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Granny Cloud Convention 2016 Diary

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The Granny Cloud - School in the Cloud Convention: India 2016

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Granny Cloud Convention 2016 Diary

  1. 1. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 1 Grannies make a difference! The Granny Cloud - SinC Convention: India 2016 A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni
  2. 2. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 2 Grannies make a difference! Granny Cloud Convention Week India Feb. 2016 A Diary The children play out a Granny session!
  3. 3. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 3 Foreword: A bit about this ‘report’… Last year this time [Feb. 2016] was a very special time. Grannies from many different places had gathered in India for the Granny Cloud Convention. We were all on a high. A dream had come through. We had ‘known’ each other through skype and email and FaceBook; but there is a special, different kind of joy in meeting face to face. In reaching out to hug a friend with whom you have shared confidences and concerns, laughed and teased at faux pas committed, commiserated with at sessions falling through, and most of all, have taken joy together, in the children’s progress and achievements. We missed all those who hadn’t been able to come, but knew they were with us in spirit, and the children asked about their ‘absent’ grannies everywhere we went… Before we knew it; Convention week had come and gone…! Having lived in anticipation of it for several months, and it having become my ‘almost’ exclusive task at that time; it was hard to believe that it was over. In the weeks immediately following it, there was a flurry of activity on FB as the grannies talked about their experiences and shared pictures with Grannies that hadn’t been able to come. A small group of Grannies stayed on after the convention making the most of their India trip to visit other locations, including a spot of sightseeing as well. I spent a lot of that time with them as well and we discussed building on the relationships forged, and the insights gained so that the Granny Cloud and the School in the Cloud could move ahead. One key part of these discussions was that we should attempt to document and share with the grannies and other people [perhaps some prospective grannies?] who might be interested in the happenings, as well as the understanding and appreciation for the ground reality we gained as we moved from one School in the Cloud lab to another. That’s what this ‘diary’ hopes to do. In the process, I hope it will give those who did attend a chance to relive some of those moments. And for those who couldn’t join us… I hope this will give them a flavour of all that happened.
  4. 4. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 4 So if you are expecting typical conference proceedings, I hope you won’t be disappointed! Nor is it entirely chronological. For example, some of the ‘social events’ have been brought together to give you a sense of the fun and frolic that accompanied the hectic and sometimes exhausting travel to each of the sites. All the Indian SinC learning labs presentations have been clubbed together even though they happened on different days. Information from the presentations spread across convention week have been summarized, and we have included loads of pictures and clips contributed by many who were there. A big Thank you to all of them! So…. Read it from beginning to end, dip in on any page, linger over a photo… as you like. I hope it will help share those moments, and for those of you who wonder what the Granny Cloud is all about…. I hope it will give you a flavour and tell you what we are all about… As I sign off for today, the Grannies on Tour 2017 has begun! We have already been to the independent Granny Cloud centres in Varanasi [GLC & PJIS] and will be off to visit Wada [QUEST], and Phaltan [KNB – PSS] in March. But more about that another time…  This day, last year… Suneeta 18 Feb. 2017
  5. 5. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 5 Sugata won the TED Prize in Feb. 2013. “My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. I also invite you, wherever you are, to create your own miniature child-driven learning environments and share your discoveries.” Sugata’s award went towards building 7 School in the labs in India and the UK. Each of these labs came with their own set of challenges and opportunities. These were highlighted during the presentations that formed part of the visits to the labs as well as some on the main conference day at Phaltan [KNB - PSS] on the 18th of Feb. 2016. In Feb. 2016, The Granny Cloud had its 3rd face to face meeting in the 7 years since it began in 2009… In fact, it was a whole Convention Week! Come along for a glimpse of what happened… Sugata at TED in 2013
  6. 6. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 6 Diary Contents If you are looking for something specific  Foreword - A bit about this ‘report’…  A bit about the Granny Cloud  Just an idea! And a casual invitation thrown out on FB  Preparatory Months The Countdown begins!  A Get together or two & The Sights of Calcutta Each day of Convention week brought with it a new adventure: And a special treat!  DAY 1 – Gocharan 14th Feb. 2016  Presentation Summary – Puja  DAY 2 – Korakati 15th Feb. 2016  Presentation Summary – Aniket & Milan  DAY 3 – Chandrakona 16th Feb. 2016  Presentation Summary – Joydev & Sumita  SinC Lab at A3 – Kalkaji  SinC Lab at A4 – Phaltan  No rest for these Grannies – It’s Travel Day!  DAY 4 – Phaltan 18th Feb. 2016 CONFERENCE DAY!  Conference Presentation Summaries  Not quite over yet!  Not a goodbye, but a promise to come again…  Party time
  7. 7. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 7  And for a few days after…  A Saree Party  In and around Pune  A Quick trip to NEHS  On holiday  Annexures  Agenda  Speaker information  List of other key delegates  The Granny Cloud Core Team  Acknowledgements Come join us….
  8. 8. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 8 A bit about the Granny Cloud The Granny Cloud is closely associated with what is now referred to as The School in the Cloud. The brainchild of Prof. Sugata Mitra, it was born in 2009 in response to our experiences while setting up the first Self Organized Learning Environments [SOLEs] in India. These were in Hyderabad [formerly Andhra Pradesh, now Telengana] and Shirgaon [in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, which also possessed the privilege of being one of the earliest ‘Hole in the Wall’ sites, way back in 1999.] [Ref. OGEF project 2008-2009 https://www.academia.edu/3063029/The_use_of_self_organizing_systems_of_learning_for_i mproving_the_quality_of_schooling_for_children_in_remote_areas]. Both, the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ and SOLEs were based on the premise that children would be able to learn on their own with no adult intervention. And they did learn many things… to use computers, to download & play games, use programmes to make music or paint pictures, and even learn some English. Yet, even prior to the OGEF Project, in other experiments, Sugata had observed the bonus beneficial effects on learning of the interaction between children and a warm, encouraging, but not necessarily knowledgeable adult. And so, when in the early stages of the OGEF SOLE project we found the children in the Hyderabad and Shirgaon SOLEs unable to use the internet effectively for searching because their comprehension of English was minimal, bringing eMediators using technology like Skype seemed the logical next step. A Granny session Hyderabad - 2009
  9. 9. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 9 So the SOMEs [self-organized mediation environments], as we referred to the Granny Cloud initially, were an attempt to simulate the warm, admiring spirit of a grandparent-grandchild relationship. The basic idea was that eMediators would read stories, sing songs, and engage in casual conversation with the children they had skyped into, and the children would hopefully pick up on English in the way we usually learn a language in the first years of our life. And then go on to use the internet to search for answers to BIG QUESTIONS like children in other SOLEs… In those early days, Sugata invited, through The Guardian, “native English speakers with a bit of time on their hands, a computer, a webcam, and an internet connection” to skype into our many different locations in Hyderabad, plus one in Shirgaon. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/mar/03/professor-sugata-mitra While describing what we were trying to do, we would refer to it as the grandmother approach. The media started referring to it as The Granny Cloud and the name stuck. We actually started trying out the process in late 2008, and I spent the early part of 2009, ‘interviewing’ and orienting numerous ‘grannies & grandpas’ before we had our first Granny sessions on the 16th of May at the SHS SOLE. Today, as then, the Granny Cloud team consists of women and men, of all ages, from varied walks of life, and spread across the world [although the bulk in the early years came from the UK and the largest number still do]. And they are ALL volunteers! It is a fluid group with team members more or less active depending on their home, work or other personal circumstances. Some have had to drop out [often for health reasons or work related commitments], but there are others who come on board to take their place and gradually expand the group. Over the years we have had more than 300 grannies. The number of ‘active’ One of the earliest Granny sessions [2009] at the SHS SOLE - Sindhudurg
  10. 10. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 10 grannies typically tends to vary between 100 to 125. New ones join as others move on. We are exploring how to expand this number in a substantial manner so we can reach out to the many locations that request these resources. Almost 8 years later; with many events and many Granny gatherings along the way; we have moved forward. During the years after the OGEF project in 2008-2009, we didn’t give up in the absence of funding, and several of the still active independent & self-funded Granny Cloud Cetres came on board in 2010 -2013 ahead of the TED Prize. From the original SOLE [2009] labs in Hyderabad, [India] and Shirgaon [Maharashtra, India], to the independent Granny Cloud centres [2010 to 2013] that were set up in Pune, Phaltan, Rameshwarwadi, Varanasi & Rayalpad [India], Bogota & Cartegna [Colombia], Mexico, to the School in the Cloud labs set up during the TED Prize project [2013-2016], we have continued to expand our reach to yet other independent Granny Cloud Centres [2014 to the present – Cambodia, Greenland, Jamaica, still others in Wada & Varanasi [the last 2 in India]]. We are about to put in place a satellite Granny Cloud that will interact with children from Spanish speaking countries going! The first pilot session has just taken place… One of the biggest steps we have taken is to have an independent and self-funded website exclusively for The Granny Cloud. www.thegrannycloud.org It is still being developed but it has already brought in some of our newest Grannies! The Granny group has continued to grow close and shares both personal and work life through various platforms and tenaciously explores other avenues for extending this ‘work’….. We share the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of our lives, - a new grandchild born, the loss of a spouse, the frustrations of jobs, and the delight when we see the change in the children we interact with. We discuss new possibilities, including reaching out to children in refugee camps. We talk about how to support those who have joined the group recently and we share a ‘cuppa’ over Skype during our group calls… I am deeply content and, on occasion, ecstatic to lead such a wonderful group of folks.
