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The Flip Side

Picture this. Young men and women who speak and typically understand only their mother tongue. They have jobs as Centre coordinators for “labs” ( if you can call them that!) – some in villages, some in urban slums; where children come after school to play on the few computers (sometimes just a single laptop) that are scattered around in the ‘space’. Imagine yourself as one of these coordinators.

 

You understand very little English. You haven’t had much experience with computers either. But thanks to your mobile phone you are fascinated with the internet and some of the possibilities it opens up. One of your responsibilities as a coordinator is to enable the connections between the children who come to your centre and the Grannies and Grandpas from far off places. It is a key part of being a Centre that is a part of The Granny Cloud. With a great deal of effort, you have figured out how to ‘post sessions’ on the website so the Grannies will know when the children are available and ‘book the session’. And though more than 60 – 70% of the sessions you have posted remain unbooked, you are thrilled that at least three or four have a Granny’s name in front of it. And you are ready and waiting for session time.

 

BUT! You don’t know for sure whether the children will come today. Or whether the sun or the rain or a festival, or a last minute school program will keep them away. You don’t know how many will turn up. You don’t know whether they will be ‘new’ children or ‘old’ ones. You aren’t sure whether they will be the ‘young ones’ or the ‘older ones’ or some kind of mix. You are not sure which of them will actually want to talk with a Granny or who among them would rather be doing something else. The connection seems stable and adequate at the moment but you don’t know if it will stay that way. You don’t know if the children will have the words with which to express their thoughts and wishes to the Granny, or whether they will ‘take to’ the particular Granny connecting on a specific day. You don’t know whether they will understand what is being said. You don’t know if you will have sound and picture or just one, or whether these will be distorted. Perhaps you will have neither, and have to fall back on text. You don’t know whether the connection will drop constantly and the children will need to redial every few minutes.

Asked about any of these things you can only say – “I don’t know”.

 

But hang on! You are a coordinator of The Granny Cloud at a school. You know which children and when they will be in the lab. You even know the extent to which they are fluent in English or comfortable with computers. BUT (there is always abut) – you still can’t guarantee the connection, you still don’t know if the school’s schedule will change (even at the last minute), and you most certainly don’t know how good (or bad!) the internet connection will be.

 

And irrespective of whether you are a Granny Cloud coordinator at a community centre or a school lab, you look at the many vacant spots in your Granny Sessions Schedule and wish that there were Grannies in time zones who found it convenient to book these.

 

Because many, many children – in centre after centre, await connections with Grannies with eagerness.

But (another but)! There’s the flip side of this picture…

You are a “new” Granny – you are now one of this special team… You joined The Granny Cloud with dreams of reaching out to children in remote locations across the world. You are keen and eager to connect with the children and explore everything under the sun (and beyond!) with them. You dream of the virtual adventures you will go on with the children. You have heard so much about it from the other Grannies.

And it all sounds so delightful. Happy, enthusiastic, engaged children as eager to connect as you yourself. You have been cautioned about having unrealistic expectations from sessions. And you are prepared. Prepared to put aside your backup plans if the children want to go in a different direction. Prepared to hold up your iPad, your cell, even just a sheet of paper or a whiteboard that you can write on if the net connection is tenuous.

And you have pored over the schedule of available sessions on the website. And there are so many sessions! But…. The children don’t understand any English?… No problem. You will find a way around it. The sessions are too early in the morning or too late at night? Ok, so you will wake a little early. The children are rather young? Especially when you prefer older age groups? No problem. You will give it a shot.

 

So there you are. You finally find one session that you can do. And you ‘book it’. Pleased with yourself and excited at finally taking this first step. Excited at the thought of finally meeting some children…

Session time and your excitement has mounted. You sit ready and waiting in front of your computer screen. 5 minutes past session time, 10 minutes past session time and there is no connection. After 30 minutes you give up for the day. You share your disappointment with The Granny Cloud team. And there’s a gentle suggestion and question… “Had the ‘contact request’ gone through?” “Oh dear, perhaps the coordinator didn’t realise the session was booked.”

Never mind…. You repeat the process, and find another session, in another location that you can do and book it. AND you ensure that you send a contact request. Session time comes and goes and the connection doesn’t take place.

“Third time lucky” you tell yourself. So you try yet again, and again and again. One centre, then another, back to the first one. There is always a reason for the connection not happening. ‘The request didn’t go through, the session got cancelled at the last moment because the internet connection was down, the session got cancelled because there was a change in schedule. The session got cancelled and you didn’t realise it till the last minute. And you are ready to QUIT!

 

Who can blame you? You have tried your very best. You have tolerated a great deal of frustration. You have put aside many of your other plans just to be able to connect with the children. But it is now too much…. You feel demoralized, demotivated and so you decide to quit….

 

As you announce your decision to the other Grannies there is a flood of reassurances and pleas to ‘not quit’. Reminders of how it is worth the wait and how all this frustration is a given.

 

All true. Both sides of the picture. And there are many other sides that I will leave for another day.

So what shall we do about this?

 

Watch this space…