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The Granny Cloud – An evolving initiative

The Granny Cloud arouses a lot of interest from lay people, academics and
media alike. This one simple idea holds tremendous appeal even where SOLE
sessions are feasible. It combines the romance of the exotic, the adventure
of the unknown/uncertain, and the warmth of lasting connections spread
across generations, cultures and locations/nations. It’s a story many
people want to hear. And it’s a long, but exciting one.

And while that story is in the offing, for now, I’d like to give you a
quick ride through its history. It’s evolution from an initiative set up to
have native English speakers read stories to children in far off lands
[India] with the aim of impacting reading fluency and comprehension in
English, to its present ‘avataar’ where the Grannies are from over 20
different countries [and almost every continent AND are no longer
necessarily native English speakers] and the focus is more on developing
confidence, encouraging even provoking curiosity and developing
communication & search skills.

In its present stage of evolution [Nov. 2018], The Granny Cloud embodies
many forms, addresses many needs, uses a variety of strategies and
continues to evolve. When we began The Granny Cloud, it was in response to
a specific need in the context of the OGEF Project underway in Hyderabad at
that time. There is a lot that has been learned from the sporadic, one-off
trial sessions in 2008 that enabled us to launch it in May 2009, and there
is lot that we have learned since then as well!

Key aspects of the evolution:
• New challenges – new strategies. Some challenges have remained
constant, others have come up. And we have found a way around each one. Not
always entirely satisfactorily, but allowing us to continue to reach out
meaningfully.
• Broadening goals [not just English vocabulary/reading]. This became
apparent in the very first week of launching the Granny Cloud and has
remained a key feature. Each new Granny brings with them new ideas and
often weaves them into their own sessions to begin with. And they do get
taken on by others when they seem to work. Among the few goals and their
manifestations over the years include:
– Kind of activities integrated in sessions [crafts / puzzles / dance
/games etc]
– Cultural exchange [not just Grannies to children but children
connecting with other children]
– Use of current Technology [Despite limitations of ‘tech savviness’,
Grannies attempt to learn from each other and develop ideas for ensuring a
continuity in the communication with children. ]
– Big questions/Small Questions – mini SOLE sessions with small
questions to stimulate search skills [The challenge continues because what
can happen in Granny sessions is quite different from having full-fledged
SOLE sessions with a physically present facilitator with atleast minimal
resources – several computers connected to the internet in a relatively
quiet, dedicated space. We are still working at this.]
• Formation of a close knit Granny group that is able to weave
together their varied strengths to reach out to children. [This has also
meant the development of several support strategies and group
interactions.]
• On-going experimentation. If something doesn’t work, we retreat,
come up with a modified or new strategy, try something else, return to an
old idea with potential when we have the resources.

Key Observations:
Some things are the ‘same’ and some things are ‘different’.
• Among the key commonalities across Granny Cloud locations/kinds of
centres:
– The Granny-Child connection holds an appeal across locations. The
need for warm, encouraging ‘human contact’ is satisfied through this
connection. It is observable in the way they gravitate to the Skype screen
and attempt to keep the communication going.
– Novelty, thrill, the opportunity to explore draws the children to
the sessions.
– The approach used to connect with children and an over-riding
concern about children’s education and their future is the essential reason
for Granny involvement.
• Some differences across locations/Grannies:
– Granny Backgrounds bring different strengths and perspectives to
the initiative and are manifested in what happens in individual sessions.
– Goals focused on at different centres vary depending on children’s
age and starting skill levels, kind of resources available.

Some over-riding lessons:
• The Granny Approach is applicable to almost all settings even when
focus/key goals are different.
• Need for Granny Support: Dedicated website /FaceBook groups/mini
Skype conferences/peer tutoring/Granny tea parties / individual support are
among the strategies that help in the formation of a close knit group that
is able to weave their strengths together. And some of this support is
self-organized.
• Continuity is helpful particularly with children’s groups which are
still new to the situation. So a certain regularity & frequency in
availability of Granny sessions that allow for relationships to develop is
useful.
• There is need for quiet space at least at Granny end during session
time. The chaos at the children’s end is often a factor beyond control.
• Grannies need to have certain qualities. Openness, the ability to
reflect, flexibility, high frustration tolerance, having a sense of humour
and wonder, enthusiasm and willingness to learn are among the most
important.
• Availability of appropriate technology could enhance the quality of
Granny sessions by adding to ‘mobility/flexibility of movement’ and hence
access to more information / insight into the ground reality in which the
children are functioning at any given point in time.
• Access to adequate resources [computers/internet] in the lab. Not
all centres have the same degree of resources and it impacts what can be
done in Granny sessions and what happens afterwards.
• Optimal Level of Chaos: The continuum could be all the way from
‘too to ‘far too chaotic’. Finding the ‘golden mean’ [though it varies day
by day and session to session] makes for a wonderful & meaningful
interaction.