  11. 11. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 11 Then & Now What went before… Just an idea! And a casual invitation thrown out on our Facebook group page It was a day like any other day; bringing with it the kind of conversation that I have often been party to – of grannies everywhere in the world wishing they could visit the children in the labs in India. Many of them dream of visiting the children in person and have often voiced this desire. These visits help the bonding, and the grannies get a sense of the ground reality in different locations. But an equally important reason is personal. Over innumerable cups of tea shared over skype, we have forged close friendships; and the possibilities of interaction afforded by present day technology notwithstanding, we love the thrill of being able to meet in person, of giving each more than a virtual hug. Every so often, we have been lucky to have this happen. Over the years a few grannies have travelled to India and met the children we were interacting with at the time. Edna was among the first to come by, in 2011. Jackie was brought along by the BBC during the filming of The One Show in 2012. Liz came on her own in 2013 just as construction was beginning at Korakati! Yet other grannies have through the years visited India and tried to make sense of its many contradictions. While visiting in person is certainly not essential, it gives them a chance to see the ground reality for themselves. These visits are something we look forward to and are happy to organize if needed.
  12. 12. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 12 Edna’s visit in July 2011 – The children at Bhor [Samidha] And then there is the part of grannies meeting other grannies. We had the experience of 2010 to go by when a small group of Grannies had gathered at Newcastle University, and again of 2014, when the Grannies on Tour met up in London. Jackie at Khelghar in 2012 Liz at Gosavi Vasti in 2013
  13. 13. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 13 Sept 2015 in London But I don’t think Denise or Angele had a clue about what they had inadvertently set off [I certainly didn’t!] when they threw out a casual invitation to the rest of the grannies when they shared their plans to visit India …. Denise: 3rd Sept FB: A couple of months ago I decided I would like to visit India in particular Phaltan. No dates as yet. But I wondered if there was any of you grannies up for it? You can imagine what Sugata’s comment on FB did as a sweetener! The rest, as they say, is history! I will be in India from around 15 December for 4 months, in case anyone wants some good food and a drink 3 September 2015 at 17:15
  14. 14. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 14 By the end of November 2016, we sent out a registration form, so we could plan a little better…. The response was remarkable! What I had thought was going to be a small visit of 2-3 grannies soon transformed into a full-fledged Convention Week, with over 40 key delegates, spanning 10 days including visits to 4 SinC labs and an independent, self-funded Granny Cloud centre that has been with us since way before the TED prize Project! And it wasn’t just the grannies…. It brought together the coordinators from the labs, and teachers from the UK involved in the SOLE approach and of course, the CHILDREN! With so many coming together, a lot of organizing was needed. Working out the logistics of who was coming, where they were arriving, when they were arriving, for how long they expected to stay, what they wanted to do, how familiar they were with India [or not!] all had to be taken into account. So while it wasn’t a nightmare [just because it was for the Grannies!], it did keep me on my toes and up all hours of the night as we prepared for their arrival in Feb. 2016. Registration forms and travel advisories, worrying over passports and visas and tickets, skype calls for reassurance, hotel bookings, and planning research around the grannies presence – that was life! From Dec. 2015 the activity built up as plans began to take shape and the children at the various labs got excited about the proposed visit [and whether or not their granny was coming]. They had their own plans about what to do once the grannies got here. The idea of being able to meet these “wondrous being’s” who they had only met on skype was fascinating and they had a hard time containing their excitement. Handmade gifts and cards and decorating their lab… all this was part of the preparation for the grannies visit. So we thought we’d ‘organize it a little bit’ in case anyone else wanted to join, especially since by end of October 2015 Angele and Denise were sharing quips about getting ready to pack their bags…
  15. 15. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 15 We needed a conference venue! And what better place than a location which also housed a SOLE? The thought of having a conference caught the imagination of the children at Phaltan and there were children’s committees formed which included staff and parents to plan for the food, and special rooms to give a flavour of the festivals they spoke to the grannies about during their skype chats, and handmade badges, guided tours around the town, and conference packs with welcome gifts… The school happily cancelled their term project to enable the children to be free to participate in every which way in the conference.  A conference with a difference From start to finish, the Granny Cloud – School in the Cloud Convention was ‘different’. And not because it was an ‘International Conference’ being held in a small semi urban school at which many of the children who attended were from nearby rural areas. But because, it wasn’t a typical conference where we would meet in some nice air conditioned room to deliberate on children’s education. It meant going into the field where the children were and meeting them on their own turf. Almost everything was different. How we organized it, what we did, who was involved, where we had it – pretty much everything was different from a formal conference. The idea to visit the sites/labs came from the grannies. Then, as more and more people showed an interest, it took a more ‘organized’ form. Designing the delegate badges
  16. 16. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 16 Most of us have been part of conferences that are serious work, the socializing sandwiched between plenary sessions, workshops and keynote addresses. And that’s good. It meets the purpose. Well, we had a purpose too! Several, as a matter of fact! When we first started seeking funding for the conference, these are the objectives we shared with folks we thought might be interested in supporting this activity. Box # 0: Conference Goals The School in the Cloud proposes having a conference of grannies, teachers and coordinators from the 7 School in the Cloud labs [5 in India], 2 in the UK from the 13th to 20th of Feb. 2016. Other delegates will include teachers/coordinators from Granny Cloud SOLEs which are collaborating organizations/schools in India and other places in the world. However, in the process of developing the programme with a wider scope, we would like to organize visits to the labs in India [3 in rural Bengal, 1 in Delhi, 1 in semirural Phaltan [in Satara District near Pune] and having a formal conference where the participants can share ideas, challenges, resources and strategies. The conference would also enable the development of ongoing collaborations for research as well as lab activities including connections amongst the children at the SinC labs. The conference would be held on site at A4 – Phaltan [PSSP], where the School in the Cloud lab in Maharashtra is situated. This would facilitate the participation of the children as well as large numbers of teachers from PSSP as well as other nearby rural and semirural areas. The Grannies and educators involved in The Granny Cloud & SOLEs are an unconventional lot. As I said earlier, the original idea to visit the labs came from the grannies. They wanted to know first-hand what the challenges were. They wanted to see where and how the children lived. They wanted to get a feel for the challenges the coordinators and children faced in the remotest labs. And we all wanted to learn from each other. Not only from the experience of the lab visits, but from what we had been trying to do in the Granny sessions. So Convention Week had to have a spot where all this could be spoken of and shared. A shoestring budget isn’t always a bad thing. It ensured that we had Conference Day in our ‘richest’, ‘best resourced’ location – A4 Phaltan. The school management was more than happy to have the main conference in the recently built
  17. 17. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 17 school hall. And organizing the conference became a learning experience for the children! They checked out what happens in ‘real’ conferences and wanted [and ensured they got] it ALL! A reception committee, a food committee, a decorations committee, a cultural programs committee, a registration desk… anything they could think of. By January 2016 the excitement had mounted and even the littlest ones knew about the upcoming event and were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the visitors. Many of them who consider me a fixture in the ‘SOLE Room’ did me the honour of coming by and telling me all about it and then inviting me to the event, saying in all seriousness that “you mustn’t miss it for anything in the world”  Those were busy weeks as the children, staff, even the parents put their heads together and made plans for the big event. Badges were designed and made, menus were deliberated over, trial runs for the ‘Phaltan tour’ were made to determine places of interest and time needed to go that route. Parents volunteered time and effort to spruce up the school buildings, and help make the decorations and snacks. And the results of it were there for all to see on Conference Day! Being invited for the conference… 
  18. 18. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 18 There was one particularly important preparation. That was the Welcome Song. We all wanted something that was meaningful and relevant AND our very own. Some of the typical peppy songs had verses that didn’t quite gel with the SOLE ethos, so finally Madhura wrote one! And translated it into English. Along with the children and Amit, the young Music teacher at Phaltan, it was set to tune and ready for all to enjoy! Walking through narrow lanes to give the grannies a feel of the surroundings was on the children’s agenda. English translation of Granny Cloud Anthem Filling the sky with our laughter Let’s wander amid the clouds We know no borders… no compulsions… Only the desire of creation As we spread joy on every inch of the earth In search of something new everyday Let’s leave behind all that’s outdated The winds of free and open thought Have playfully caught our minds We know no borders… no compulsions… Only the desire of creation As we spread joy on every inch of the earth So what if there is chaos as questions arise? What is there to fear? With hands held together Let us accept the diversity of ideas Then, then would love and peace fill our hearts.. We know no borders… no compulsions… Only the desire of creation As we spread joy on every inch of the earth MADHURA RAJVANSHI
  19. 19. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 19 The Countdown begins! / A Get together or two & The Sights of Calcutta 10…9…8…7…6…5… The grannies began to arrive. Some to different parts of India to join up with the group ahead of the convention and to enjoy a taste of Bengal, others just in time for the first site visit on the 14th of Feb. 2016. Their arrival had been preceded by a flurry of activity including skype calls sharing concerns about traveling, the kind of clothes they should bring, how much they should bring, what they should get for the children and so on. For some, it was their very first visit ever to India! And with that came a certain apprehension too. Were all the stories they’d heard about it true? What would it be like to finally meet the people they had only met over Facebook or Skype? And there were grannies who wanted to come but couldn’t… several were alternately envious and sad at the thought of missing it all as plans for the visits and surrounding activities were continually shared on the group page. But that didn’t keep them from being involved! From the side lines they encouraged the involvement and even coined new terms. Sheilagh leads the QUEST Granny Cluster and takes sessions in many other labs. Special thanks to Sheilagh for the term ‘Granniversary’! 9th Feb 2016 – FB group Today is my first Granniversary! Here is my first ever report. One year ago I had my first session with Gocharan - it was hard work....after a few weeks I was ready to give up. I'm very happy that I stuck with it though
  20. 20. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 20 Through all the last minute preparations, the Grannies continued with their sessions, sharing resources, sharing jokes and pictures from their sessions and commiserating when the technology didn’t hold up or plans went awry. Sarah Cossom ably held up the media end by regularly posting how the preparations were going along and writing blogs, trying to raise funds, and organizing interviews with grannies through local UK newspapers, so we could hope to engage yet more potential grannies… Liz was the first to arrive [on her 2nd trip to India], 10 days ahead of Convention week. She travelled with me on the 9th of Feb 2016 to Calcutta, a few days ahead of the conference. And she got a taste of the ethos of the Sinc labs … It was time well spent. Liz enjoyed her exclusive time with the children at Gocharan and became familiar with the sights and sounds of Gariahaat and other places in Calcutta. Now I know what us grannies are about. My granddaughter and I were just watching 'The Chase' I said "oo how lovely that lady has just won £42k" Jean said "well she would cos she's a granny, and grannies know everything!" Denise 8th Dec. FB Liz with Gocharan children ahead of Convention Week Later on, other Grannies had ‘mehendi’ designs done too…
  21. 21. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 21 She was soon joined on the 12th by the instigators – Denise and Angele. Katy from Greenfields was on the same flight… Granny Power! I became quite familiar with the Netaji Bose International Airport in Calcutta at all odd hours of the day [and night!] as various grannies and teachers flew in from different parts of the world. I wouldn’t have missed that first sight meeting with any of them for anything in the world. We were ‘meeting’ each other for the first time; but it felt like they had just been away for a while. Thanks to skype and FB and email, it was like greeting old friends after a long gap. By the 12th /13th of Feb most of the grannies had arrived ahead of the actual visits starting on the 14th of Feb.
