Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SOLE and the Granny Cloud

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by LeonArts.at:
http://flickr.com/photos/leo-gruebler/6330296212/
Recently a revisit to Sugata Mitra's brillant TED Talk "Sugata Mitra Shows How Kids Teach Themselves" has been published. This one is titled "Build a School in the Cloud." Both talks are not only worth while, but funny, insightful, and thought provoking. Mr. Mitra invented SOLE which stands for Self Organized Learning Environments . It is this movement that earned Sugata Mitra the Ted Prize given each year to an "Exceptional individual who wishes to inspire the world." 

Sugata discovered that if he simply put a computer in a hole in the wall in some of the worst slums of India, children would find a way to use it and learn from it. He also discovered that they did not keep this information to themselves, they taught it to others. Ten to twelve year olds learned microbiology in a second language as well as experts many years their senior with only two ingredients;  technology and encouragement. Not enough can be said about the later. 

Sugata had the theory that the students would improve even more if they had some one who encouraged them in the way a "Granny" does. Please do not mistake this for false praise. Grannies say things like, "You can do it, just try a little harder." Or, "Remember what you did here, well take that and apply it over here." Or more importantly, "Don't be afraid to fail. Nothing great ever happened without mistakes or messes." 

The Granny Cloud invented by Sugata consists of British Grandmothers volunteering their time via Skype to read to and encourage learners in remote areas of India. These students are not only developing their academics, they have acquired Cornish accents and a greater sense of self. 

After watching Sugata's first talk a few years ago, I experimented in my own relationships with my middle school students in Detroit. Many of my kids rarely received any kind of encouragement. For some I had to earn their trust that I was genuine.  It took time and consistent effort. Some never stopped teasing me and started calling me "Granny" even though I never told them the impetus of my ways. However, universally they ate it up faster than Cheetos or candy. And once I had them hooked, they never wanted to disappoint. I realized I had a killer motivating force in my tool belt. So, why don't you try a little Granny love yourself? Come on, I know you have greatness in you! Think of the hearts and minds you can change for the better. Go on now...





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