ASU SolarSPELL Peace Corps training in Micronesia: Three Years in FSM!

The ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), in July 2017, to carry out a training on the solar digital libraries with a new cohort of Peace Corps volunteers. This training represents the third (annual) training with FSM volunteers, launching SolarSPELL’s third year of use in the field.

This particular training was quite special, as our team comprised a librarian from ASU Libraries, who offered a training on how to set up a library in a school, as well as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei some twenty years earlier, who had returned to the island for the first time since her service. We also had some special guest visitors attend the training from SolarSPELL project partner PREL, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, with whom we look forward to collaborating even more closely in the (near) future!

The training kicked off with a background and overview of the SolarSPELL project, explaining not only where the idea for a solar digital library sprang from, but also some of the challenges and successes that the project has faced over the years. This presentation concluded by welcoming this new group of volunteers into the SolarSPELL family.

We continued the training by distributing both tablets and the SolarSPELL digital libraries, so that the volunteers could figure out how to operate the libraries, and could begin to surf and explore the library’s content, as well as pose any questions about the content, functionality, etc.

Subsequently, we held a scavenger hunt for the volunteers, to help familiarize them with the content on the library. Since there were prizes involved, the scavenger hunt became quite competitive!

The winning team members were quite pleased with the prizes!

After lunch, the training segued into a workshop on “How to Set Up a Library in Your School,” led by Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian at ASU. The volunteers played a game to familiarize them with challenges associated establishing a library in resource-constrained conditions.

Discussion continued on relevant topics such as obtaining books, keeping the library as free as possible of bugs, mold, and other potential environmental threats, as well as topics like setting up a book check-out system, and incentivizing reading.

Finally, Jessica Hirshorn, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei, FSM approximately 20 year prior, gave some valuable advice and insights to this incoming class of volunteers.

Jessica had the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, to see the impact her service had had, and she shared this with the incoming volunteers, which was quite a motivating force! The new volunteers had plenty of questions for Jessica.

The day ended in the traditional SolarSPELL way: with a group photo.

And some nice SolarSPELL team pictures, too!

Pictures taken by Brooks McAllister.

Posted in Arizona State University, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Solar Digital Library, SolarSPELL | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ASU SolarSPELL Samoa Training with Peace Corps Volunteers and Local Teachers

The final highlight of the ASU SolarSPELL team’s time in Samoa was a two-day training with the Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. This was our team’s first opportunity to carry out a training with local teachers, and we are so grateful for the Samoa Peace Corps staff for suggesting it and then making it a reality!

The day started off with an introduction of the team from the Peace Corps country director, Sherry Russell.

It continued with a historical overview of the development of the SolarSPELL: it did not appear out of thin air! There was a lot of in-field “lessons learned” that went into developing it, and we’re never finished with development: the library is a living thing. The background also lets participants know where they fit in to the overall picture of the SolarSPELL, and that they are now part of the SolarSPELL family.

The team next distributed the SolarSPELL libraries, explained how the technology works, got everyone connected, and then allowed time for the participants to begin surfing and exploring the content.

The ASU students on the team subsequently gave a “highlights tour” of the SolarSPELL’s content, with each taking one of the website’s main categories to elaborate upon.

The following day was kicked off with a scavenger hunt. There were prizes for the winners, so the event turned quite competitive! Surprisingly, the smallest team won the competition.

Next, there were a few frank discussions of the challenges that the participants would likely face once they returned to their home schools and villages. The SolarSPELL is a disruptive technology, and introducing new technologies is always challenging. We worked through six “use case” scenarios, all from real-world challenges that previous Peace Corps volunteers had faced, in the field.

We took more time for questions and answers, and the participants (as always) had useful, valuable questions, insight, and advice for us. We will take this advice to heart and use it to improve the future versions of the library!

Posted in Arizona State University, Samoa, Solar Computer Lab in a Box, Solar Digital Library, SolarSPELL, Teacher Technology Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ASU SolarSPELL Samoa Peace Corps Volunteer Site Visits Part 2: Upolu Island

The ASU SolarSPELL Team’s second day of visiting Peace Corps volunteers’ sites took place on Upolu Island. We first visited Cynthia’s school, and got a tour of the school’s library.

Once again, the ASU students got to spend some quality time with the primary-level students. We even got to demonstrate the SolarSPELL to these students, including a Virtual Reality field trip.

As a post-script highlight, Cynthia let us know that our visit has re-inspired interst in the SolarSPELL at her school, and sent us pictures of her students using the digital library in the following days.

Our next stop was to see Zack. We had let him know we were on the way, so he had asked another teacher to take over for him once we arrived. Thus, we were delighted to be able to watch Zack’s host mother leading a class on environmental issues.

When she excused the class to start working in groups, the ASU students again had the opportunity to interact with the students, helping them brainstorm about how and why erosion takes place. We got a tour of Zack’s house, and spoke further with him about using the SolarSPELL at his school.

Finally, our marathon-of-a-day ended with Craig, and he gave us a quick tour of his school and library.

After this (and a quick dip in the Piula Cave pool), we returned to Craig’s house where he kindly allowed us to interview him. In fact, we interviewed all of the volunteers we went to visit, and our videographers made a fantastic couple of videos from this footage. Those will be highlighted in separate posts.




Posted in Arizona State University, Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Samoa, Solar Digital Library, SolarSPELL | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment