Micronesia Peace Corps SolarSPELL Program extends into Second Year with Training of Incoming Class of Volunteers!

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The US Peace Corps in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) hosted the SolarSPELL team for a second year as the team carried out a workshop with this year’s incoming class of Peace Corps volunteers. The training took place in Madolenihmw, Pohnpei in July, 2016.

Laura Hosman and Bruce Baikie led the training, which included an overview of the SPELL library’s hardware, website/educational content, and the tablet that the team included for each Peace Corps volunteer to be able to access the library’s content once in the field.

The training also benefited from a (surprise!) special guest talk by one of last year’s cohort of volunteers, Dana, who spoke to this year’s cohort about some of the potential and unexpected challenges they might face in using the SPELL libraries at their schools, when the workshop transitioned to the discussion of teaching strategies, potential in-field challenges, and how to address them. Thank you, Dana, for sharing your insights and contributing to the training!

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The SPELL team is especially grateful to the Peace Corps staff in FSM, particularly including to Rodney Salas, who was an early champion of the SPELL project and its implementation with the Peace Corps volunteers FSM. Not only was FSM the first country to receive SolarSPELLs, it is also the first to renew the partnership and invite the SPELL team back for a second year. We’re very grateful for the opportunity and continued cooperation!

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The Peace Corps volunteers in FSM, and indeed across the Pacific Islands, commit to two years of volunteer service, and are stationed at schools. Most of these schools will not have reliable electricity/power or Internet connectivity, so these libraries are designed to provide relevant educational content in these challenging environmental conditions. The Peace Corps volunteers’ responsibilities include teaching English, using technology where possible, and working together with the community and the school to help improve the education available at the schools where they are serving.

The Solar SPELL library was designed to help meet the needs of the Peace Corps volunteers, vis-à-vis enabling and improving education, in the field. It includes open access content, much of which is localized for the Federated States of Micronesia and for the Pacific Islands. The offline library’s content can also be found in on-line version here: http://pacificschoolserver.org

The library’s hardware is designed to be as simple to use as possible, with no moving parts in order to avoid overheating. The solar panel and plastic case are waterproof, providing an extra level of protection against the salt air and humidity that is ever-present in the Islands.

Thank you, Peace Corps FSM for a second year of collaboration and cooperation with SPELL!

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

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