Not every tale that comes out of The Granny Cloud and SOLEs is a happy one. As I have shared elsewhere, connectivity is possibly the biggest challenge. Yet an even more insidious challenge is that of the limited – even minimal, access that children have within a facility. Whether it is because of apathy, bureaucracy, fear of equipment damage; the end result is the same. Children with no, or almost no access.
There are, and have been from the very beginning, obstacles that made it difficult to achieve what we set out to do. Some impediments were technological; others had to do with the remoteness of the location. Inadequate bandwidth and the resulting distortions in sound and picture, or even the complete drop in a call are things we found a way around. If sound didn’t work we used pictures and facial expressions. If the video didn’t work we relied on our voices. And in both situations, we used ‘texting’ not just to clarify what was being said; but sometimes as the only way for an interaction to take place. When sessions couldn’t happen we brought in asynchronous activities like Linoit or Padlet boards to facilitate an ongoing interaction, or to start up a brand new conversation. Remoteness brought an added challenge. When something went wrong it meant a long wait till it could be rectified. Whether it was Korakati or Rayalpad, [ https://grannycloudtales.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/the-monkeys-did-it/ ] it meant being patient till someone could get in from the closest city and repair the fault.
Yet, ironically, the biggest and most difficult to get past challenge costs neither time nor resources. It is just a matter of mind-set. It is the mind-set that keeps children out. In several locations, where specially designed labs were set up, the children’s access was limited. Initially limited to times when Grannies were going to be skyping in because that was perceived as a ‘class’ or as a ‘lesson’. But Granny sessions are not lessons! Their purpose is quite different. http://thegrannycloud.org/become-a-granny/ And soon, especially after funding for a specific project dried up, the labs drifted away. And children were left, wanting to be ‘let in’.
Hoping to be “let in” – 2009 [Photo: Suneeta]
Across the world we ‘complain’ about the state of the educational system, about the lack of resources. Almost all the locations The Granny Cloud has chosen to work in are concrete examples of limited resources. Yet there are times when an available resource that has the potential to broaden the children’s horizons goes unused. While wanting more from the educational system, it is the mind-set that holds us back, that makes us hold the children back from free exploration, that makes us want the Grannies to conduct structured or at least semi-structured lessons. It is the mind-set that makes us feel threatened when children question the validity of information. (Well, they did come across something contradictory!). It is our mind set that makes us feel our authority is challenged because the children are so confident in stating their views. In one lab, attached to a school, the teachers were quite taken aback by what got perceived as children being ‘smart aleck’s’. It is the mind-set that makes us seat our children in formal rows watching us warily.
A traditional classroom at a former centre – 2016 [Photo: Suneeta]
Certainly in many settings SOLE sessions with ‘Big Questions’ are still not feasible given where the children are at. Yet, exploration is not only feasible – it happens. Whether it is through the “I wonder” variety of ‘Not so big Questions’ (Call them mini SOLEs if you wish.) or just the piquing of curiosity that occurs because of a story or experience shared in a session – exploration happens!
Even the little ones are keen to explore – MANAS 2017 [Photo Courtesy – Mayuri Tatkare]
And for that to happen much, much more the children have to have free and adequate access! They have to be ‘let in’. Each time I would visit a location and see it locked, or empty, or closed with the shutters down; my heart would sink. Each time I get a request from a lab or a centre asking me to tell the Grannies to teach, my heart sinks. What would those children have done if they were in there, using those resources?
Unused resources – 2009 [Photos: Suneeta]
But each time, I come across children waiting for the locks to be opened, I know there is hope.
Because there is hope! And in the past few years, as labs and centres come on by their own choice, there is a sense of ownership and it is evident that they not only recognise the potential of such an opportunity, and irrespective of the resources available to them, actively ensure that as many children as possible have access to it. They extend it across age levels, they extend it across activities. And the difference can be felt. …
Having the resources helps, but it’s the mind-set that makes the real difference! [Photos from 2015, 2012, [Suneeta] 2017 [Mayuri Tatkare] from different independent and self-funded Granny Cloud Centres
The technology helps, as do the resources.
But it is up to us to use what we have.