Second Training with Peace Corps Volunteers in Samoa: Upolu Island

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The SolarSPELL team held the second of two trainings with Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa in mid-June, 2016, on Upolu Island.

 

The SPELL team was appreciative of the opportunity to get to know the volunteers here before the training started; another welcoming and informative group! They had already heard about the SPELL from their fellow volunteers on Savai’i Island the week before, and were extremely positive and enthusiastic about the solar digital libraries and being able to use them at their schools around the island.

This group had a lot of great questions and ideas for us, in moving forward. We loved the tough questions they had and the insightful thoughts shared during the discussion. And we’re particularly look forward to hearing from them with suggestions for improvements for the SPELL!

In fact, we’ve already heard from a few of them over Facebook, with tremendous posts and news—please keep that fantastic communication coming! Below is a picture sent by one of the volunteers (Meagen) who introduced the SPELL to the teachers at her school, and she reported that the teachers ended up staying late because they lost track of time looking at everything on the SPELL. They wouldn’t even respond to her questions, they were so involved in it!

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After the training finished that afternoon, Bruce launched one of the SPELL libraries in the pool, just to demonstrate how waterproof it is…and that it floats!

Posted in Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Samoa, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Teacher Technology Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Training with Peace Corps Volunteers in Samoa: Savai’i Island

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The SolarSPELL team held the first of two trainings with Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa in early June, 2016, on Savai’i island.

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This training was particularly exciting for a few reasons: first, because all of the PC Volunteers in Samoa are English-language teachers, and/or librarians at their local schools. Thus, the SolarSPELL digital library is truly addressing a need within an existing initiative (or, as I prefer to say, hitting a synergistic sweet spot).

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The training was also fantastic because the SPELL team had the opportunity to hang out with and get to know the volunteers on this island before the training started. The group was incredibly welcoming and inclusive! Their enthusiasm during the training was incredible and quite contagious. It was really tremendous to hear how relevant they found the information on the libraries, and to see how excited they were to start using these digital libraries at their schools.

 

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The team also had the opportunity to visit a few of the schools where volunteers are stationed, and to see the libraries they were in the process of setting up there.

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It was particularly exciting when we visited the second school: classes were finished for the day, but the teachers were still there. When we showed them the SolarSPELL it was pretty incredible, as every teacher there had a smartphone with her. We showed each of them how to connect to the library with the WiFi on their phones, and within minutes (seconds?) they were all surfing the SolarSPELL website.

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In fact, one of them had never used the WiFi or Web Browser features on her phone before, because Internet connectivity is neither common nor affordable here. She was so excited to learn that she already had these capabilities on her very own phone, and could now surf the library’s “Internet” for free!

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Posted in Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Samoa, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Teacher Technology Training, Uncategorized, Women and Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

75 New SolarSPELLs Built!

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On Friday May 6, 2016, students at Cal Poly built 75 new SolarSPELL libraries! What’s more, this feat—which included drilling, wire-stripping, soldering, gluing, taping, Velcro-ing, and much more, was accomplished in just a few hours.

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The group did, in fact, get a jump-start on the build on Wednesday, May 4, having had the opportunity to set up all of the equipment, describe and train on what needed to be done in terms of assembly and building, and identify any potential bottlenecks for the assembly-line manufacture that would take place on Friday.

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These SPELL libraries are destined for schools in Samoa, Tonga, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). In all three locations, we are working in partnership with the US Peace Corps, to provide their Volunteers with this educational technology to assist them in being able to carry out their mission of being teachers in remote, rural schools.

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On the same evening of the build, the University hosted a gala evening for alumni, called the Evening of Green and Gold. SolarSPELL was invited to set up a display and speak to alumni about the project’s accomplishments.

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Even though the build was exciting and fostered a sense of accomplishment, there remains quite a bit more to be done besides building the hardware of the library. After the build, the students transitioned to working on gathering additional content for the library (especially content curated for our new partners Samoa and Tonga), testing out the new website, building a new-and-improved how-to-use guide.

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We look forward to deploying the first batch of the new SPELLs in Samoa in June!

Posted in Cal Poly, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Samoa, Solar Digital Library, Tonga | Leave a comment