Jackie Barrow isn’t a granny yet but as a retired teacher she felt she might qualify for an advert in The Guardian newspaper calling for volunteers to help teach children in India.
She did and today, three years on, she is reading “Not Now Bernard” via Skype to a small group of children in the Indian city of Pune.
They love it and are engaged in the experience as she holds up an Easter egg to show them how children in the UK celebrated the recent holiday.
The Granny Cloud project is the brainchild of Prof Sugata Mitra, best-known for his hole-in-the-wall computer scheme which put basic PCs into some of the poorest parts of India.
Prof Mitra installed the first such computer on the wall of his south Delhi office, opposite a slum. He was amazed to see that the children, initially curious about the machine, soon became self-taught experts…
Prof Mitra noticed they did best when an adult was present offering advice and encouragement over their shoulders. There was, he reasoned, no-one so encouraging as a granny and so the idea was born.
The official name of the project is Sole (self organised learning environments) but it is more commonly known as the granny cloud.
The grannies, or e-mediators as they are officially known, are not teachers and the sessions they conduct with the children in India are not lessons.
Instead they read stories to the children and talk about things relevant to them and to the UK. The point, said Prof Mitra, was that they provided encouragement and praise and became a “virtual granny” to the children…
There were now around 300 “grannies” involved in the scheme and it was growing all the time, Prof Mitra told the BBC…
The scheme has now been extended to four schools in Columbia, South America where, said Prof Mitra, it was doing very well.
It is also being used in schools much closer to home.
RTFA. It’s long and has interesting anecdotes, failures as well as success.
The project benefits senior citizens taking part as thoroughly as it does the children – just differently. I find it interesting, useful, a bit of useful addition to lives regardless of borders. Which is proper in what this cloud-based world is becoming.