Tablets at Romanum Elementary School in Chuuk, FSM

The following is a guest post, written by Melody Alvarez, who is volunteering with the Peace Corps and is stationed in Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). We’ve been working with Melody and other Peace Corps volunteers working in schools across Chuuk State, to introduce tablet-based technology into the classrooms. Melody’s school, Romanum Elementary, on Romanum Island in the Chuuk Lagoon, has no electricity or Internet connectivity at present. Thus, we sent a Ready-Set Solar Kit to accompany the tablets and enable them to be charged.

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In addition, our team had worked on a 10-lesson “Technology Training” curriculum to assist with instruction for those who have never used such technology before. The tablets also came pre-loaded with approximately 10 educational apps, so that the they could be used for school-related purposes despite the lack of connectivity at the school(s).

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Below, Melody relays her initial experiences introducing this technology to Romanum’s 8th graders, none of whom had ever used a tablet prior to this experience.

Hi Laura,

I wanted to give you some feedback on how my 8th graders have been
doing. We use the tablets in Special Class, which is basically an elective class; it is not a mandatory class, however, all the 8th grade students attend. The first part of this class we spend about an hour/hour and a half on English and Math test prep. The second part of class is when we use the tablets.

Day 1
I wrote “What is technology?” on the board.

No answers from the class. I wrote the definition (which I realize is not technically accurate but I had to make it at a level my students would understand) “something that needs a battery or generator to work.” Then I gave them some examples: Computers, cell phones, MP3 players and DVD players.

Then I wrote “What technology is on Romanum?” I divided all the students in to groups and they worked together to come up with a list. After 10 minutes the groups took turns making a list on the board.

Then I wrote: “What is a tablet?”

Students answer: “A writing notebook”  “the yellow paper”

(we have writing tablets with yellow lined paper at our school)

I explained that I was talking about a type of computer, not the writing paper.

Next I wrote: “What can you use a tablet for?”

Student answers: playing games, Math-Calculator, listening to music, watching movies, writing (I explained that on a computer we call it typing) and camera.

Then I asked my class “Why did I teach you about technology and tablets?”

Student answers: To understand, to be smart, because you want us to know what technology is.

I ended class by telling the students to be on time to school on Monday or I would lock them outside. I did not tell them that I had tablets for them to use because it was a surprise. The reason for locking the classroom door is because I knew that the tablets would be a distraction to the other students.

Day 2
Monday was a rainy day so I gave them 15 extra minutes to arrive and then I locked the door. There were 9 students inside and I gave them the tablets and let the students figure out how to turn them on and it was only a matter of minutes. Then they had to figure out how to unlock the screen and that held them up too, but not for long.

After a few days, I made a schedule of pairs to rotate whose turn it would be to use the tablets, since I have 17 students and only 3 tablets. I plan on changing their partners after about a month so that they can change up who they play with.

So far each student has had 3 turns with the tablet. (We only have special class 3 days a week.) Mostly they like the camera, but they are also playing the games and they are learning how to edit their pictures.

Here are some pictures of the students using the tablets, and some that they took of themselves.

 

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It looks like Melody’s students have already mastered the art of taking selfies! I look forward to receiving much more information from Melody when I return to Chuuk in August, 2014! Stay tuned…

Posted in Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Solar Power, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Honoring International Women’s Day, Internet Society Features Chuuk Women’s Council

Reposted from The Internet Society Community Grants Blog:

Inspiring Change: Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council

Guest Contributor: KiKi Stinnett, President of Chuuk Women’s Council

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The Chuuk Women’s Council is a 31-year-old community based organization on the Pacific island of Chuuk. It serves as the umbrella organization for 64 different women’s organizations Chuuk State Wide, Federated States of Micronesia, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts.

 

Kiki Stinnett, President of the Chuuk’s Women’s Council, writes about the installation of an Computer Learning Lab, something that was made possible through the work of Professor Laura Hosman from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an Internet Society Community Grant.

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My name is Kiki Stinnett and I’m the President of the Chuuk Women’s Council, a registered NGO in the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Thirty-one years ago my mother and a group of local women started the CWC. They were mostly nurses and looking for a way to empower women in our community and promote healthier lifestyles.  While I decided to pursue a career in business, I still grew up influences by the CWC and over time it became a part of me.

When my mother passed away in 2009 I was elected President and have served the Chuuk Women’s Council in this capacity since her passing.

As an Islander I’ve always felt that being connected and staying connected with our culture and communities is important. Chuuk is a small island where women have a big voice and the ability to be heard on a wide range of issues.  We have a role to play in our part in the world which is very important.

