2015. What a year!

It’s hard to believe that our Room 13, TED Prize winning lab, exploring Professor Sugata Mitra’s Self Organised Learning has been in action for such a relatively short space of time (since Feb 2014) and SO much has happened! 

2015 has been another year of unexpected opportunities, connections with amazing people and wonderful learning. 

For example:

We have had visits from India, The Netherlands, Belgium, France…. 

We have skyped with grannies, with Suneeta in India and with new friends across the Country…. 

We have asked big questions about the moon, about dancing, the clouds, the Internet, ourselves, each other, the Victorians and how rivers work….

We’ve shared our experiences with teachers and students and led SOLE sessions for schools from across the country and delivered CPD and conferences in the UK and Europe…

We have pondered and puzzled, and questioned and wondered, and searched and explored, and talked and debated, and been challenged and have understood and our curiosity has been stimulated. And the best thing is we have so much more to come. 

February 13th 2016 will be Room13’s 2nd birthday!  

At the same time I will be visiting the other labs across India and sharing our experiences, learning from others and meeting the wonderful children and adults there who create the conditions for SOLEs. Can’t wait!

Rock on 2016! 

What makes us Human?

I was very excited to see some of our year 7 students from the Sunnydale Campus and Aycliffe site come together and join us for a reflective afternoon. It was important to hear their ‘Greenfield Experience’ and views since we worked together in the summer. They are such a nice lot and I think they were looking forward to all catching up. 

As part of the afternoon we had some of our colleagues from The Netherlands come to visit. They were keen to see thinking skills, student enquiry and SOLEs in action. 

The SOLE session was focused on the question ‘What makes us Human?’

The discussion was great. We talked about the differences and similarities between us and animals, evolution and the ability to have choice and be the kind of Human you’d like to be. 

We then met Dora. She’s our mannequin and wanted to know the great greenfield experiences and advice the group had.

The year 7s also thought about the ideas they’d considered in the SOLE and think about the skills, strengths and areas for development they bring to make Greenfield the place it is. They created this using our paper people chain. They looked beautiful publicly displayed in the Arts Centre afterwards.

It was wonderful to share the afternoon with are visitors, share ideas, insights and challenges. I’m looking forward to following this up during a visit there in Jan 2016!

Simultaneous SOLEs

It was exciting to have two year 6 classes from two schools in County Durham come to work with us recently and do a SOLE at the same time in studio 2 and in Room 13.

Sugata came to see the SOLE sessions. He was keen to see which questions Langley Park would like to ask. They decided on the question ‘how fluffy are clouds?’

Meanwhile the group from Byerley Park tried to discover ‘how does the Internet work?’

There was a really energy in the centre. It was nice to have visitors from Belgium, Cumbria and South Tyneside who wanted to understand more during their visit with us.

The Langley Park group not only explained the properties of clouds,  conditions affecting their properties, the water cycle and that clouds are not fluffy like cotton because the are made of water vapor but also reflected on their SOLEs experiences and the pros and cons of learning this way. 

‘Teach yourself’
‘Fun to work with teammates’



‘You can talk’

‘Find new stuff’

‘Sometimes people disagree’

‘Sometimes you don’t have enough time’

‘When you struggle and teacher can’t help it can be strange’

It was a delight to work with Langley Park Primary and looking forward to working together again soon. 

Byerley Park carried out their session and explained the Internet to us in such a good way, I learnt so much. I always enjoy working with this particular class. 

‘Internet is a global network that has IP addresses that are unique to each computer and they are 12 digits each 4 sets of 3 digits ‘nnn nnn nnn nnn’.’

‘Data goes in packets each packet has a header and a footer.’

‘Different routes exist across networks. To send packets you have to have protocol. Different groups of computers an be connected. It is a complex system.’


 The group had such a good debate about the Internet and learning. What do we need to remember? How do we learn and find out stuff? Should we have the Internet in exams? They were talking about such big concepts. It was very energising. 

Thank you to both schools, Sugata and our visitors for a great day that gave us lots to think about!  

Questions, questions, questions…

I have a lot of people get in touch from across the world to find out how to develop SOLEs and to ask lots of questions about learning. 

It’s very exciting and a real privilege to meet so many people and to share ideas. It’s something I hadn’t expected at all when Sugata asked to work together. 

One thing people ask me a lot is about big questions and sometimes people are keen to hear about the questions we’ve tried that have worked well or even been less successful and can be used as examples. 

http://www.theschoolincloud.org is a great resource to go to and to find out lots of things. 

I have been involved in SO many SOLEs it can be tricky to remember all the questions you have asked but I thought it might be interesting to share some of the highlights (or a few I can remember off the top of my head) here.

Get ready for some of my favourites (but only a small few) either because the session went so well, the session produced something particularly memorable/unusual or the question came from young people themselves and made me curious too.

Why do people dance? (you see it at weddings and parties all the time. Shoulder shrugs and more. What’s with the foot tapping too?)

Why is water wet? (this one went off into quite a philosophical discussion about how we perceive things and how are brain works)

Why were the Victorians such great inventors? (this was with a group that have been coming consistently for a year and are amazing self organisers. They went deeply into why we invent and what conditions are needed.)

How do you draw circles with straight lines? (A ‘granny’ asked this question and the maths teacher loved the question and it helped with a topic so much that they came back with other SOLES to do because they were excited by its potential)

Why do bees buzz? (a teachers SOLE session I delivered in another part of the country and it gave some teachers involved some pleasant unexpected results and possibly converted a few sceptics)

Who invented maths? Who was Pythagoras and why was he important? Where do numbers come from (all great sessions with maths teachers who were excited by SOLEs and each session led to a new question to try later. The best questions in my mind lead to more questions) 

Why do we like some colours but not others? (an amazing SOLE session with 4 year olds who weren’t sure how to use the Internet but just worked things out. Phenomenal answers) 

Where do words come from? What is a sentence? How do you spell words that aren’t in the dictionary? 

What was the best toy ever designed and why? (This design tech session created some great debate amongst the group)

Why do we forget and how do we remember? 

How does the Internet work? (A session Sugata led which resulted in a fantastic discussion about how we learn and what knowledge we need in our heads and what knowledge we can find outside of our heads. One girl made a huge wow noise during this discussion and you could almost physically see mindsets shifting!)

This is just a very small smattering of big questions I remember for one reason or another. Each session always produces so many interesting ideas to explore further and there so much to consider about learning. Even when the questions don’t seem to generate quite as much feedback you always learn something amazing.  

So go on,ask those big questions. What makes you wonder..?