This blog is an archive of the research and development activity of our wonderful Room 13 SOLE lab. 

Please enjoy looking through our blog. We are privileged to be one of the seven original, Professor Sugata Mitra, TED Prize winning ‘School in the Cloud’ spaces. 

For more information or to find out where our developments are taking us please get in touch.


Keeping in touch

It was wonderful to catch up with Sugata, the engineheads and my fantastic Greenfield colleagues recently when we met together at Room 13. 

It was an opportunity to talk about global School in the Cloud developments, discuss ideas to develop SOLEs in context and talk about working together through my secondment role.

It was particularly lovely to have Suneeta come visit (chief granny) and to share lots of the exciting things that have been going on since we last met in India earlier in the year.

The Engineheads had a fantastic discussion about ‘what now’ with Sugata as our 3 year research phase comes to an end. They had good ideas about how to develop and extend the work and some initial ideas about how to reach people who may not yet have worked in this way plus a succession plan for a new engineheads team to help challenge staff to continue developing a student led approach to teaching and learning.

It was a busy morning. Martin Butterworth brought his tutor group to Room 13 and they explored the question ‘who is ‘me’?’ as part of their enquiry for this term. 

They talked about what makes us unique through physical genetics, the things we do, experiences we have, the choices we make and the stories we tell about ourselves. It was an interesting, yet speedy 10 min SOLE session, that came up with some powerful concepts and questions which the group will be exploring further in their tutor group sessions. 

Sugata, Sushmita and Suneeta were however not the only visitors to Room 13 recently…Our colleagues from Argentina came for their biannual visit this September (capably co-ordinated by Barbara), Chris Grinter from Rotura Boys Grammar in New Zealand came to see our work, our Colleagues from France with Brian Stobie joined a SOLE and we have also got a return visit from Newcastle Universities Math PGCE contingent organised with some great examples from our Math department of student led learning. 

Very excited to have heard from Byerley Park so early in the term and to continue to work with this lovely Primary school who will be working on a serious of fantastic big questions this term in Room 13.

Thank you to the wonderful Greenfield Arts team who are making everyone feel so welcome and are doing such a great job of juggling it all. 

The blog

I can’t believe it, I’ve been writing the Room 13 blog for two and a half years now!

For me it’s been a way of capturing  all the exciting learning and connections we have been making and has helped me keep track of all of the thinking I’ve been doing. (Well some of it anyway!)

Im starting a new adventure shortly and I’m going on secondment to work with the Focus Learning Trust for 18 months so this blog will be quiet for a while. 

I hope it has been interesting to read my ramblings for the past two and a half years. Lots of people have mentioned that they have found the blog useful and it has helped their understanding of SOLEs and the impact it can make. 

I have been shocked and stunned by the number of people who have read the blog and the geographic breadth of those readers. 

6545 so far! 

Too many countries to mention but amazed it includes places like Gabon, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Phillipines, Bangladesh, Russia, Guatemala….

I will be keeping in touch while I’m away and am happy to help with enquiries where I can. 

Engaging with Enquiry

I was asked to deliver our staff CPD recently and the title was ‘Engaging with Enquiry’. 

It was an opportunity to share some SOLE experiences and explore these examples to highlight the philosophy of enquiry and student led learning. 

I shared stories of SOLE sessions that had stuck with me for one reason or another such as the 4 and 5 year olds who were wondering why we like some colours and not others, the year 10 A level Maths SOLE, the boy in Gocharan who had used SOLE to create a new computer programming system and the children in Chandrakona who had shown us their ‘magic tricks’ and explained in almost perfect English how these science experiments worked. 

It was clear from the examples that with the right conditions and circumstances that teachers can create, how possible student led enquiry can be. 

“Creativity takes courage”- Henri Matisse.

“You’re not meant to do what is easy, you’re meant to challenge yourself” – Justin Timberlake.

We also celebrated the dedicated and innovative vertical tutor time that David Priestley developed – Time for Success. There is time everyday committed to enquiry through the T4S model and we discussed an open enquiry area for the next half term. We considered the kind of shared outcomes that could be created and possible, focusing on what could be shared across tutor groups, the whole school as well as the wider community too.
I shared some examples of enquiries we have set up for next half term including work with Luxi and the National Crime Agency exploring cybercrime, global learning opportunities and SOLEs with our partners in India, our adopted train station and the possibilities that this opportunity could create. 

I think it will be an exciting half term that encourages everyone to explore, enquire and question and to celebrate this publicly with outcomes that can be shared across the school and wider community.

Anywhere, anytime.

I have had some incredible SOLE sessions lately and I feel really honoured.

I am particularly excited about five SOLE sessions I had on two consecutive mornings recently. 

