People have all kinds of questions about The Granny Cloud and given that it grew out of the early experiences during the SOLE project in Hyderabad, it is quite natural that many of the questions are about self organised learning environments and how The Granny Cloud fits in with that approach.

Critics in particular, find nothing self organised about a session going on with – say – middle school children (aged approximately 11 to 12 years) repeating after a Granny the motif or recurring phrase in a story typically meant for primary or even preschool children; and being applauded for what a ‘good job’ they have done. And the critics would be right. Because THAT is NOT the self organised part. And it isn’t meant to be either!

Because Granny sessions and SOLE sessions do not have exactly the same goals. And more often than not, they take place in different contexts and different settings. I have written about this elsewhere ( ). As one of our most experienced Grannies expressed it while participating in a related discussion within the Granny Community “Granny sessions are definitely externally organised. (to varying degrees, depending on context). But within GC sessions, children can lead the learning and self organise in a variety of ways. And there’s no doubt that these sessions build foundations upon which self initiated learning takes place. … it’s less about an individual session or lesson… and more about the overall impact on children’s capacity to be confident, curious, active participants in their own learning. And adults understanding that children are capable of driving their own learning.”

It is also good to remember that this is just the part that has to do with the ‘direct’ interaction with the children. There is so much else that surrounds The Granny Cloud and ensures its functioning. The Granny Cloud initiative cuts across many different contexts, addresses many different needs and works with volunteers from many different countries, ages, and professions. So there is a lot that has to be done to ensure that it can continue to reach out to children all over the world. Hence, there are aspects of The Granny Cloud that are self organised and there are aspects that are not….

Even when we began and Sugata made his appeal for volunteers in the Guardian in March 2009, we didn’t have a precise plan for what we were going to do, or how we were going to do it. As the applications rolled in and screening/orientation interviews took place, and the first trials concluded; there was greater clarity about how to proceed.


And much of it was child driven – not just child centred. Grannies, or eMediators as they were referred to in those initial/early days, quickly adapted session content and activities to fall in with the children’s interests, capabilities and even their expressed desires. I still have very fond memories of grade 6 girls of NLSM in Hyderabad literally begging their Granny for another ‘joke’, or the children at JIYA ensuring that their Granny would be ‘well prepared’ for the next session because they had asked for material in advance. All this happened spontaneously.


Simultaneously, there was a growing realisation that some Grannies were more comfortable with children of a certain age and/or children with a certain level of fluency in English. And I would ‘match’ them with groups of children that best fit those ‘comfort descriptors’. It is a trend that continues to this day but far more fluidly and not always being deliberately set up by one person. Now Grannies seek information from each other, and get a sense of the children’s profiles through each others’ session reports [Those reports do have many purposes!]. Sometimes, (quite often actually!) they offer insights and information based on their experiences with specific groups. And we have information about the centres and groups on the website too. No one specifically asked for any of these things to be done. A need was felt, and a need was addressed by whoever was available and game for it. After all, The Granny Cloud community is a group of volunteers.


It doesn’t end there. The emergence of the Core Team – informal to begin with – to more formal in 2014 was in response to the need created by my temporary immobility and limited availability following an accident. It wasn’t ‘directed’. It was self-organized.

Grannies raising issues for discussion, and the discussions generating other discussions… Self organised. Anyone can, and does, add to it. Decisions about what is acceptable and what is not emerge through discussions. Discussions themselves being channelled in certain directions – also self organised.

Grannies suggesting resources, Grannies offering help with practicing skills, Grannies seeking this kind of help… ALL self organised. There is no prescribed, predetermined context / setting for this. Initiatives like the FaceBook group, the ‘Ask Granny’ group, and even features or sections on the Granny Cloud website emerged because one or more of the Grannies addressed a need they perceived and set up a strategy or forum that they felt could address it. ‘Granny Clusters’, ‘centre specific WhatsApp groups’ emerging…. These are strategies that emerged thanks to self organisation. Whether it is our ‘Granny Tea Parties’, or ‘Curry Nights’, taking on specific responsibilities, or even just offering a suggestion; none of  these initiatives are ‘directed’. They emerge as responses. All self organized.

And I expect it to be this way while The Granny Cloud continues to evolve.