This blog was written by Suneeta Kulkarni [Hon. Director – The Granny Cloud] and was originally published on the old School in the Cloud website in June 2014. ‘KNB – PSS Phaltan joined the Granny Cloud in 2013 after over a year of deliberation and subsequently became one of the School in the Cloud labs during the TED Prize project. It returned to ‘independently funded’ status at the end of the TED Project. Suneeta
The 1st batch of children to experience Granny sessions at KNB – PSS
The Kamlabai Nimbkar Bhavan school of the Pragat Shikshan Sanstha at Phaltan, Maharashtra is one of the TED Project SinC sites. One of the reasons it is an interesting location is because they chose to have the Granny Cloud after a great deal of thought and deliberation. And this was ahead of the TED Project coming into play. A Marathi medium school, it is rather innovative in its approach to learning. In fact it was their involvement with the approach that made us want to have them collaborate with us on this project.
We have had our eyes trained on the potential impact of these sessions on children’s English capabilities for a while now, so we used the ASER reading tool with simple comprehension questions added to screen children’s English capability and get a sense of their starting levels. So we conducted the first assessment exercise when Granny Cloud sessions began with Grades 6 and 7 in September 2013. In March 2014, almost 6 months down the line, we repeated the exercise.
Even when we began, it was quite clear from what the school faculty had shared that the children read and even understood a fair amount of English, although they found it hard to understand ‘foreign’ accents and lacked confidence in sharing their thoughts in English.
When we went back in March for the 2nd round of testing, the teachers shared the striking change they observed in the children. They commented, as had many of the ‘Grannies’, that the children were more expressive, willing to share ideas more easily, taking chances and speaking in this ‘foreign language.
Our own observations indicated similar remarkable changes. During the second assessment session, children greeted us with enthusiastic “hello’s”, initiated conversation, quickly chose a task [almost all went straight for the ‘story’ which was the highest level and responded to questions quickly and fluently, even asking several of their own in the process. My favourite was, “This question has 2 answers. Shall I give you both, or just one?” !! ]
Their confidence was most evident in the spontaneous sharing of information about their Granny Cloud sessions, what they liked to do, what was typically done, and what their plans for future sessions were all about. One young man was quick to put us at ease with a big grin, when we had to request a short pause for checking logistics with Dr. Manjiri Nimbkar during the assessment session [“Ok, No problem, I’ll wait”]. These were the same children who 6 months earlier had read accurately but haltingly, often unwilling to look up from the text in front of them.
So it was interesting to look at the hard numerical data as well. Not surprisingly, there were no particular changes in reading fluency. We didn’t really expect any. After all, the reading task was targeted at Grade 2 and these were children in Grades 6 and 7. And they did have English as one subject!
But the marked change in confidence was backed up by subtle quantitative changes. Out of 35 children, 24 children attempted level 4 [The Story] the first time around. This figure climbed to 31 children when the exercise was repeated in March 2014. 8 of the children had moved up a level [6 of them 2 levels] from the task they had attempted earlier [Words – Level 2 to Story – Level 4]
Even though the ASER task assumes that if children understand if they are reading ‘fluently’, it wasn’t an assumptions we were willing to make based on our own experience in these settings. And this was borne out. A comparison of Reading Comprehension scores told a slightly different story. 15 children scored 100% on the comprehension questions during the pretest. This went up to 23 children scoring 100% during the post test. The mean reading comprehension score jumped significantly from 74% to 84% [73.9399 to 84.42857]. 11 children had scored 50% or less the first time around; this dropped to only 6 children scoring 50% or less during the post test on the comprehension questions.
Now that PSS is also part of the main TED SinC project we will have a ‘proper’ SOLE room with facilities that will be available to the entire school. Exciting days ahead as we track the children’s progress…
At the time this update was shared with the Grannies, Suneeta was Research Director for School in the Cloud. PSS Phaltan was one of the TED School in the Cloud sites, then under construction.