SolarSPELL in the South Pacific
What is SolarSPELL?
SolarSPELL is a Solar Powered Educational Learning Library: a ruggedized, portable solar-powered digital library over an off-line WiFi hotspot, designed to simulate an online experience.
Making use of open educational resources and ever-smaller and more efficient technology, SolarSPELL provides an all-in-one, self-powered plug-and-play kit, ready to be deployed with minimal training or maintenance required for start-up and continued operation. Today, there are 210 SolarSPELL Digital Libraries empowering schools and communities located in Micronesia, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, South Sudan, and Rwanda. On average, one SolarSPELL impacts 100 individuals in the Pacific Islands and 300 individuals in East Africa.
A companion device called Library Lab has also been developed to assist in our vision. It has 6 tablets and the solar technology to charge them, this allows more students to use a SolarSPELL at once in low resource areas where they might not have as many smart devices. Currently 4 of these are in alpha testing in the Pacific Islands and East Africa.
SolarSPELL is also reshaping education for university students attending Arizona State University (ASU). Global citizens emerge from international experiences that offer new insight and the chance to develop cultural competency, thus building their capacity to address pressing needs. ASU students engineer the technology, create the software, curate the educational content, apply for grants, conduct field research, evaluate impact, and collaborate with in-country partners. During each implementation or impact evaluation trip conducted by SolarSPELL, students have the opportunity to lead the trainings, conduct interviews, and collaborate with local partners. Not only is this building students’ professional competencies by giving them real world experience, it is developing their cultural competencies and fostering them into active global citizens.
Read more about our story at solarspell.org.
What will we be doing in Samoa and Fiji?
Samoa: this will be our third implementation trip, and we will bring new SolarSPELL digital libraries and will be training a new cohort of Peace Corps volunteers, as well as bringing updated libraries for the volunteers who were trained last year. We will also be traveling to Peace Corps volunteers’ local sites, and conducting in-depth interviews with the volunteers that have been using SolarSPELLs for one year to see what is working well and where improvements can be made.
Fiji: This is our first SolarSPELL implementation trip to Fiji! We will carry out training with both Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterparts on how to use the SolarSPELL digital library. Since there are so many volunteers and counterparts (our largest deployment to date), we will need to travel to three training locations and carry out three separate trainings. We will also carry out baseline surveys to be able to gauge how useful the volunteers and community members find the SolarSPELL digital libraries.
Why we need your help:
Student travel for involvement in implementation has been a core value of SolarSPELL from the beginning. Traveling to areas where students can see firsthand the realities facing people with little access to education or technology, compared to what we, in the US are accustomed to, provides us with an improved sense of empathy, urgency, and global competency to better address complex problems through our post-collegiate careers. Being able to participate in the whole SolarSPELL process from research, design, implementation, and evaluation, through to improvement, allows students to experience the full spectrum of working on a project to helping in a community. In each implementation or impact evaluation, we are not only making a difference in the communities we are serving, but we are learning how to make that difference by developing transferable skills that will allow us to be changemakers for the rest of our lives.