  22. 22. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 22 This gave them a chance to enjoy the sights in Calcutta and enjoy some of the Bengali cuisine and the company that went with it. It was also party time as we had dinners together including a couple of birthday celebrations!
  23. 23. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 23 Each day of Convention week brought with it a new adventure: And a special treat! There were experiences of all sorts – ecstatic, joyful, enthralling, insightful, provocative, and even scary! And the grannies survived them all. Each location brought with it a special time and left us with special memories, some to be shared and some to be tucked away after it had given us a penetrating understanding of what it meant to be interacting with the children in the SinC labs. Work and play blended into each other as Grannies and teachers and coordinators caught up with each other, sought those out whom they had only known by name and FB posts before. So there was much laughter as well as serious conversation on the long, arduous journeys to the SinC labs and back to Calcutta each day. But it was time well spent. Everyone had heard many different things about each of the labs and had their own set of experiences with the children as a context for understanding what they saw. Many of the grannies were looking forward very specially to visits to specific labs because they knew the children from Skype sessions and had been subject to the travails of uncertain internet connections over the past months and years. Yet coming fact to face with these children and the journey that was involved in reaching them, and seeing first-hand the children’s achievement without the constraints of the limited view afforded by the webcam was enlightening. Locations of the SinC labs and Granny Cloud centres we visited
  24. 24. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 24 Right in the midst of it: The Bengal Phase At each learning lab the children had eagerly planned for the arrival of the grannies and had a special treat in store for them. At Gocharan there were welcome cards and sharing special achievements like the ‘chatbot’ and origami and other craft work learnt off YouTube. At Chandrakona the highlights were the science experiments and how the children had figured them out and of course saying hello to Jackie who had been specially skyped in so the Grannies physically there could sense what it feels like from the children’s end. Dev working on his chatbot Lesley demonstrating craft
  25. 25. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 25 At Korakati, it was probably the journey itself! A bus or car, a boat and then a van rickshaw were all part of that. Getting on to the boats can be tricky but the view is marvellous once you are on it… The ‘bone shakers’ as Sarah referred to them!
  26. 26. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 26 Combined with the few quiet moments of being able to read with the kids led to some very impressed Grannies! The grannies who have been skyping in to Korakati know only too well where the children had started. And it’s not just the children. The difference was remarkable in the way Milon was able to speak and present. The same Milan who barely opened his mouth even though he was the coordinator when Korakati first opened 2 years ago. And of course there were dances and songs at each location for the special welcome of the guests! By the way Bengal Climate: Night time temperatures in the winter [January being the coolest month] are typically around 12 celsius with a high of 25 degrees during the day. The summers [April-May being the hottest months] are very hot with temperatures around 25 at night and 36 during the day. This year the heat wave made for very hot temperatures even in Feb. [well above 30 degrees Celsius]
  27. 27. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 27 But we did start with the easiest! Welcomed with gifts, flowers and dances! 
  28. 28. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 28 Day 1: Visit to A0 Gocharan - 14th Feb. 2016 We started with the closest and most accessible community based learning lab. The grannies, most of them anyway, had had a chance to rest, see some of the sights of Calcutta and enjoy a variety of Bengali cuisine. I am using the term Bengali cuisine very loosely, since the manner of cooking and its taste changes across districts and sometimes even next door villages. Yet it was part of the overall plan to have the grannies and other visitors go back with a very clear idea in their mind that ‘chicken tikka’ does NOT constitute Indian cuisine!  So, after the mandatory photo sessions, and our badges handed over… We clambered on to minibuses and large cars and made the 2 hour journey to Gocharan. It’s not that the lab is that far away from Calcutta but the roads leave a lot to be desired as does the traffic! But the flip side? You get to see so much of how life is for the folks who live in those parts…. The children from Phaltan had made sure we had these available for all our site visits and Liz made sure we had colourful ribbons attached so they could be slung around our necks… Enroute to Gocharan
  29. 29. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 29 The children had been waiting and preparing for this day and raced around ‘showing off’ and trying out the activities that several of the grannies had brought along. Following an hour or so of ‘free’ observations and interacting with the children, the grannies were engaged in sharing the coordinator, Puja Ganguly’s experience of working with the children in the lab. Puja joined the SinC coordinators team in July 2015. Since then she has built up a close rapport with many of the grannies through active participation on the FB group page where she often posts a quick summary of the sessions and pictures of the children to the great delight of many of the grannies. Grannies at Gocharan The speed at which Pritam shinnied up the tree to help tie up the banner was amazing!
  30. 30. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 30 Her presentation on 14th Feb. 2016 provided an overview of the lab at Gocharan and the context in which it operated [see Box # 1: The SinC lab at A0 - Gocharan]. She then highlighted some of the activities engaged in by the children on typical days. She indicated that there did appear to be a gender difference in the activities/games/topic/areas typically engaged in and enjoyed by the girls [ painting/sketching, origami and other craft activities, cooking videos, stories and songs ] & boys [sports, science, cars & racing], as well as identifying the activities enjoyed by both. These included: Playing & downloading games [which games is another matter!] / Google earth & google maps to locate places] / Big Questions / Granny sessions / Music / and Joint sessions with other labs. She mentioned the key achievements of the children since the lab had opened a year ago. These included: Improvement in English / developing Computer skills including developing games & programmes / Searching the internet on their own / Learning & and using specific skills including craft & origami / developing confidence and the ability to speak with ease even with ‘unfamiliar’ people, / and last but most certainly not the least – developing greater cooperation & collaboration]. Another useful part as her presentation came to an end was a quick overview of some of the most effective strategies used by the Grannies to overcome the challenges of skyping in at the Gocharan SinC lab. These included:  Use of videos of stories, songs, events and other material to back up the interaction  Use of illustrative pictures to clarify what they are saying  Using texting in skype to aid comprehension Puja presenting
  31. 31. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 31 Some regular Granny sessions at Gocharan Sheilagh & Sandra Dev demonstrating to Rohan how his chat bot worked during the Convention visit
  32. 32. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 32 SinC Lab A0 – Gocharan Box # 1: The SinC lab at A0 Gocharan – Bengal Location: Narayanitala, Gocharan, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal 743391. Approximately 40 kilometres from Kolkata (Calcutta), Gocharan is situated at the latitude of 22.2798885 and the Longitude of 88.45401509999999 Opening Date: 9th Jan. 2015. Till Feb. 2016, it had functioned for approximately 11 months. Children’s Profile: The age range varies from 6 to 13 years. The oldest is now 13+ and about to enter Grade 9. Younger siblings of the children using the lab, often accompanied by parents waiting patiently outside the lab while the children play inside, occasionally wander in and can be found seated on the lap of an older child. Box # 1 – A0 Gocharan contd…
  33. 33. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 33 The socio-economic status ranges from poor to lower middle income. Parents tend to accompany the younger children to the lab because of its proximity to the highway. The narrow highway cuts through the village of Narayanitala and is infamous for the dangerous traffic. Children go to local schools and study in Bengali [the regional language]. Children’s coming to lab is usually woven around school times and tuition classes which are perceived as extremely important for academic achievement. They typically cycle or walk to school. Sometimes the children come from quite far away (around 4 to 5 km). Community Profile: As per the Population Census of 2011 Gocharan is a medium size village located in the Baruipur sub-division of the South Twenty Four Parganas district, West Bengal with a total of 281 families residing in it. Gocharan village has a population of around 12,000 of which 585 are males while 562 are females with an estimated number of 5,000 children under the age of 16. Gocharan village has a lower literacy rate as compared to the rest of West Bengal. In 2011, literacy rate of Gocharan village was 67.50 % compared to 76.26 % of West Bengal. In Gocharan Male literacy stands at 74.51 % while female literacy rate is 60.04 %. The primary occupation is Agriculture This SinC site is located in an area that has more facilities than at many of the other sites, [e.g. ‘coaching classes’; a private nursing home; 4 government primary schools; 4 government high schools and 4 private nursery schools. The primary schools are all within a one kilometer radius. Each of the local schools caters to about 700 children Lab infrastructure Facilities & capacity: The Gocharan SinC lab has been built on the land of an individual family and has a unique hexagonal shape, reminiscent of a beehive. Unique in its structure and design, it is the biggest of the SinC labs with 10 computers, plus one laptop located in the inner hexagon and connected to a large TV screen through which the children interact with the grannies on skype. The GCRN lab was the last to be opened and is the flagship lab. Lab Use: The footfall varies tremendously. In a bad month e.g. May 2015 it was as low as 36 and in a ‘good’ month e.g. Sept. 2015, it was as high as 2400. The climate, particularly the heat, school exams and specific festival days affect the children’s attendance. Typically, the number of granny sessions a month that take place are between 20 and 24. In good months, this goes up to around 35, but the range is between 33 % and 50 % of the sessions posted on the website get booked and take place more or less successfully. Although there are no regular groups, children have their ‘favourites’ and tend to be around on the days they know a particular granny is likely to skype in. Special Challenges: As in the other locations, internet connectivity, while not as much of a problem at Korakati, is still problematic given the somewhat unpredictable and slow internet
