The BeLL system also will enable teachers and students to adapt the open source content found on the BeLL for local conditions, and for children with special needs. It can be used to create and publish entirely new content. Communities are encouraged to use the BeLL to produce and distribute their own local newspaper and to encourage adults, as well as children, to use it to expand their own reading and writing skills.
The School Bell system works off the Internet, as well as on. The BeLL server contains two terabytes of multi-media resources, either OER or licensed for all Ghanaian elementary schools, that can be customized and updated to meet the needs of a particular setting. The server, requiring twelve volts of power and using 60 watts, can be powered locally if needed. The School BeLL system includes a projector, speakers, HD video camera, laser printer, and Wi-Fi supporting a variety of hand-held mobile devices.
When the BeLL is not connected to the Internet, it can be updated periodically with a flash drive taken to the nearest Internet Café or hot spot. With the hardware cost of under US$1,000 per BeLL, and assuming a four-year hardware life in a school with as few as 250 students, the cost per student per year for a complete library of high quality free educational resources is approximately one US dollar.
Ghana Reads will draw heavily upon OLE’s learnings from the remarkably effective 2011TeacherMate literacy project in Rwanda, from OLE Ghana’s 2012 replication of that program and from the current Ghana LITE project. In January 2012, with support from the Danish IT Society and Barnes & Noble, OLE Ghana’s LITE project deployed a beta version of the School BeLL at the Katapor School in rural Ghana. This project is advancing our ability to achieve high levels of literacy among young, marginalized children. Formative evaluations of the Ghana LITE project will be conducted during the 2012 school year and a summative evaluation will be completed by September 2012, in time to influence the next phase of the Ghana National School BeLL network development. It is hoped that before the Ghana Read project is completed, the Ghanaian government will decide to expand this approach to all Ghanaian children.