Friday, May 04, 2012

Every child loves a granny

We read a lot about the problems that the Internet creates and the dangers it poses to young people. Here is a story from the BBC website that illustrates the other side of the coin, where the Internet is providing great benefit to the young. In this case children in the poorest parts of India.

The Granny Cloud

The Granny Cloud project is the brainchild of Prof Sugata Mitra, best-known for his hole-in-the-wall computer scheme which put basic PCs into some of the poorest parts of India. The work is being supported by the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

Prof Mitra installed the first such computer on the wall of his south Delhi office, opposite a slum. He was amazed to see that the children, initially curious about the machine, soon became self-taught experts. Within days the children were able to browse the internet, cut and paste copy, drag and drop items and create folders.

The children liked to draw, discovering how to use the Microsoft Paint programme to create paintings. Then they moved on to downloading games and playing them. By the second month they had discovered MP3 music files and were downloading songs.

Prof Mitra noticed they did best when an adult was present offering advice and encouragement over their shoulders. There was, he reasoned, no-one so encouraging as a granny and so the idea was born.

The grannies are retired people in Britain who volunteered to take part. They use Skype and messaging to talk to the children in India, they read them books and show them photos and apparently the children love it.

It is good to know that “third age” citizens can make a contribution even if they are not totally in touch with current trends.

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