  34. 34. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 34 The number of children in the lab is usually quite high and even when just 20 or so, the noise levels make it difficult to hear and communicate during Granny sessions. The children’s English language fluency is limited making interactions a laborious process. For most of them, computers were a brand new technology when they first started and it took a while for basic computer skills to emerge. In a related challenge, observations and subsequent documentation becomes difficult because of the child-coordinator ratio, which is typically 1:30. Additionally, the hexagonal shape poses a challenge for non-intrusive observation The Parents’ Perspective and their difficulty in understanding the SOLE concept leads to a constant demand for ‘teaching’ Sanitation and clean water [despite being surrounded by water bodies] have remained a challenge. Even though Gocharan is so much closer to Calcutta, it involves daily travel to get to and from the site for the coordinator and the local transport is quite unreliable and hence requiring a lot of time and energy. Ruby during one of her regular sessions
  35. 35. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 35 Day 2: Visit to A1 Korakati 15th Feb. 2016 Over the months leading up to Convention Week 2016, we had shared the challenges of traveling to Korakati amongst the many other ordeals faced by this site. And though the thought did cause some trepidation, the grannies and other visitors were unfazed when the day finally arrived. It was just a part of the big adventure - ‘Grannies on Tour’. About to set off for Korakati from Calcutta So on the 15th of Feb. 2016, we made an early start, did the long road ride [by now the grannies were beginning to get the idea, that no matter where you went; it involved a LONG journey!] and reached the banks of the Ganga [Ganges] at around 11:30 am. A packed picnic lunch and we were ready for the next part of our journey. The Boat ride! A specially chartered boat at that! All the grannies and the film crew on board and we were away. Alas, it was too short for most grannies…. Some of them actually felt cheated!  And it was lovely [always is, a memory to treasure because a ride along the Ganga is very special]. The view from the Lunch picnic spot on way to Korakati
  36. 36. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 36 “You have to use every single one of these modes of transport!” Sarah S & Sylvie on the ‘top deck’ & Madhura, Liz & Geetanjali on the ‘boneshaker’ But then we had reached the next stop and were on to the hardest bit. Another ride - this time on what are sometimes referred to as ‘van rickshaws’. A fantastic contraption and excellent example of Indian ‘jugaad’ [loosely translating to ‘making the most out of whatever you can lay your hands on’], the van rickshaw ride can be quite precarious. You have to hold on to keep from slipping off on an often non-existent or makeshift ‘road’ and stay that way for a good hour or more. I, for one, was happy to make the ride in the one of 2 regular cars we had managed [and are possibly the only ones on that island] to get hold of with a great deal of effort. But the hard journey was worth it. For waiting at the other end were – The Children! Typical greetings including dances, origami gifts and some cool ‘daab’ [Bengali for fresh coconut water] all made the meeting extra special and the grannies were mobbed by children wanting to chat with them and show them around. Impromptu story reading sessions and excited chatter were all around. There were even research efforts going on simultaneously!
  37. 37. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 37 So much going on! Reading for the children, Grannies being interviewed and of course the activity in the lab… ‘Daab’… just what the doctor ordered! And welcome dances alongside… what more could the Grannies want! 
  38. 38. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 38 Everyone wanted to hear from the Korakati coordinators, Aniket Mondal & Milan Mondal. In their joint presentation, the coordinators provided an overview of the lab at Korakati and the context in which it operated [see Box # 2: The SinC lab at Korakati] and highlighted the achievements at Korakati, the remotest and most challenging of the SinC labs. They also shared their personal experiences of living in Korakati amidst the challenges of climate, interrupted power supply and erratic and intermittent connectivity. Milan comes from Korakati itself and hence was attuned to the place, but for Aniket it was a new and hard adjustment with thoughts of quitting because of the difficulties flitting through his mind from time to time. Yet, over the months, he caught on to the SinC ethos and shared his thoughts for a blog – “I think of the children like clouds – they come and go as they wish.” Milan had come on board as a coordinator at Korakati from the time the lab was opened in March 2014. But his English fluency was severely limited and he could manage just a few words. From then to now has been a big journey! Hearing him speak and share his experiences over the close to 2 years he has been at the Korakati lab was exhilarating and insightful. Here’s a good illustration of the impact of the Granny Cloud. Not only the children, but the coordinators’ skills undergo a transformation! Aniket joined more recently, following Sudipto as part of the attempt to provide a liaison between the children and the grannies as well as the SinC staff. Aniket & Milan presenting
  39. 39. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 39 So much was happening, and the time felt too short. Many of the grannies would have liked to visit the children’s homes; but then we needed to catch the boat back to other bank before nightfall, so they had to settle for a view of the homes as we passed by… Every journey was eventful… It so happened that Granny Convention Week was, rather appropriately, at the same time as ‘Saraswati Puja’ in Bengal. Appropriately, because Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning and that’s what SOLEs are all about, aren’t they?! And on the return journey from Korakati, late in the evening, the grannies could see the Goddess in the ‘pandals’ being worshipped and being carried through the streets. Our vehicles even got stuck behind one such procession, contributing to a further delay in reaching our hotel after a long, exhausting, but immensely gratifying day. Homes in Korakati enroute to ferry on the return journey
  40. 40. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 40 SinC Lab A1 - Korakati Box # 2: The SinC lab at A1 Korakati Korakati Lab on opening Day March 2014 Location: Korakati is located in the Sandeshkhali block in the North 24 Parganas District of Bengal, approximately 125 kms from Calcutta. The geo coordinates are - Latitude 22.57 and Longitude 88.36. Depending on which road you take the distance from Calcutta to Korakati varies between 82 and 95 kms, although the time taken to travel this under than 100 kms distance can often be 4 ½ to 5 hours because of the many different modes of transport that have to be taken to reach the lab site. Climate: Extreme weather conditions are a part of the scenario; very hot in the summer months, Korakati is also lashed by heavy downpours through the monsoon, with rainstorms affecting operations every so often as well as leading to seepage causing cracks in walls/ . Despite the many waterbodies around, water levels go down during the summer causing a different kind of hardship. Snakes & reptiles abound creating yet another challenge. Opening Date: The Lab was inaugurated on 9th March 2014, and closed immediately for a few months due to construction related needs and again in 2015 due to internet unavailability. Out of 19 months, Korakati has been operational for approximately 12 months. Children’s Profile: Most of the children coming to the SinC lab are from grade 2 to 8, approximately 7 to 13 years old and study in the Bengali medium. Currently, the total number of children in village is approximately 300, out of which approximately 50 are ‘registered’ and an average of 8 to 10 can be found at the lab on any day.
  41. 41. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 41 Box # 2: Korakati continued… Many of the children also work with parents on fields as well as go for Private Tuitions, still considered very critical for their educational progress. Community Profile: Located in the most populous district of Bengal [and indeed, India], Korakati lies in the heart of Sunderbans. The entire area is surrounded by rivers, canals, and deltas. As per the Population Census of 2011, Korakati village has a population of 6695 of which 3478 are males while 3217 are females. Despite its remoteness, Korakati village has a higher literacy rate as compared to West Bengal in general. In 2011, the literacy rate of Korakati village was 82.66 % compared to 76.26 % of West Bengal. In Korakati, male literacy stands at 89.66 % while female literacy rate was 75.00 %. Its proximity to the Bangladesh Border makes it particularly vulnerable in terms of illegal activities like the mafia, illegal trade, trafficking, and other anti-social activities. Agriculture & fisheries is the main livelihood, although a majority of the people live below the poverty line with limited sources of income. The villagers are mainly farmers who earn between Rs 1500/- to Rs 2000/- per month. There are 3 Primary schools, 2 Secondary schools but no Higher Secondary schools in the village. Children typically walk to school. The Native language in the region is Bengali. There are no health and recreational amenities. Mobile phones are often used to follow television programs. Lab Facilities & capacity: The SinC lab at Korakati has been built on land owned by one of the villagers and adjoins their home in the village. The initiative for this was taken by Nitish Mondal of that family who is himself, a school teacher employed in Calcutta. It has 6 computers, plus one laptop that is used for the Skype interactions and the coordinators for administrative purposes. However, it is often the only one connected to the internet and hence also used by the children. The room is decent sized with an adjoining guest room which is currently used by one of the coordinators to live in and a wash room for the children. It is a solar powered Lab; part of the original plan since power supply was anticipated as a challenge. Currently, the lab is manned by 2 male coordinators who facilitate the use of the lab by the children and their interaction with the grannies, plus a local lady to clean the Lab. One of the coordinators hails from Korakati itself. Lab Use: Typically there are 8-10 children in the lab on any given day and overall, 39% Granny sessions take place. The related issue of tracking ‘regular’ vs ‘non-regular’ users is a challenge like in the other community based labs because children come and go as they please, and spend varying amounts of time in the lab, doing whatever catches their fancy on any given day.