I asked a group of 10 year olds ‘should we have one universal language?’ The thinking, the questions and ideas that came up were fab. 

I asked the question again to another group 30 minutes later but skyped my new friend and co-ordinator Moumita in Kolkata in and we told the group how we’d met in Kolkata and how we managed to speak with each other but because I don’t speak Bengali and although Moumita’s English is amazing sometimes we got confused. 

The young people responded to our question and our context with fantastic debate and passionate discussion. It was fantastic.

I followed this session up another 30 minutes later by skyping in to Chandrakona where the group had simultaneously answered the same question and I came into the session at the end for feedback. 

They told me loads of amazing ideas and were very passionate that we should all learn languages and learn about each other’s cultures. Those young people there were amazing examples of that in practice as their English was incredible. I was so proud of them and so thrilled to see them again and hear their responses too. 

The answers from all groups had some cross overs and it reminded me how fantastic learners are and how given conditions and circumstances anywhere – learning is possible. It was so energising.

The day after this we tried some SOLEs in our icafe space at our Sunnydale Campus with some more wonderful young people. 
It was so reaffirming that with the right conditions learning can happen anywhere anytime. A reminder to staff too that Room 13 is wonderful but not essential as SOLEs can happen anywhere (and that we knew this already before Room 13 as some staff have been doing SOLEs with me for the past 7 years in all sorts of classrooms and many still do!)

We explored an issue that had been on the radio that morning about a report stating that our pets don’t like cuddles. We explored a question about whether animals really do understand humans. 

The answers were really interesting and had some really big concepts behind them.

We followed this up with a session exploring the question ‘is reading a magazine in a shop stealing?’ I was thrilled by the examples and questions that continued to stimulate including –  if you borrow a library book and don’t return it on the due date is that stealing? If you eat a grape in a supermarket is that stealing? What about wearing clothes in a shop for a while? How long is it ok to use things in a shop before you have taken too much? ….

Lots to think about. Great thinking. Love it. 

Brilliant sessions that remind us all that it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have the Internet, each other and a big question that inspires you!

Magazines and Bananas

Had two great SOLE sessions recently that involved magazines and bananas. 

Is reading a magazine in a shop stealing? 

The group of 9/10 year olds were really ready to get started after my little story about the trip to the co-op i’d had recently were i’d seen a customer study a magazine in the shop from front to back and put it back without purchase. 

Some of their responses included:

Isn’t theft- if the magazine is not taken it’s not against the law 

You should pay full price if you read it in the shop otherwise why do you have to pay for magazine

It’s like people in a Clothes store wearing the clothes first then trying to put them back and sell them. You should be able to buy things that other people haven’t used. 

It’s about Fairness. 

It’s not a legal crime but it is a bit of a crime – yes 

Fairness is important. If you damage it or mess with it you should buy it. They could check with security or cctv.

The front cover is designed to make you want to pick it up and see before you buy. The Supermarkets want you to look and get caught up in it so you’ll want to buy it and finish it. It’s part of a bigger plan.

Not a yes or no. We have some rights and responsibilities so you should buy it if we want to read it all or damage it but should be able to look before you buy. 

Not theft. That’s only if you take something from where it belongs.

People read them all in a shop why bother to sell them. 
It is stealing.

I asked another group of amazing 9/10 year olds:

Can I buy of bunch bananas with a bunch of bananas?

I told them my tale about not having change for a car park and wondering if I could use/give something else but money was all I could use there as it was what the other people who ran the car park wanted. 

Some of their ideas: 

Trading is an easier way of buying food if you’ve not got much money. You can swap and trade for things you want, that are different or better for you. They did it in the old days instead of money.

Ripe bananas and unripe bananas – you could switch 

No- if you had same bananas no point swapping- so why swap 

Depends – what shop you went to/ what the bananas where like, where they’d come from, how they taste, how ripe they are- you may need something in particular. 

No- if I had battered mouldy bananas someone might not want to swap their ripe bananas.

Trade – depends if your friend wants that. 

If you want to make Banana bread for example you might need the ripest ones and yours might not be ripe so you could sell yours for other ones. 

It depends which way you want to use them and why you want them 

(Supply and demand)

It depends what the bananas mean to you. Hard to decide.

I hate bananas – I’d like to swap for apples. 

What do you value?

Why swap any if you’ve already have some? 

It depends what everyone wants in the first place.  

Ha ha ha!

So what does make a good joke?

Let me try a few on you….

Did you hear the one about the roof?…no, it’s ok, it’s doesn’t matter, it’s over  your head.


Why did they decide not to let Elsa hold the balloon?…because she was likely to ‘let it go’

What do you call an alligator in a vest?…. an investigator


What did one pencil say to the other?… you’re looking sharp!

