Games, alarm clocks and a chatbot …

I’ve written several times about the synergy that is caused when the SOLEs and The Granny Cloud come together and the even greater impact on the children that this leads to. Even though it is not possible in many of the Granny Cloud locations [typically because they have just the one computer connected to the Internet and session time is their only access to it], we welcome this  confluence whenever and whereever we can.

But what happens when children have free access to the computers? And the choice to ‘sit in’ [or not!] on a Granny session lies with the children? That is when it is truly child driven. This is easiest in a full-fledged lab based in a community setting. Not in a school – where sessions become part of the school schedule and an element of ‘no choice’ creeps in, but in a community based lab like the School in the Cloud lab at Gocharan.

with Sunita Lama

Deb didn’t mind being the only one in a Granny session [Photo: Suneeta]

The biggest of the labs [11 computers!] that were designed and built as part of the TED Prize Project the Gocharan lab also has a special structure and shape. Sugata had designed it in a hexagonal shape inspired in part by beehives and the way they function. Of course, it was not without its challenges as we found out in the very first few weeks of its opening in January 2015.

Too large [more is not always better!], the edge of chaos often tipped into complete chaos. The noise levels and other acoustic challenges made Granny sessions not as popular as in the other labs. Can’t say I blame the children! What would you do if you couldn’t hear a word of what the person on Skype was saying and there was a din in your ears loud enough to give you a headache? So of course, the children preferred to be in the outer hexagon playing a game and adding to that racket!    🙂

 

With time, some basic solutions found their way into the manner in which the lab operated. And we learnt a lot that could go into the next lab design! What remained essentially the same though, was the children’s extent of choice. They could come and go as they pleased, and do whatever they wished.

football background

Setting the Desktop background. It had to be football! [Photo: Suneeta]

When that is the case, there are always a few children who make the most of the opportunity. And Deb is a really good example. Really bright and motivated to learn, Deb lived just a stone’s throw away from the lab. He did enjoy playing the wrestling, car and other action games along with the other boys. And of course, football! Deb’s a Ronaldo fan! And often ensured that a football scene was the desktop background. But  he also, from the very beginning, used the computers and connectivity to check out information pertaining to his school work and other interests. He could be seen earnestly taking notes as well as generally surfing the net.

searching for info - seasons

Searching for information about Seasons for a class assignment [Photo: Suneeta]

And he made sure he was around for every Granny session he could!

Deb is also possessed of a very kind heart and could be seen helping other children out, and playing along even with the little ones. He was as much of an ‘assistant coordinator’ as there ever could be!

supporting the little ones

Supporting the little ones [Photo: Suneeta]

And while we will never know for sure exactly when it happened, Deb developed an interest in programming and used every opportunity to work at a computer by himself to explore that a little more. The other children wondered what he was up to and looked over his shoulder from time to time but then disappeared to other more attractive activities leaving Deb undisturbed.

He was quite thrilled with his first game. And so was I!

making one of his first games

Making one of his first games [Photo: Suneeta]

Yet, there came a point when he got stuck and needed help. The Granny Cloud to the rescue! It is one of the rare occasions we have had a Granny connect ‘one on one’ with a child in a lab in such a focused manner. Fabio and Rodger. Fabio answered his questions and gave him a few tips as he introduced him to Jarvis and Oracle. Rodger understood all that he was attempting to do [unlike yours truly!] But he stepped in, not so much with technical guidance but with the emotional and moral support Deb needed to keep up his attempt at programming.

with Fabio

Fabio introduced him to the basics of programming [Photo: Puja Ganguly]

 

with Rodger

Rodger gave him the encouragement to keep at it [Photo: Puja Ganguly]

in the midst of programming

Engrossed in programming [Photo: Suneeta]

 

I watched from the sidelines as over the months Deb made a Tetris type game, programmed an alarm clock and then invited me to try out his chatbot…

“What do you like for breakfast?” Asked the bot.

“Idly”… I responded.

“I like idly” too. And we were off!

programming the chatbot

Programming the chat bot [Photo: Suneeta]

Note: Deb remains in touch today and I hope that the Granny Cloud is able to continue encouraging and supporting him in the years to come.

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