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The Skype Grannies Final Report
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Dr Jill Clark
Clark J, Hall I
11 August 2011
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· E-mediators were generally upbeat about their participation in the ‘Skype Grannies project with 91% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they enjoy the Skype sessions and Eighty-eight percent agreeing or strongly agreeing that Skype sessions were stimulating and thought provoking. · Concerns were raised by some e-mediators that students didn’t have a sufficient grasp of the English language and felt that this would make it difficult for them to fully appreciate exchanges between themselves and the e-mediators. Some e-mediators felt that Indian students are very polite and smile a lot and that this may give e-mediators the impression that they actually understood what was being said or done. · While e-mediators, especially with teaching backgrounds, tended to plan for sessions the level of planning appears to decline rapidly after the first session. Teachers become aware that future sessions probably won’t go as they planned. If students fail to turn up or a different group attends the session any planning is wasted. It appears that as a result of uncertainty about ‘where Skype sessions may go’ e-mediators develop a body of resources that is ready to hand. A number of E-mediators mentioned falling back onto talk about their homes, families and the area they lived in as a result of finding themselves ‘on the spot’ or ‘in the spotlight’. There is a sense of e-mediators and students negotiating a direction for the sessions through recourse to what might be called ‘common ground’ issues such as family, home, etc. · We only have self-reports about Skype sessions and no observations or recordings to verify what happened during sessions. However, e-mediators reported that sessions were, in some cases, the result of negotiations between themselves and students. · The evolution and development of Skype sessions is made difficult by: students not turning up to sessions or getting different students for every session. It is difficult to step beyond ‘introductory phases’ of relationships into deeper levels when there are different groups of students for each session. Those e-mediators who had regular contact with the same groups of students appear to be more satisfied with Skype sessions than those with different groups. · E-mediators reported that it was sometimes difficult to communicate in the broadest possible sense of the word e.g. in terms of body language but also in terms of showing students sections or images out of books. E-mediators mentioned having to hold books up to the webcam in order to show students an image or poem in the book. · E-mediators reported no contact with teaching staff at the India end other than brief glimpses of teachers sitting in the background. E-mediators would like more contact and involvement with teaching staff. · E-mediators feel that having a ‘mediator’ or other adult at the India end would be helpful in making things go more smoothly. A number of e-mediators mentioned the presence of a technician at the India end helped in terms of dealing with technical problems but was also helpful in facilitating sessions where, for instance, there was misunderstanding due to language difficulties.
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This research was funded by the Beacon North East Fund
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