Finding affordable Internet or even a computer in Chuuk isn’t easy. Many people who don’t live on the capital island of Weno don’t even have electricity, let alone a computer. In the CWC offices, for example, we initially had only 1 computer and it was such a precious commodity only a few designated people were allowed to use it.

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So when Laura Hosman approached us about building a computer lab I knew it would be a perfect fit within our organization, with our core staff, and enhance the work we are doing.

We installed the laptops in our sewing room. In the morning we sew and in the afternoon it’s our computer lab.  We don’t charge for the use of the computers or the access to the internet.   Anyone can come in and use one of the laptops and the Internet.

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It’s been amazing to see the reaction. We have girls as young as 8 coming in to do their homework.  It’s a real change for them because many of our schools don’t even have computers and those that do are usually not connected to the internet.

I’m really excited to see these young girls and visitors do things like reports, research, and learn online.  I mean, instead of spending their time watching boxing or movies on TV they’re now doing something that they consider cool and it’s also applicable to their education.

I really feel that with enough exposure to the Internet and computers these girls could easily be inspired to go on towards being engineers or scientists.

But they aren’t the only ones. One of the oldest women who comes to our center to use our computer and internet is in her 50s.  Many of these young girls and older women can only communicate with their off island children and relatives through Facebook and our center provides them the means to keep up with their loved ones.

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It’s also invaluable when we give health education classes. Imagine seeing a heart actually pumping blood instead of looking at still pictures of it in a book. It’s changed our world.

We also want to set up an online shop for all the crafts that women make for our gift shop.  All the proceeds for those sales will go to funding many of the programs we run through the center.

As mentioned earlier, the computers and the internet also help us keep in touch with friends and family who live in other parts of the world.  That is so important to us as many of our family members live in the United States. It’s amazing to be able to hear from them and let them know about our lives in the Islands.

We’re also very excited to announce that we recently received a grant from the Government of Japan to expand the CWC Facility to include a second floor. This addition will provide another 2,600 sq. feet of space and will mean we will soon have a full time, dedicated computer lab for people to use any time they want.

Internet access and computers in the CWC are opening doors for our entire community and we’re so excited to see where this will take us.

We’re a small Island in Micronesia and because of the Internet we now know that there are people out there who are thinking about us.

What’s Next

The story of connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council isn’t over yet.  They’re currently looking to building a “Train the Trainer” program to improve the skills of those who are using the computer lab.  If you’d like to help you can contact the Women’s Council via their website or email them at cwcfiinchuuk@yahoo.com

Posted in Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Women and Technology | Leave a comment

Solar Computer Lab in a Box Versions 3.0 and 3.1

Over the past few months, two groups of dedicated students at IIT have donated their free time and efforts to building new prototypes of the Solar Computer Lab in a Box.

Version 3.0’s new look was the result of a design competition held in Fall, 2012, which was sponsored by IIT’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) student organization. The winning design, from Team Yellow Room (consisting of Sunny Patel, Manuel Leon, and Sebastian Morales) is pictured below.

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This design served as the blueprint for Version 3.0, which was was built in IIT’s Idea Shop and completed in September, 2013. Pictured below (L-R) are, Abhiroop Chattopadhyay, Sunny Patel, and Brian Strening, proudly displaying of the fruits of their labors!

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In the following months, ESW commissioned a new hardworking and dedicated team to build version 3.1. Some minor tweaks were made to version 3.0, because there’s always room for improvement! Many thanks go out to John Welin, (below, center) Manager at the Idea Shop, for his ongoing support, enthusiasm, training, demonstrations, etc. Another big thank you to Amanda Rapacz, from ESW, for spearheading the redesign competition and jumpstarting the rebuild teams.

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The current team, hard at work finishing up the final details on Version 3.1, includes (L-R below) Matthew Troemner, Abhimanyu Pudi, and Zhe Soo.

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Below are additional pictures highlighting the workmanship going in to the box building, as well as the unique features of the box. Solar panels are stored on one side, protected with heavy foam padding. Laptops or tablets are stored on the other side, in the compartment that opens and closes, allowing for safe storage of the technology when it’s not in use. There’s also a small compartment to store the table legs. Everything fits into the box that is needed to assemble and power this small computer lab, and the box itself transforms into the lab’s table.

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Once Version 3.1 is finished, we’ll have two Solar Computer Lab Boxes ready to send to Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia. (See these previous posts for additional info on the first deployments.) This semester’s Fieldwork Methods class is developing an Android App that will allow our on-site partners to conduct baseline site surveys on a smartphone or tablet. Our goal is that this application will be used by our partners in Chuuk, and we will be able to help them determine which schools will be the best candidates for the next Solar Computer Labs.

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Posted in Chuuk, IIT, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Solar Computer Lab in a Box, Uncategorized | 2 Comments