Colin, a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Rwanda, shares his experience using the SolarSPELL digital library at his school, one of the five pilot schools:
The SolarSPELL digital library has been a quick success at my school in the rural Northern District of Rwanda. After the initial training provided by the SolarSPELL team, my counterpart and I ran a second training for teachers who missed out on the first one and declared a little competition to see who could use the device most creatively. Over two weeks, I showed up to school early so that teachers doing their morning preparation could have access to the device and its resources. Turnout was outstanding, as teachers would come in, log into the device, and supplement their lesson plans with things that they discovered on the library. They were often eager to share what they discovered with me, be it a lesson in Kinyarwanda or a video on a subject they were teaching that day. The enthusiasm for the device has been incredible. The competition is still ongoing at present, as the teachers are modifying their lessons to include creative student-centered activities and really make the most out of what they’re learning from the digital library.
We just recently got laptops at the school and the students are super enthusiastic to dive in and learn not only about the new computers, but to access the materials on the SolarSPELL. I’ve introduced the device to a few of my smaller classrooms, and the students adore it. There’s a whole folder on mental health that’s in Kinyarwanda that the kids find fascinating, and they also have been particularly enthused with the Student edition of Wikipedia on the library. They have loved being able to look up facts and figures about Rwanda and central Africa, as well as fun information regarding music and movies from around the world. As soon as the computer lab is put together, more students will be able to access the SolarSPELL, and expand on what they learn in the classrooms.
I am also really impressed with the device and grateful to be participating with it. Peace Corps can be an open field to do whatever you can and as liberating as this can feel, it can also be intimidating to have so many options. The SolarSPELL has given me some direction in helping the faculty and several great ideas on how I can be a better ESL teacher. As I mentioned above, helping the teachers to access and explore the information on the library has been a joy, and the device has lots of student-centered lessons, activities, and games to help my students practice their English and help me to better engage the class.
We’ve only been using the SolarSPELL for a short time, but I feel that it has already made an impact on my school. The teachers are getting many resources to help them teach, the students will have an opportunity to explore information like many of them have not been able to do before, and it’s helped me in teaching my classes more effectively. I’m confident that the SolarSPELL will become a tool used daily at my school.