  42. 42. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 42 Sylvie at a regular Granny session in Korakati Box # 2: Korakati continued… Special Challenges: Area 1 Korakati has lived up to its image as the most remote and hence the most difficult of all the labs by providing challenges of every conceivable kind during both construction and subsequent functioning phases. These challenges related to: Building & Maintaining the Infrastructure The lack of skilled labour (plumbers/electricians/engineers, computer maintenance staff) also poses a challenge. Not only did this involve bringing in labour from Calcutta during the construction phase, but also means bringing them in for maintenance of the lab and computers whenever there is a problem. This in turn causes delays in restoring the lab to full functionality whenever there is a specific problem. Occasional disruption in power supply still take place despite the solar panels since the local personnel are often unaware of maintenance requirements. Technical Constraints The main challenge is of connectivity. Poor, sometimes no internet connection leads to disruption in Granny sessions and requiring constant follow ups with telephone and internet service providers. Among the strategies used to deal with this challenge is connecting the laptop to a Dongle placed outside the lab window, even though it means a very slow connection. A more permanent solution has been sought by establishing internet connectivity through VSAT in April 2015, apart from the connectivity available through the local Internet vendor (BSNL). However, this is prohibitively expensive and other solutions are still being explored. Personnel related Challenges: Local coordinators hired at the time of the lab opening did not all work out, and although one continued to be around [Milan], language barriers and limited familiarity with computers posed many obstacles. This was addressed through the employment of an additional coordinator with greater fluency in English and computer skills from Calcutta [first Sudipto, then Aniket] and training them was undertaken over skype and phone. Additionally, one more coordinator [Moumita] based in Calcutta itself was hired to liaise between the lab coordinators and the SinC team.
  43. 43. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 43 DAY 3 – The visit to the SinC learning lab at A2 Chandrakona: 16th Feb. 2016 Another day, another adventure! If there’s one thing the grannies won’t be able to deny, it is that they have had every kind of adventure during this week. Some thrilling, some unending, some nerve wracking and even scary, some joyful, but ultimately all very insightful. Our group continued to grow as we continued to be joined by more grannies. Mahi had joined us the previous evening… The grannies were getting used to rousing welcomes wherever they went and Chandrakona was no different. We found ourselves after a very adventurous journey, at Kiageria and were led straight into yet more colourful dances and an exhibition of some of the science related experiences that had emerged from their interaction with grannies in the lab and the ongoing encouragement of the coordinator. A special lunch had been cooked by the locals [Midnapur folks are famous for their culinary skills], and the visitors enjoyed their meal and continued their interaction with the children. The children’s gift at Chandrakona
  44. 44. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 44 And Sally found a spot next to the pond and banners to continue with her interviews…  The SinC lab at Chandrakona has also seen several coordinators. It is currently facilitated by Joydev Goswami who joined in November 2014 and is a local lad. Subsequently, he was joined by an assistant Sumita. Sumita was taken on in response to the increasing drop outs of girls and it was recognized that the presence of an older [middle aged] women would make a critical difference to the confidence of the parents in sending their young teenaged daughters to a lab that is, for all practical purposes, isolated in this sparse density rural area. Joydev provided an overview of the lab at Chandrakona and the context in which it operated [see Box # 3: The SinC lab at Chandrakona] which Sumita added to by sharing her experiences with the children in the lab. Joydev presenting
  45. 45. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 45 As at Gocharan and Korakati, it was evident that the lab not only made a difference to the children but had also enriched the lives of the coordinators, giving them access to a world beyond their village and vetting their appetite for knowledge in the bargain. There were two special activities at the Chandrakona learning lab that made the day very special. Through various granny sessions and supported by Joydev and the boy’s initiative, many children had taken a fancy to conducting science experiments. Over the past few months, a small group of boys had turned to YouTube to teach themselves about chemical reactions and science so they could learn magic tricks to perform for their ‘Grannies’ over Skype. And they regaled the ever admiring audience with several of these including “how to blow a balloon without air pressure“, and explaining ‘the candle goes out when the oxygen runs out’ during yet another experiment on the day of the visit. All this had involved a lot of effort. Not only did they identify what material they needed for what they wanted to try out, but figured out how to conduct these experiments. In the process, not only did they access relevant YouTube videos, but how to download and install the YouTube downloader! Another highlight was Jackie’s granny session. We had hoped to connect with several of the grannies while we visited the community based labs in Bengal, and several had volunteered including Sandra and Lakshmi to be online and available. As usual, matching time and internet connectivity around the rest of the visit proved a challenge. But we did manage to give the visiting grannies and SOLE practitioners a flavour of what the experience is like from the children’s end when we connected with Jackie from Chandrakona! Science experiments demonstration at Chandrakona
  46. 46. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 46 Jackie skyping in during the Chandrakona visit
  47. 47. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 47 Box # 3: The SinC lab A2 Chandrakona Chandrakona SinC Lab on opening Day March 2014 Location: The SinC lab at Chandrakona is located in the village of Kiageria, 3 kms from the town of Chandrakona in the District of Paschim Medinipur. The nearest railway station is Chandrakona Road. This is approximately 150 kms from Calcutta and is well connected by roads/highways to other important towns of South Bengal. The School in the Cloud at Chandrakona was set up on the initiative of the NGO - Sarbik Pally Kalyan Kendra that works in the same area, at the initiative of Mr. B.K. Basu of the same organization. It is one of the 3 community based labs of the School in the Cloud TED Prize Project The learning lab at Chandrakona is possibly the prettiest and most isolated location The lab is in the midst of wide open fields and looks on to a lovely pond. The children can be found playing football right next to the lab as they divide their time inside and out. Opening Date: The Lab opened in March 2014. It did however close for few months because of challenges posed by the Internet & availability of a coordinator. In almost 2 years, the Lab has been operational for approximately 20 months Children’s Profile: The children had heard about computers but had never used them before the SinC lab was built. In schools, Bengali is the medium of instruction while English is taught as a subject. School timings are typically from 10 am to 4.40 pm. Many Children go for tuitions from 7 pm to 9 pm, leaving them with relatively little free time. In whatever leisure time they get, the children enjoy playing cricket, swimming, playing football and watching television.
  48. 48. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 48 Box # 3: Chandrakona continued… Community Profile: The lab was built on the land of a local NGO – the Sarbik Palli Kalyan Kendra, which was established 27 years ago to work towards social change in rural areas. Chandrakona town is nearly 6 kms away from the lab and has basic education and health facilities. The SinC Lab is located in Kiageria village with 5 villages nearby, with a population of nearly 2000 people including approximately 800 children between 0-16 years. Agriculture, [primarily - rice, potato and jute] is the main source of income. There is one Primary school, one Upper primary school, and two Higher Secondary Schools. Most people use cycles as the basic mode of transportation Lab Facilities & capacity: The lab is a rectangular shaped room with 6 desk top computers plus one laptop connected to the large screen TV for interacting with the Grannies over Skype. The lab is adjacent to the SPKK office, which also accommodates 2 guest rooms, one of which is used by the assistant coordinator. Joydev is a local lad and stays in the village. Special Challenges: Internet connectivity still poses challenges as in all locations, although to a lesser extent than in Korakati. Hardware challenges are of a unique kind with Lizards (‘Tick- Ticky’) residing & laying eggs inside the CPU’s! A related challenge is maintenance in terms of the connectivity as well as hardware. Follow up with maintenance personnel has to be pursued. Equipment repair involves long waits or having to take the machines into Calcutta for repairs. Participation of children is another challenge. In the early days, a drop in the number of girls coming to Lab was observed. It was found that the reason for this was the parents’ sense of insecurity in sending their young teenaged daughters to what was, ultimately an isolated location. The presence of a young male coordinator did nothing to assuage their concerns. This was addressed by employing a middle aged lady [Sumita] as an assistant facilitator. Parental expectations, with an accompanying emphasis on tuitions and school attendance, are yet other challenges in common with the other community based labs. The lack of sustained involvement by the NGO in a non-interfering manner and difficulties in Community Mobilization is another matter of concern.
  49. 49. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 49 Just a regular day… Box #3: Chandrakona continued… Lab Use: Approximately 50 children are ‘registered’ at the SinC lab. And although there was a major drop in the number of girls in the early days, that challenge was addressed by taking on a woman coordinator [Sumita] to assist Joydev. Typically, between 10-15 children use the lab on any given day. Overall, 55% of the available Granny sessions go through. By the way : The birthplace of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar [a key member of the Bengal renaissance who was given the title 'Vidyasagar' meaning Ocean of knowledge] is in a nearby village. Yet, the district faces many different challenges today.
