Imagine that you are a 10 year old and quite intrigued with the idea of ‘space’ or ‘children’s rights’ or ‘fossils’. You and your friends are using a combination of English and your own native language (with some additional help – or not! from Google Translate) to try and understand the information that is thrown up when you feed in some search terms. You would like to discuss what you found with the Granny who is skyping in, and all set to admire your discoveries; but something is missing. You are not able to tell her or him all that you are thinking of, and are frustrated that you cannot take the discussion and sharing any further because ‘Granny’ doesn’t understand your language.
Well, this is the scenario that plays itself out fairly frequently in various Granny Cloud centres. Especially when the novelty of the early sessions with the Grannies wear off, and you really want to probe the depths of the topic and go beyond the song and dance. When it gets to that point something more is needed to sustain the challenge. But it makes sense, doesn’t it?!
Even if one does not use Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, there is no denying that the extent of exposure to English children in the different SOLE labs and Granny Cloud centres have is woefully short of what they need to gain even basic proficiency in that language. The reality of the number of hours of exposure children have to English as part of their interaction with a Granny is closer to 40 hours per year! A far cry from ‘immersion’…. But then, we are not expecting mastery over the English language per se. Because the real goals of the Granny Cloud are to help children develop a few other important skills as well. Search skills, creativity, analysis, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and so on. Although reading comprehension begins to increase quite quickly to the point where children are able to figure out the gist of the material they access on websites and through many links; the reality is that they certainly do not understand every word they read or hear. And they most certainly find it hard to express their thoughts and ideas including the conclusions they might have arrived at in the process of searching for answers to interesting questions.
It is a challenge we have been thinking about in the Granny Cloud for some time now. Where should we use our limited resources to best effect? There is no getting away from the fact that even in some of the relatively well resourced locations with trained teachers and many other material resources, Grannies bring an exposure and experience that those children would not typically have. As one Granny Cloud coordinator said to Edna – “Who else would talk to the children about Picasso?” Or in another location the question a coordinator raised was – “Where else would they get a chance to engage in a bit of city / urban planning?”
So we needed to consider what else we could do. Every so often in some of the sessions, children have presented in their own language in the presence of a Granny or a facilitator who could converse in the same language as them. In that process, they demonstrated the range of their thought processes, not bogged down by having to express themselves using a severely limited vocabulary. So along with the regular Granny sessions focusing on conversation and learning the language we are adding on SOLE sessions with Grannies on Skype! When Grannies understand and can speak the same language as the children the encouragement they can give is more specific and meaningful in yet another way. Speaking a language different from that of a Granny doesn’t have to be a disadvantage…
Note: We have hinted at this through our latest stories and other blogs on the website and the Granny Cloud Tales.