There are Granny Sessions. There are SOLE sessions.
There are even SOLE sessions with Grannies over Skype. And don’t forget ‘Mini SOLE Sessions.
One of the common misconceptions that new (or prospective Grannies) have is that connecting with the children in some remote or disadvantaged location is a breeze. And if what they have mostly heard about are SOLE sessions then the misconception goes a little deeper. Because their expectation is that they will be able to present the children with a BIG question, have them search for related information, and then present their answers…. Just the way they have heard or read about in some reports.
But the reality is a long way away from this. For many different reasons. But I will share just a few critical ones over here. For one, SOLE sessions with a qualified facilitator (teacher) present with the children for a whole hour (or more) is a far cry from trying to connect with children over Skype where you can see only a few of the children and have little or no control, nor view of what else might be going on in that space.
When you add to this the challenges created by the fact that the children have ( in many Granny Cloud locations) very little fluency in English (specially expressive), limited computer skills, limited availability of computers, and typically inadequate and fluctuating internet connectivity; you begin to understand why there are many different kinds of sessions in which Grannies are involved.
And we could take this a step further and consider the challenges of time – and fitting the sessions into 30 minute slots (which is often the only amount of time available in the lab or that children often have access to computers just once a week, you start acknowledging that the kind of SOLE sessions Grannies can be involved with are quite different from what you might have expected based on what you have heard in talks or read about in newspaper reports.
But hang on! This is not meant to discourage anyone. Because Grannies do engage in SOLE sessions. And they do present children with questions. It is just that it is done a little differently – that too with some of the children, and only in some settings or centres, sometimes. Let’s take an example of a couple of different Granny SOLE sessions.
Example 1. The children in Grade 6 (approximately 11 to 12 years old, and about 36 of them in a lab with just 4 working computers) had been learning about the Metro Rail system in one of their lessons. These were children from a regional language setting and they did not have much access to the computers apart from their weekly session with a Granny. So their familiarity with English as well as computers was limited, but not missing. There were just about 15 minutes of time available so the question posed by the Granny physically present with the children was – ” From where will the proposed metro rail system in X city run and up to which point will it go in Phase 1?” most of the group came up with the answer in a few minutes. The ones that got stuck did so because their computers did not work.
(The related BIG question that it could lead on to is – “Will the Metro Rail solve the transport challenges of X City?” A question that urban planners have had a hard time getting their heads around!)
Example 2. Grade 5 children in the same Lab as the example above had been working on a class project related to child abuse. As part of a specific aspect of that exploration they researched whether corporal punishment was acceptable under any circumstance. This was a question posed over a Skype session using a combination of both English and Marathi and was a follow-up of a SOLE session the previous week when they had explored what constitutes child abuse. They were able to come up with a nuanced understanding which found its way into their project reports displayed during the annual school exhibition. In another follow up, Grade 5 engaged in a related area of research as they explored Parental responsibilities with a Granny at the other end of the Skype connection.
But along with all this are also what we sometimes refer to as ‘Mini SOLE sessions’ like the one in Example 1. You could ask a relatively small question about the ‘tallest mountain peak’ or the ‘longest river’ and get answers of varied depths. To begin with children might arrive at a basic, factual answer and experience the success necessary to edge them towards further exploration. There are other children who will search for and share related information. For example, they might tell you the countries a river runs through or the flora and fauna found on its banks. And there are Grannies who will encourage further exploration when the moment calls for it by asking a gentle “Why?” or “How?”
So there you have it. Sometimes, some things work. At other times they don’t. It is the reason that flexibility and a high tolerance for frustration are among the most highly prized Granny qualities! It is also the reason some Grannies like connecting with the same locations. Even when they are ‘drop in’ sessions where you can never be completely certain who might pop up in front of the webcam. It is also the reason some Grannies use the opportunities presented by asynchronous interaction through strategies such as Linoit or Padlet boards. The idea is to build on what has transpired before and keep the interaction going.
Over the years, our experiences have piled up and it has allowed us to gauge the environment and move into the kind of session that seems most appropriate for the moment and the developmental level of the children involved. Deciding what to do calls for a quick assessment of the opportunities as well as challenges posed by the situation you find yourself in. Multi age group? No problem. Just girls? No problem. Just a few words of English? No problem. A competent and involved coordinator with the children? Oh how lovely! The net’s working really well today? Thank goodness!
I could go on and on but the bottom line is – There are ALLl kinds of sessions – for ALL kinds of settings!
And Grannies prepared to take ALL these on….