  50. 50. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 50 3 days, 3 sites, 3 SinC learning labs…. It was an exhausted group of grannies and educators that finally reached Calcutta past 9:30 pm and got a taste of life at the other end of the spectrum over dinner at Dr. Mousumi Ghosh’s residence… There was much food for thought… There were still 2 SinC labs in India we hadn’t visited. One of them, A4 – Phaltan, we would go to as part of the main conference on 18th Feb. The other, A3 Kalkaji, we would have to give a miss. Time and granny/educator schedules didn’t allow for that… We looked forward to the presentations about these which would be part of the main conference but here are basic descriptions, so you can have all the information about the India SinC learning labs in one place. Unlike the 3 Bengal learning labs [A0 A1 A2], both A3 and A4 are housed in schools. That, itself, sets them apart in crucial ways from the community based learning labs. One of the key features they both have in common but different from the community based labs is that children’s access to the SOLE is during regular school hours. But just so we have some context before we move to the next part of the Convention, here’s a bit of information about the 2 school based SinC labs where the Granny Cloud connects… The banner we carried along to every location…
  51. 51. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 51 SinC Lab – A3 Kalkaji GGSS Box # 4: The SinC lab at A3 – Kalkaji – GGSS A Granny Session in progress: Olivia connects from USA Location: The smallest of the SinC labs, A3 Kalkaji operates inside the girls’ shift of a government school that has been familiar with Sugata’s work since his Hole in the Wall days and is based in the capital of India in the suburb of Kalkaji, New Delhi. It is therefore also referred to as GGSS [Government Girls Secondary School] Opening Date: 4th Feb. 2014 . At the time of the Granny Cloud Convention, it has been operational for 10 months out of 20 months since it opened. This was mainly due to school schedules and closures related to school vacations, and exam months. Children’s Profile: The girls are all from the middle school grades 6 to 8 [ages 11-13] and they come from relatively poor socio-economic backgrounds even though it is in the capital city. Many have mothers who work as domestic help, and live in nearby slums. The school has both English and Hindi sections and also has a boys shift. The girls using the lab all come from the English medium section. The girls too were used to the idea of computers and earlier/older batches had had access to these in Sugata’s earlier experiments. Being in India’s capital affects the general exposure, so even though many of the girls have limited material possessions, they have seen varied lifestyles all around them. Construction was, therefore, comparatively easy and less expensive and essentially involved remodelling an existing space.
  52. 52. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 52 Box # 4: A4 – Kalkaji continued… Community Profile: The school is in an area which has proper roads and pavements, restaurants, offices and shops all around it. The nearby locality has access to resources both in terms of material & personnel. Even Sugata’s old office from his NIIT days is just a short distance away. The local language is Hindi which along with English is used as the official National language and many people in neighbouring localities both speak and understand it to some extent. Lab Facilities & capacity: The tiny room on the ground floor of the school, not too far from the Staff Room is equipped with 3 desktop computers, plus one laptop connected to the large TV screen on which they connect to the Grannies via Skype. Although it is in the inner part of the school, not visible from the main road, the windows were widened and a glass door put in as the lab entrance to add to the visibility. An important facility was the availability of a competent coordinator who was fluent in English. Lab Use: This school based lab functions during the in the mornings, from 7 am to 12 noon. All the girls are from middle school years - Grades 6 to 8 with 15 of them from each of these grades coming to the lab at predetermined times. They have an average of 3 Granny Cloud sessions per day. Special Challenges: The room is really small and cannot accommodate more than 12-15 children at one time. Also, the timings are in the mornings, so it is mostly Grannies from USA and Australia who were able to connect. The buy-in from School administration was the biggest challenge and while this was alleviated by the presence of a Principal who understood & believed in the approach, the question arises again with a change in the principal. (NB: At time of publishing this report, this lab is no longer operational. It is hoped that the situation will change in the future).
  53. 53. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 53 Activities at the A3 SinC lab in Kalkaji Just a regular day… The timings suited Edna and several other Grannies Rodger enjoyed his sessions with the KLKJ girls
  54. 54. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 54 SinC Lab – A4 Phaltan Box # 5: The SinC Lab at A4 – Phaltan – PSSP The A4 Phaltan lab Location: The SinC lab at A4 Phaltan is located in the Kamalabai Nimbkar Balbhavan in the front of the school overlooking the play area. Phaltan is situated in the dry rural region of Western Maharashtra. Phaltan itself is a fast growing ‘taluka’ level town. It is situated approximately 60 kms from Satara which is the District headquarters and about 110 kms from Pune, which is another of Maharashtra’s well known cities and also Phaltan’s closest airport connection. Several new industries have come up in the past 5 years changing the face of Phaltan and the nearby villages quite drastically. The geo coordinates are - 17.9845° N, 74.4360° E Opening Date: The SinC lab opened on 3rd Dec. 2014 The Granny Cloud activities had begun earlier in June 2013 with Grades 6 and 7 having access to skype sessions with grannies using one of the old computers available at the school. By Convention week, the lap had been operational for 11 months out of the 14 months since it opened. Children’s Profile: The lab is housed in the Kamla Nimbkar BalBhavan [school] and has a total of 450 children from preschool to Grade 10. They come from very diverse socio-economic backgrounds and have parents from all walks of life. However, the bulk of children come from poor socio-economic backgrounds with 30 % of children paying partial fees and another 26 % having complete fee concessions. The medium of learning is Marathi which is also the regional language. English is taught as one subject at the school.
  55. 55. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 55 Box # 5: SinC Lab - A4 Phaltan continued… Community Profile: As per the Census report (India 2011), the Phaltan Municipal Council had a population of 52,118 of which 26,242 were males while 25,876 were females. The literacy rate of Phaltan city is 88.48 %; higher than state average of 82.34 %. In Phaltan, Male literacy is around 92.71 % while female literacy rate is 84.24 %. Phaltan has a rich history and as an independent Princely state, joined the Indian Union in May 1948. It is dotted with old historical monuments some dating back to the 12th century and earlier. In recent years, industrial development has begun to change the landscape in a big way, and many other facilities are beginning to be available more easily. The common mode of transportation is bicycles, auto rickshaws or 2 wheelers [scooters]. There are several schools in the neighbouring localities, as well as health facilities. Phaltan is also home to pioneering research in agriculture and has a couple of colleges as well. School Profile: The school is an unaided, though government recognized institution, and operates under the umbrella of the Pragat Shikshan Sanstha. This gives them a little more flexibility with the learning programme. It was a conscious decision of the school authorities, though it means a huge amount of ongoing effort to keep raising funds for the various school activities. http://www.pragatshikshansanstha.org/ The parents at the school are also very active and involved in /supportive of school activities. Lab Facilities & capacity: The SinC lab or SOLE room, as the children refer to it, is situated at the front of the school, clearly visible from the road outside. The room is large enough to house 5 desktop computers with ‘U’ shaped tables and colourful chairs, plus one laptop connected to the Skype screen TV. The children were part of the designing process, since they had experienced granny sessions for a few months before the building of the lab was undertaken. Internet facilities were quite good to begin with. In the past year, the demand for internet facilities has grown significantly across Phaltan, causing greater uncertainty bandwidth availability at the lab than when it was begun.
  56. 56. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 56 Box # 5: SinC Lab A4 - Phaltan Lab Use: The SinC lab is used by Grades 1 to 7 for scheduled sessions either for free usage [when about 15-18 children/half a class come in at the same time] or with Grannies when groups of 5 to 8 come in for more small group interaction. The lab operates 6 days a week [Monday to Saturday], typically from 8 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. Grades 1 to 3 usually use it in the morning shift [from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm], while Grades 4 to 7 use the lab during the afternoon shift [from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm]. There are usually 3 granny sessions scheduled every day, and almost all that are posted/scheduled take place albeit with technological constraints as ‘regular’ sessions with grannies typically meeting the same group of children. Special Challenges: There are no special challenges apart from the children’s unfamiliarity with English and the fact that the whole school would like to use the lab. The lab size while adequate for typical/ideal SOLE sessions, becomes very crowded if an entire class of 35 children is brought in at the same time. NB: Since the time of the Convention, A4 Phaltan has , at the end of the TED prize SinC Project, returned to being an independent, self funded lab. Lorraine connects with several groups at A4 - Phaltan every week all the way from Spain
  57. 57. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 57 Louise with the children at Phaltan before they had a SinC lab Regular sessions in the new Lab
  58. 58. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 58 Travel Day! But let’s step back into Bengal for a bit… Travel Day had arrived after visits to all 3 SinC community based labs. Bags were packed and we headed to the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport, Calcutta and were on our way to Phase 2 of Convention Week in Maharashtra. No rest for these Grannies …Travel Day meant we were flying across the Indian sub-continent From Bengal to Maharashtra, on our way to A4 - Phaltan! Bengal to Maharashtra For many grannies it continues to be baffling how large the sub-continent is and just how LONG it takes to get around! And of course, as on all other days, there were parallel activities in progress. Sally didn’t miss out on any opportunity to interview the grannies. Airports included! Don’t miss Sally finding a quiet spot for an interview!
