Three years ago, Jackie Barrow, a local Diggle resident, answered an advertisement in the Guardian, to take on the role of e-mediator, or virtual granny, to read stories to children in third world or developing countries via SKYPE. Since that time Jackie has been communicating, via the Granny Cloud, with slum children in a school in Pune (formerly Poona), India. The Granny Cloud or SOLE project is the brainchild of Prof Sugata Mitra.
SOLEs or Self Organised Learning Environments grew out of Professor Mitra’s earlier work, the ‘Hole in the Wall’ project. Built around several locations in India, its aim is to facilitate self-organized learning, providing a place for children to work in groups, access the internet and use software. They are encouraged to follow up on a class activities and expand their interests. The SOME project, Self Organised Mediation Environments, often referred to as the Granny Cloud developed out of this giving volunteers an opportunity to connect with children in these locations.
Jackie, in her granny role, doesn’t only read stories, she also shows photos of Diggle and its surrounding area, highlighting the seasonal changes, the houses and the gardens. The aim is to help the children develop their English language skills, their confidence and their ability to access technology and use the internet for research. It’s clear that Jackie and the children enjoy their chats and it is obvious from watching her video that she has developed real relationships with the children she speaks with.
During the three years that Jackie has been involved in the project, she has run sessions with groups in Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Pune and Villa de Leyva in Colombia. At the moment she is in regular contact with two groups, one in Maharashtra and the other in Pune. Jackie says, “I’ve been connecting with the group in Pune for over a year now. They connect from an after school club run by a charity for the children living in the slum area of the city.” See http://english.palakneeti.org/
This has all been achieved via the internet from Jackie’s home but that is about to change as Jackie will be flying out on Tuesday to Mumbai and then on to Pune courtesy of the BBC’s One Show.
They are making three five minute films featuring the work Jackie has been doing, on a voluntary basis. The first film will show her on Skype in her house. The second and third will be filmed in India showing her meeting the children and their families face to face for the first time. They are due to be broadcast in September.
Jackie says, “The whole idea behind the project is to offer a link to another culture. We chat about all manner of things, Diggle, the garden, the lambs in the fields at springtime and pictures of the snow. If I go away, to say London, I take a picture and show that.
“I’m taking out books, pens, crayons and felting wools for the school in Pune. I’m planning to read stories and have a felting session when I’m out there. I would like to thank friends, neighbours and Woolyknits for their kind donations.”
As Jackie says, “Who better than a granny to offer love, support and encouragement”.
For more information on the project go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17114718