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Using Skype, UK 'granny cloud' helps teach Indian children

Nonprofit & Social Cause

If the internet can enable grandparents to read stories to their grandchildren from afar, then why not use similar technology to improve literacy and education around the globe? That, indeed, is the premise behind an initiative launched by Sugata Mitra, a professor of education technology at the UK’s Newcastle University. On a trip to India a few years ago, Mitra — whose work is perhaps best known for inspiring the film “Slumdog Millionaire” — asked children there what they would most like to use Skype for. “Surprisingly, they said they wanted British grandmothers to read them fairytales — they’d even worked out that between them they could afford to pay GBP 1 a week out of their own money,” Mitra told the Guardian in a report last year. Accordingly, Mitra put out a call for UK grannies to do just that, and some 200 volunteers responded. “Many are retired teachers, who are now regularly on Skype teaching children in the slums,” Mitra explained. Since then, the project — known officially as “SOLE and SOME” but unofficially as the “Granny Cloud” — has expanded from incorporating volunteers just for storytelling to using them more as educational mentors. “This is the group of SOME volunteers that is emerging — a group of people who would make themselves available over Skype for, say, one hour a week,” explains the project’s site. The session would then be led by a mediator, and involve conversation, stories and singing. Prospective volunteers are encouraged to contact the project to get involved. Meanwhile, which generosity-minded brands will add their sponsorship and involvement to help keep it going…? (Related: Video stories for kids, read by kids onlineRemote (grand)parents read bedtime stories by web video.)

Email: sugata.mitra@newcastle.ac.uk

Website: solesandsomes.wikispaces.com/

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