  59. 59. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 59 It was a much anticipated journey and there were treats in store along the way as several other grannies joined us enroute! Melanie received a rousing cheer as she boarded the same flight on the stopover at Ahmedabad. Rekha and Don were in constant touch and there at Pune airport when we landed. Folks from CMHCC were there to receive and help us on to the bus that took us to Phaltan. And our group was still growing… Prasanna and Abhay had travelled ahead choosing to be the ‘reception committee’ at Jakson Inns as the grannies made the long 4 hour journey from Pune’s Lohegaon Airport to Phaltan. It is only 2 hours from my home in Pune, but then… Pune airport is the other end of town! An exhausted group of visitors had their first taste of some Maharashtrian cuisine and went straight to bed. There was one granny still to arrive and once Sunita Lama flew in to Pune from Dubai in the wee hours of the morning and came straight into Phatan; I heaved a sigh of relief. Everyone had safely arrived! By the way… Phaltan Climate: Coordinates: 17.98°N 74.43°E Located inland [away from the coast], Phaltan in the state of Maharashtra, has a relatively extreme climate with day time temperatures going down to 15 C in the winter and all the way up to 45 in the summers. On Cloud 9 as we flew from Calcutta to Pune enroute to Phaltan and prepare to meet the last few members of our group. View from our flight…
  60. 60. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 60 Day 4: A4 Phaltan – 18th Feb. 2016 Conference Day! The children had planned to make the most of every available moment with their Grannies – so the day started early. And given how tired everyone was, it wasn’t surprising that despite the excitement, one key person almost missed the start. Angele tells me it’s the quickest ‘getting ready’ she’s ever done!  On Tour in Phaltan - the Palace included! A key treat was the tour of Phaltan the children had planned. They even had hand-made brochures to share with the grannies of all the places they were to visit! The ‘tour guides’ with the Grannies, SOLE practitioners & Coordinators One of the palace rooms
  61. 61. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 61 After the visit around Phaltan, the Grannies were off to A4 – Phaltan at KNB – PSS [Kamlabai Nimbkar Balbhavan – Pragat Shikshan Sanstha]. And what a greeting awaited them!  The Greeting on Arrival at A4 - PSSP : Even this was special and the children had laboured for many days, along with their parents and the school staff to get everything ready for the Grannies and other visitors. From special hand- made garlands and registration badges, to ‘rangoli’ strategically placed to welcome the visitors, the children were all dressed up in costumes from different parts of India and greeted the Grannies in the special way of those regions! Like all the other Grannies, Angele was almost mobbed when she arrived!
  62. 62. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 62 Prasanna [for many years our solitary Indian Granny] was glad she had now been joined by many others living in and outside of India. As the grannies arrived and clambered off the bus, they stopped in their tracks, marvelling at the beautiful rangoli everywhere. A big thank you to the parents who had slaved since 6 in the morning to make these gorgeous welcoming decorations. Not to mention the mouth-watering snacks and food through the day, right till we said good bye in the evening! And to the teachers at KNB-PSS as well, who helped with all these preparations too, including putting up the exhibition panels… The greetings and meetings continued through the day… light hearted banter, interspersed with serious discussions… Manjiri has a quick chat with Sushmita & Emma The Registration Desk! Neelima & Melanie – quite possibly discussing Early Childhood Education Madhura & Prasanna in a quiet moment
  63. 63. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 63 A different kind of Open Day: There were lots of parallel activities. Wandering where they wished, quite often led by the children, the Grannies roamed around the school being introduced to people, activities, rooms, food and pretty much anything you can think of, including Bingo the ‘school dog’ that many of the Grannies had heard of during Granny sessions! Emma & Geetanjali visit different classrooms  The Diwali Room: Lots to see and lots to eat! And a rare picture of Sarah – she was too busy holding up the media end!
  64. 64. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 64  The SOLE session: We even had a SOLE session going on and the children had a great time exploring what Phaltan might be like a 100 years on…. One of the key things that had the kids enraptured were Sarah and Suzy’s expressiveness!
  65. 65. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 65 Time for some serious work - The formal Conference! Finally, it was time for the formal part of the Conference on 18th Feb. The grannies and SOLE practitioners had been taken around Phaltan and the School. They had “oohed and aaahed” over the decorations, and had many different snacks to taste. There had even been a SOLE session! We assembled in the school hall and the programme began. As is often the case with any formal program, there is a Welcome Song. And that was the case here too. Except that, it was a song with a difference. Because it had been written by Madhura Rajvanshi, the current coordinator of the SinC lab at Phaltan specially for the occasion and even translated into English by her. Amit, the young music teacher had set it to tune and the children sang it enthusiastically to the accompaniment of their friends on the harmonium and table. Projected on the backdrop were carefully selected pictures of the various SinC labs… And it begins! A Special Welcome Song
  66. 66. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 66 We had a packed agenda. Sticking to the schedule was critical. There was so much ground we wanted to cover… If you want to get a sense of how packed, just look at the Agenda! Session I: School Practices The PSSP Perspective & their involvement in the School in the Cloud and the Granny Cloud Dr. Manjiri Nimbkar, the Director of Pragat Shikshan Sanstha welcomed all the delegates and remembered Dr. Maxine Berntsen [the founder] as she recounted how the organization had always sought educational reform and relevant innovative educational practices. She shared how she had come across the Hole in the Wall and the Granny Cloud in 2012 and explored how it fit into their orientation through many follow up conversations with Suneeta. Manjiri revealed that they had felt the disadvantage posed by the limited English fluency in their regional language [Marathi] school and its consequences on the children’s ability to use the internet. The school approach supports children learning in their native/mother tongue; yet they felt the need to combine it and make available to the children a wider world through English and the Internet. Manjiri addressing the audience Manjiri also narrated with pride the kind of parental support that was available for any new idea they try out… and involvement in the Granny Cloud was no different. PSS had come on board and
  67. 67. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 67 become a part of the Granny Cloud initiative ahead of the TED Prize. Manjiri and the PSS staff had seen the impact of the interaction and when the opportunity to become a full-fledged SinC lab arose with the accompanied potential to participate in the research, they jumped at the opportunity. Manjiri ended by telling the audience about her desire to connect the PSSP SinC lab with other SinC labs/schools using SOLEs outside of Maharashtra and India. Session I A - School Practices – The SinC lab at A4-PSSP The visitors had already been around the school, interacted with the children, and also seen the SinC lab. So it was an appropriate time for the coordinators from A4 Phaltan to highlight some of the issues that confront them. Madhura gave an overview of the context of the SinC lab or the SOLE room as everyone at Phaltan including the children refer to it. [Specific Information about the lab can be found earlier in this diary in Box # 5: The SinC Lab at A4 Phaltan]. She proceeded to highlight some of the issues they are now faced with, indicating that the conference deliberations would help them decide the way forward as they moved towards becoming an independent SinC lab at the end of the Project in Oct. 2016. Madhura presents with Prakash: The children had chosen to stay on
  68. 68. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 68 Among the issues she brought up was the use of the learning Lab. This touched upon both, the emphasis on small group Granny sessions and the corresponding limited availability of the lab for free use, and/or SOLE sessions with larger groups of children. She also brought up the possibility of focusing on early intervention for Granny sessions [Grades 1 to 3] and a free use focus for older children [Grade 4 to 7]. She also addressed the need for having more SOLE sessions with Big Questions, as well as the need to orient the teachers in the school for this purpose. [NB: In June 2016, A4 Phaltan began Granny sessions with the pre-schoolers. Several of these are facilitated by one of the older students, tiny Shruti from Grade 8]. The Audience: Parents, teachers, coordinators & Grannies and children too!
  69. 69. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 69 Session II – A few surprises and an Inaugural Address Community support is always welcome and it was amply demonstrated by Shrimant Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar from the royal family of Phaltan and also the Chairperson of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Not only did he join the conference briefly, but shared his views on education and offered his support. One of the teachers, Mr. Ghorpade introducing the Raja ahead of his talk By the way, Phaltan was an independent royal principality and became part of the Indian Union in May 1948. The royal palace visited by the grannies on the 18th is still used as a residence by the erstwhile royal family.
  70. 70. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 70 A few surprises! It wasn’t just the ‘adults’ making presentations! The children presented too... showing off their newly developed English speaking skills, but even more to share their ecstasy at some of their favourite folks being physically present. The joy and warmth with which the grannies were greeted at each location was testimony to the importance of their role in the children’s lives. Everywhere the grannies and educators went, the children had clamoured to meet them, show them what they had done and ask about their lives. And at Phaltan it was no different. At Phaltan where the children had planned their little surprises sandwiched between the more academic presentations, it warmed our hearts as each little ‘speech’ ended with the heartfelt and recurring theme - “I love my Granny” !
  71. 71. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 71 We even had a little skit performed by Lorraine’s Grade 5 group and it included a cute mimicry not only of the ‘accent’ as they heard it, but also the ever famous Granny mug of tea! That she and the other absent Grannies had been missed had been evident at every step…
  72. 72. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 72 And even when almost encouraged to go away during the more academic sessions, the kids insisted on staying through the entire lot of presentations, especially when told they couldn’t take their granny away with them! Well, the grannies were obliging and Rekha was soon on the floor with them and sharing the contentment of being close to each other… Many of the parents stayed on too… even though they didn’t understand English… just wanting to be a part of it all!
