations in between… ‘Heads and shoulders… the one in white is joining in!.. knees and toes… oh wow look at the little one in the middle!.. heads and shoulders…they’re getting it!… knees and toes… look, look they’re all doing it!!…’”

It’s an adrenalin rush that I recognise from my own Granny Cloud sessions, even now after all these years, that comes from a rewarding exchange with children when you see it’s going well and they are responding.”

After the session I ask the girls what surprised them. “How quickly they caught on. It was really awesome that we got to teach them. Can’t wait till next week!” And from the other side? Prasana, who’s researching the effects of early interactions of this kind: “It was wonderful. The little ones warmed up so quickly.”

Read more about Edna’s experiences with children and teachers at Phaltan on her blog, What Ed Said:

Blog post: The day I met my kids
Blog post: A different workshop 

Edna is an educator, workshop facilitator and learning consultant. She is also Teaching and Learning Coordinator at an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme( PYP) school in Melbourne, Australia.

Photos courtesy of Edna Sackson.