41055_beauty.png….enough already?!!


Well this was the question I posed to two groups of students from Vane Road Primary, who, incidentally had a very sophisticated sense of humor.  I figured this out because my joke telling was met with either all the answers or a deadly silence!

So what does make people laugh, why do we laugh at somethings and not others, what does make a good joke?

The two groups gave us insight into what they think.

” a good joke turns your frown upside down”, “you can use words or riddles, or puzzles or stories to tell a joke”, “they help us relate to each other”, “they are funny when we have the same knowledge and understanding”, “they can be written down in a book though cos i’ve got a great joke book i like to read and it makes me laugh”.

One group explained that “jokes should not be offensive, racists or about your appearance because some people will feel bad and you don’t want to be nasty.  A joke can be polite and still funny.”

Another group said…..”it’s all about the timing”, It’s about keeping your attention”, “it’s about making the punchline relevant to the topic”, “i like jokes with funny accents”, “sometimes jokes are funny when you are not supposed to laugh” and someone added a lovely statement “that a good joke makes people feel happier”.
I asked for some examples- I got lots so i’ve just selected a few. Enjoy.

Why did the banana go to the doctors?….it was not peeling very well.


What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?…Frostbite

What to do you call an owl magician?…’oooh- dini’


and a one that puzzled us (ok it was probably just me) for a while, but Jack helped those of us who were a bit slower.

 If there are 30 cows and 28 (twenty eight/or twenty ate) how many didn’t? 10


A Level Maths

We were over the moon to welcome a number of visitors to Room 13 recently and to share our work with them. We had visitors from Windsor, Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The engineheads met with the visitors to talk about SOLE from their perspective.


We had two sessions programmed. One was a Time4Success Tutor enquiry “is the future already set? and the other was a Maths year 10 class who had decided to try something different and explore a higher A level Maths question!

The Maths question was a tricky one. Head of Maths, Claire Middleton, had found a question which she would be surprised if the high ability set in Year 10 would be able to answer. We had a great discussion about what else we might get from this session but were very keen to see what happened. We were keen to try and see what happened when you asked a more challenging question, and although not a traditional big question in the regular sense, nonetheless, an interesting idea to explore.

The question was

A curve has equation

x^2+2xy-3y^2+16= 0

Find the coordinates of the points on the curve
where dy/dx=0

The results were fascinating. The group had worked out that the coordinates were at the turning point of the curve and had worked out how to answer the question and also explained how they’d worked it out.  One group said that didn’t understand all of it but they think they would have got there with each other and the internet if they’d had a bit longer.

The teacher was delighted with the results.

I’m looking forward to doing a little more of this and investigating how SOLEs can help students who perhaps wouldn’t usually be able to tackle these GCSE, A Level and University questions understand and explore the meaning and the possible answers.

Why is the sun so hot? 

This was the question Trinity and Amy from Byerley Park Primary came up with when we chatted at our Art Club at Greenfield Arts before their class came to do a SOLE session later that week. 

They were excited to be coming to Room 13 again (there fourth visit recently!) and were telling me about their forthcoming visit. They started coming up with questions they could explore with their class. 

Some of the questions included: 

Why is nature sometimes called Mother Nature?

Who said the first word?

Who discovered the first potato?

Why do we have colour? 

We decided that ‘Why is the sun so hot?’ was the question they wanted to try later that week. 

The session was great and the class had so many fascinating things they’d discovered and even more exciting for me they kept asking further questions which I hope they are inspired to continue to explore.

They just kept thinking. I love that.

I really enjoy working with Byerley Park. They are SOLE Superstars!! 

Is knowledge power?

I really enjoyed a SOLE session recently exploring the question ‘Is Knowledge Power?’

The session was with year 5 students from St Francis. They had not experienced a SOLE before but got really stuck in. 

The results were fantastic. 

The discussion included: 

‘Is knowledge the same as understanding?’ One group gave a definition of knowledge. Facts and familiarity with something. They explained that it’s about what you do with the information you have that matters.

‘Do we need to know if we can find out?’ The group explained that you keep learning over time so you don’t ever have all the knowledge. It doesn’t stop till you die.

‘Don’t underestimate kids they have more knowledge and can work things out more than adults realise.’ 

‘Knowledge is power because the Internet said 63% of the country said it was so I agree with that’.

‘Sometimes I use my imagination or work with others to find things out, it helps you get on and do more’.

They said ‘knowledge can be used against people who don’t know as much and can make people fall out. You could give your opinion too much if you know everything and tell people what to do. Knowledge and power is not always used for good.’

‘You have knowledge because of experience you have. It helps you make decisions. You need to know things to make good decisions.’