  73. 73. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 73 Session III - The UK Story We were doing well with time and moving on to the next part of the conference. This focused on the UK Story. About how it had all begun, and a bit about where it was going… Session III A: The UK Story - SOLE at St. Aidan’s With a sense of what was happening in some of the SinC labs we had visited, it was an appropriate point to turn back in time, shift to the UK and hear from Emma Crawley about how she had got involved with Sugata’s ideas way back in 2007 and first tried it out at her school. When Sugata was developing his idea of the SOLEs, there were different schools across the world, which were keen on trying it out. Emma felt that it was needed in the UK as well and had requested Sugata to visit St Aidan’s and demonstrate a SOLE. The Big Question that day related to fractals and Emma was impressed with the way children got engrossed with the search and continued with the search for several weeks after. She then decided to try it out on her own to see if it would work…And it did! That led to her sharing it with others in her school and it has now become an integral part of St. Aidan’s activity. Yet, Emma cautioned that there were teachers who were comfortable with the approach, and others that weren’t, but that children like it! Small wonder that! Emma also touched upon training / orienting teachers to use SOLEs as one of the ways forward and mentioned the Gateshead Teaching School Alliance that had been formed for this purpose. Emma spoke about SOLEs at St. Aidan’s
  74. 74. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 74 It was time now to get a sense of the 2 SinC labs that had been set up as part of the TED Prize Project in the UK and represent the better resourced, yet ‘small town’ / suburban England, and are the other end of the continuum of SinC lab sites like Korakati. Session III B: The UK Story - SinC at A5 Killingworth [GSHS] We all missed Amy-leigh Dickinson who was on maternity leave following the birth of her third child [2nd daughter Mila]. Amy manages the SinC lab at Area 5 at the George Stephenson High School. This was the first of the SinC labs under the TED prize projects to open up. Sally Rix who has been Amy’s colleague at GSHS, and is also the community manager for the School in the Cloud stepped in to share with the audience the context of the lab at GSHS and the insights gained over the past couple of years. [See Box # 6: The SinC lab at A5 - GSHS]. Sally shared that the lab had been set up following Amy’s initial interaction with Sugata and that the head teacher’s support has been crucial to bring SOLEs to GSHS. With successful SOLE experiences in the lab, the school is considering developing it as a community-based resource and aims to make it sustainable in the long term. Sally also highlighted a challenge faced, viz, the need to change teacher mind sets and get them to appreciate SOLE as a philosophy rather than a set of procedures to follow. She indicated the constraints of the ‘system’ which led to conflict between the dominant activity (passing exams) and SOLE. She closed with focusing on the issue of the sustainability of SOLEs in present day educational contexts. Sally presenting on SinC Lab A5 – GSHS
  75. 75. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 75 SinC Lab A5 – Killingworth [GSHS] Box # 6: The SinC at A5 Killingworth [GSHS] A SOLE session at GSHS Location: The SinC lab at A5 Killingworth [GSHS] is in the North Tyneside area of Tyne & Wear and the school takes its name after George Stephenson of ’steam locomotives’ fame. The geo- coordinates are: 55°01 59 N 1°34 02 W Opening Date: 22nd Nov. 2013. It had been open for approximately 21 months since opening till Feb. 2016 Community Profile: A planned town, Killingworth today has a sizeable commercial centre and is well connected to nearby Newcastle upon Tyne where many residents work. There are several other schools in the area and the town also has substantial cultural and community facilities. At its last inspection, the school was deemed to be ‘outstanding’. Children’s Profile: GSHS is a secondary school offering co-educational facilities to the 11-18 years age. The majority of students are of White British heritage. At the last Ofsted inspection in May 2012, the number of students eligible for Free School Meals was in line with the national average and the number of students identified as needing support in the form of School Action Plus or a statement was lower than the national average. A children’s group known as ‘The Committee’ were part of designing the lab and creating the rules for its use.
  76. 76. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 76 Box # 6: SinC Lab A5 – Killingworth [GSHS] continued… Lab Facilities & capacity: The lab is located in the Design department of the School and has 6 computers, plus a Skype screen. It also has an Xbox. Lab Use: The SinC lab is used by every department and most teachers. It is typically used with years 7-9 (11-14 year olds), during school hours which are 8.35am to 3pm most days of the week. Some primary school groups have used it occasionally and the school is looking to offer local community access. Some teachers have begun to make it a regular part of their practice Special challenges: The main issues are working within a 'performativity' system of high stakes testing and teacher accountability. Exam board prescribed content and regular testing with a focus on 'knowledge' and remembering give teachers little flexibility when looking at innovative pedagogies such as SOLE. A joint session between A5 GSHS & A4 - Phaltan A regular SOLE session at A5 GSHS
  77. 77. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 77 Session III C – The UK Story - SinC at Newwton Aycliffe [GCAC] Katy sharing the GCAC experience The UK story continued with Katy’s presentation. Katy manages the SinC lab at Newton Aycliffe. She had many insights to offer in the way SOLEs work in a setting that is a blend between a stand-alone community centre and one that is attached to a school, with other schools also using the resources and facilities offered by the centre. A brief description of the SinC lab that Katy manages is in Box # 7: SinC lab at A6 – Newton-Aycliffe – GCAC. This is also known as Room 13. Katy shared the beginning of the SOLE initiative at GCAC [Greenfield Community & Arts Centre] over the past 6 years and the way they had been interacting with Sugata in the process of exploring SOLEs in secondary education. A highlight of Katy’s presentation was a description of the lab itself which resembles an indoors garden and accentuates its difference from a classroom. Katy spoke about the different ways in which the SinC lab had been used and the focus on Big Questions through the over 1200 sessions that had happened in the lab since it opened 2 years ago. Among the activities of the SinC lab have been SOLE sessions with all ages, abilities, subject areas, working with their own school, as well as other primary, secondary and even university students. They had also engaged with families, children outside of a school, led conferences, delivered presentations internationally, and hosted international visitors, and explored granny sessions, as well as joint SOLE sessions with SinC labs in India.
  78. 78. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 78 Another crucial insight that Katy had to offer was that while those who had used the lab for substantial periods showed academic achievements beyond what was expected of them, there was also a distinct improvement in reading abilities. SOLEs seem to provide a takeaway from every session! Just as in the SinC labs in India, the benefits of the lab accrued not only to the children, but also the coordinators, at GCAC – Room 13 as well. The impact was observable on teachers too. Katy mentioned that it had succeeded in challenging teacher perceptions including the expectations they had of students. Katy also referred to ‘The Engine Heads’, the 10 member volunteer student group at GCAC – who promote SOLEs and are all emerging as leaders of learning. Katy closed with sharing their plans for the future. This included trying to figure out how to integrate SOLEs in the current system despite the constraints of the assessment systems. They also plan to share their work and help others to understand SOLEs, while simultaneously working towards making SOLEs more accessible to other children elsewhere. The Entrance to Greenfield Community Centre
  79. 79. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 79 SinC Lab A6 – GCAC – Newton-Aycliffe Box # 7: The SinC lab at A6 – Newton-Aycliffe – GCAC aka Room 13 Room 13 seen from the lobby in front of it Location: The SinC A6 Newton Aycliffe Lab is located in the North East of England, in County Durham, UK. Room 13 is situated in Greenfield Community Arts Centre which is part of the 11-16 year old school - Greenfield Community College which is a specialist high achieving Arts & Science school. The geocoordinates are 54°37 N 1°35 W Opening Date: 13th February 2014. At the time of Convention Week, the lab was open for approximately 20 months since opening. Children’s Profile: The children from the Community College as well as nearby primary schools have access to the lab, which has to be booked in advance. Lab Facilities & capacity: Room 13 has 6 computers and accommodates 30 young people. The lab was designed to look very different from a regular classroom and has a ‘garden’ look to it. The lab also has an Xbox. Lab Use: The SinC lab is frequently used and over 1000 SOLE sessions have happened in the first 2 years cutting across all ages and all subjects. Room 13 has to be booked through a booking system by teachers as it is voluntary to use Room 13/SOLE.
  80. 80. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 80 Special Challenges: As in many other parts of the world, a common challenge faced at GCAC, relates to teachers perceptions of SOLEs, and curriculum pressures affecting the provision of opportunities for SOLE sessions because currently students primarily access SOLEs through the curriculum. Documentation of the benefits of the SOLEs are hard to capture as to what happens next once children go back to their classrooms. Another common challenge is the design of big questions relevant to curricular subjects. SOLE sessions at Room 13 – Greenfield A6
  81. 81. The Granny Cloud - SinC India Convention 2016: A Diary Suneeta Kulkarni 81 Session III D: The UK Story - Math SOLEs Another interesting presentation in the ongoing UK story was about Math SOLEs. This joint presentation was made in their easy and animated style by Sarah Leonard and Suzy Smart from the Masham School. They jumped right in with examples of Big Questions related to Maths that they had used with the children at their school. And they shared how children had researched and responded to these. Among the examples they shared were:  Which is the most effective way of showing data – a table or a graph?  What is a Roman numeral? Sarah & Suzy presenting their experiences with SOLEs They also shared other ways in which they had used SOLEs with the children. One such activity had involved getting children in one class to teach the children in another class about how best to learn ‘times tables’. In the process, the children who were to teach had to research about different kinds of learners, as well as apply their findings to the actual interaction with the child to ‘be taught’! Not surprisingly, children gained tremendously from the SOLE sessions. Sarah and Suzy wound up by sharing their top findings: These were that SOLEs are inspirational and  Made links with maths to everyday life, made maths interesting, as well as created new vocabulary.  Provided starting points for next maths lesson, sometimes a new direction, at others to reiterate a point.

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