23rd December 2014

A team of IT and education students from QUT have helped introduce information technology to a primary school on the Fijian island of Taveuni, making it possible for its teachers and 252 pupils to access information despite having no internet connection.

Project supervisor Dr Richard Medland said The Fiji Project focussed its attention on Somosomo District School and was part of the Professional Practice in IT unit offered by QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty and was supported by the STIMulate (maths, science and IT learning support) program at QUT.

"The goal of The Fiji Project was to donate, develop and educate the school to make use of information technology," Dr Medland said.

"In areas with no internet it is still possible to use IT to impart a broad range of knowledge taken from a data library that can be regularly updated. Students can, for example, now access the complete works of Shakespeare, current maps of the world, details of the history of their own region and much more.

"The QUT IT students worked with QUT education students to develop lesson plans integrating IT, developed a method for Somosomo students to access learning material through IT systems and gave technical support to the students while they learnt to use the new equipment.

"A major challenge was to develop what we called a SEEbox and operating system to support the distribution of digital content in a place without internet access or reliable electricity. They used a Raspberry Pi at the core of the SEEbox as it is a popular low cost, low power device with a large amount of software already available and originally designed for education use.

"QUT's IT students gave multiple demonstrations to local teachers, education officials and members of the community to show how the technology worked and how it would benefit the village."

Dr Medland said the students worked on the project at QUT for 14 weeks before travelling to Fiji where they spent two weeks on installation, teaching and ensuring teachers and students had a comprehensive understanding of the SEEbox and associated operating system.

"Thanks to The Fiji Project the students of Somosomo District School and the members of its village in Taveuni will be able to develop their IT literacy, which in turn will help them in their future studies. They will also gain valuable research skills," Dr Medland said.

He added that the project was the brainchild Dr Vinesh Chandra from QUT's School of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education who has undertaken similar projects in other developing communities including Zambia.

Dr Chandra and Dr Medland have since received funding to conduct more work in Fiji in 2015 and will revisit Somosomo District School to check on progress.

Media contact:
Amanda Weaver, QUT Media, 07 3138 9449, amanda.weaver@qut.edu.au
After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901.

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