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Replicating the model of SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments) for developing a foundation in financial literacy

Reinventing the learning way for students in a K-8 classroom

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

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 With so many financial games available online, it is tempting to leap straight into simulations like the stock market game that appear to be engaging.However what lacks is that these games often fail to develop an appropriate foundation on money management required for early learning and  secondly, in India where parents complain that kids are always playing on phone, this obviously is not a favored option.

 Financial education is necessary in today's lives but how can one create a balance between lessons on Saving and Spending with smarter learning is the challenge.

I am a person who has never been enticed by finance, accounting, investments, handling money etc. Though we were taught in class, probably that I never showed any interest that I still struggle with my investment plan for every financial year :-D. These are the little things which we do not learn unless it becomes a part of our everyday lives.

During my experience at Make a Difference( a youth volunteer network that works with underprivileged children in India in improving their English comprehension and speaking skills),  I realized that students nowadays have little attention span and learn to use i-pad or smart phone faster than recapitulating the story I read them a few minutes ago. Gone are the times when children learn reading from books or a teacher reading out to them.They are technology savvy and hungry for non-bookish knowledge.Its then when I stumbled upon the School in the Cloud Project. What started as a small experiment in Delhi 13 years ago(Hole in the Wall Program) has proved to transform the learning experience among children. The School in the Cloud project, a mastermind of Prof. Sugata Mitra  is built on the concept of SOLE and is a learning lab where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. 

The program has already initiated in 5 schools across UK and India and has been over 13 years of research. Microsoft and Skype are the core technology partners for the School on the Cloud platform; while IDEO is assisting with design research.

My idea is whether the same model can be adopted for developing a new and challenging curriculum for finance literacy and money management? 

What is a SOLE?

It is a minimally invasive education technique that lets kids discover answers to questions on their own, teaching each other in the process.

Basically, a platform where curiosity marries technology

So when is a SOLE created?

When educators encourage students to work as a community to answer the big questions using the internet

Team Members

  • Players- Students

  • Coach/Facilitator- Teacher

Materials Required

  • A room to accommodate the students

  • Computers (maximum 4 students per computer)

  • High speed Internet

  • Note pads and pen

  • Collaterals for presentation

Time keeping

  • 5 minutes for posing question

  • 40 minutes- research time

  • 10-20 minutes-Presentation Time

Rules of the Game

  • Students are posed with a big question or challenged to think on their own.

  • Students can choose groups and change at any time

  • Students can move freely and speak to each other

  • Students can explore in any direction they choose

  • Students are expected to present what they have learned at the end of session

Facilitator's Role

As it is a minimal invasive education program, the coach has only 4 roles to play:

  • Pose question

  • Explaining the rules

  • Encourage the teams( in some case Skype Granny plays that role)

  • Moderate the debates

Running a SOLE

QUESTIONING PHASE:

  • The facilitator will ask a question relating to finance to the students. The way a question is asked is very important as it should promote curiosity among the students.

  • Facilitator will explain the SOLE process to the students

INVESTIGATION/RESEARCH PHASE

  • Students will work in groups to find the answer to the big question online

  • Facilitator will encourage students to resolve group issues themselves. Tell them they are free to move to other group if they wish to

REVIEW PHASE

  • Invite students to share the story through collective discovery. The students create presentation in any form, music, power points, and skits to share their research.

  • Encourage debate (obviously they will be quarreling…. But one has to be patient)

  • Facilitate discussion on how they went about with the investigation; their experience

SHARE AND LEARN:

  • Ask all the groups to collaborate and present one single answer representing the class

  • Share their work /experience on Google drive, Facebook, YouTube or  twitter

  • Share with students of other school and see what solutions they have come up with.

What will students learn?

Apart from the concept which is being inculcated, the program has following benefits:

  • Probe curiosity: As the curiosity level goes up, educator can pose them with tougher questions

  • Take ownership of their learning experience

  • Utilize higher order thinking skills and critical analysis: They learn to decide on the relevant information to be decoded

  • Develop stronger memory recall

  • Strengthen interpersonal and presentation skills

  • Unleash inspired thinking: Sharing across the schools inspire children to learn more

  • Inculcate Team Spirit

  • Improves Computer Literacy : Students will be able to search the internet accurately by themselves

Unlike the traditional ways,where the children were been asked to work , this  concept though still “very much in the infancy”create a non-threatening environment in which children feel free to explore and immerse themselves in the learner driven culture of curiosity.

Worth Reading Articles

There's an interesting read on how one student who was introduced to computer a decade ago through Hole in the Wall Project and how he uses his experience of self learning at Yale University

http://http://blog.ted.com/from-the-hole-in-the-wall-to-yale-a-qa-with-arun-chavan/

Success of Granny Cloud in Schools

https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/updates/granny-emerges-as-a-career-option

14 comments

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Photo of Shane Zhao

Ambily, congrats on being featured in our community highlights blog! Check it out in the latest issue of ReFresh here: https://openideo.com/blog/refresh-04

Photo of Jason Rissman

Hi Ambily, thanks for such an informative contribution. I wonder if you've been thinking of applying the SOLE model and adding it to the ideas phase of the challenge? The phase just launched and your level of insight will surely add much to the conversation!

Photo of Chris Becker

Hey Ambily! I really like the SOLE concept, and I'd be eager to see what recent research Sugata Mitra has produced since winning the TED prize.

Two shorts questions to add:
(1) How can we begin to rethink finance (especially personal finance) and turn it into one of these "big questions" worth exploring?
(2) What if we took the Review and Share phases you outlined above and made the process circular (or spiraling to be more exact I guess)? More specifically, what if, in an attempt to make the exploration process more rigorous and the outcome more meaningful, we had the students, after they all shared their findings with one another, vote on which group had the most interesting or complex or (insert adjective here) results, and after doing so, they re-entered the research phase, compounding their learning and honing in on specific insights to get a more comprehensive understanding of these really foundational (though sometimes unintuitve) ideas of money management and financial literacy?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Ambily, I too love Mitra's work and the SOLE concept (and the previous experiment, hole in a wall). and would love to know more about Mitra's current research.
I like your idea of trying to encourage students to explore issues around finance. To Chris' point 1, I think it'd be nice to get to big questions... I personally think they are big ones around money and our current system vs. bartering systems (for example); or even exploring the idea of "saving" or of a bank system. See for example https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/research/beyond-the-power-of-money
https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/research/give-me-back-my-money-mary-poppins
I personally believe that investigating these bigger questions would led them to a better understanding of financial practices.

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

Hi Anne,
As you correctly mentioned, Big Questions could be anything from exploring the idea of saving to what actually is money, why some people cant afford and others.Probably to find one of those big questions,one has to deep delve into a child's mind to see what a 10 year would want to know about money management and concepts related to finance worth exploring. And this is what exactly, your story of the 12 year old does.
Thanks for the share!!

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

Hi Chris,
Regarding your first point, as Anne and i have mentioned below,Big questions could be anything around money like saving, need of banks, why some people cant afford etc. Someone with a background in finance can probably help in developing the curriculum.
I really liked your second idea and its very much implementable. They can vote for the best research work, collate things and probably together generate a road map to money management and healthy savings habits.
Thank you very much for your suggestion

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Agreed that we will need to do a bit of research to develop the big questions.
This post also provides some insights: https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/research/children-s-truth-about-banking
You should definitely articulate this idea when we reach the idea phase. Looking forward to reading more about your prototyping efforts.

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

Dear Chris and Anne,
Regarding your interest in SOLE and their works
They are currently expanding their wings to different parts of the world including remote villages of Bhutan, Bangui( capital of Republic of Central Africa). ( http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/News19.html) (http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/News18.html)
The team is developing opportunities to test how the School in the Cloud improves self-confidence, reading comprehension, critical thinking, organizing, and search skills.They also have collaborations with internationally renowned organizations, Stitching Child Tuition and Twig.
Stichting Child Tuition is a Dutch charitable trust that aims at combating illiteracy by establishing a basis for communication.Child Tuition English learning softwares were provided at the HiWEL Learning Station and the response, progress etc. of children using the Learning Station was observed.
Twig, on the other hand, focuses on creating Science learning materials, mainly films and videos that are mapped to the school curriculum of children in the age group of 10-16.In India, Twig collaborated with Hole-in-the-Wall for a pilot study on how Twig videos help children learn science independent of a teacher/supervisor, as opposed to other material available on the internet.

Apart from learning through self exploration, they have also introduced the concept of Cloud Granny/SOME (Self Organized Mediation Environment)
These are a group of people who make themselves available over Skype for, say, one hour a week. Here a ‘mediator’ would involve with a group of children in reading stories, conversing, singing and all those things friendly people do with children.
You may check out Prof. Mitra's recent research here:
http://solesandsomes.wikispaces.com/Home

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Ambily for the update!

Photo of André Fernandes

Hi Ambily! Technology has been a nightmare for parents and teacher all over the world. The idea of provoke students to search for answers is aligned to an idea I'm working to protoype. I'd like to ask you how you'd apply the SOLE principles to a card games: https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/research/methodkit-inspiring-concept-for-game-development

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

Hi Andre,
It would be great if the concept of SOLE can be applied to card games. Let me put on my thinking cap, talk to few people and do some research work.
Will definitely get back to you on this.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Great provocation Ambily! This is a fantastic way to bring design thinking into the classrooms. I like how the SOLE method encourages students to focus on solving real world problems and not on a prescribed course syllabus. Would there be any classrooms or youth groups where you can test out how the SOLE method can be applied to financial literacy? Perhaps the Make a Difference organization would be a great candidate. We'd love to hear how you'll plan to develop this concept further in the upcoming Idea Phase of this challenge!

Photo of Ambily Adithyan

Thanks Shane!!I am trying to look for a classroom where this can be implemented.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Very glad to hear Ambily. We'd love for you to keep us posted on how this goes!