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Education Innovation Hackathon

Last weekend, educators and programmers convened to debate visions, pore over code, overeat pizza, and break apart from their teams in true reality TV style. This was the Shared Learning Collaborative‘s Bay Area 30-hour hackathon.

I’ll share the concept and mockup of my team’s app, codenamed “Clevernote,” in tomorrow’s post. Here are the top two winners:

3R radar (1st place): “The 3R radar proof of concept facilitates collaboration between parents and teachers when a student is struggling. The app helps teachers communicate with parents about areas of weakness and helps parents understand that area based on the Common Core standards. The parents are given strategies and activities for assisting their child and then send feedback to the teacher.”

I’m not convinced that schools should provide a separate platform exclusive to parents. This is a tough sell politically from most schools’ perspectives. While we all want increased and more effective parental involvement for learning to occur outside of the classroom, spending money on 3R radar would be focused on helping the “haves,” letting those without parental support or internet at home slip further behind.

NOTE-e-FI (2nd): Teachers need a way to communicate with parents and students while making their efforts transparent to administrators and staff. NOTE-e-FI is a system that allows educators to send notes to parents, students and colleagues using filters for information in the SLC data store. Notes can be translated into the student’s home language using Windows Azure translations.

One common usage might be for a teacher to filter his/her roster to select all absent students and directly email their parents. Simple and effective while leveraging SLC’s API.

Oh hey, is that my Code for America jacket I spot from Google Image-ing around?

Oh hey, is that my Code for America jacket I spot from Google Image-ing?

And here are the awards I’m generously dishing out today:

Most Appbominable: During a teacher panel aimed at exposing holes that tech could fill, a teacher from the Palo Alto School District (you can see where I’m going with this…) cited her students listening to podcasts on iPods, playing games on the iPad, and word processing on Macs, but yet [insert laughable struggle that no one paid any attention to since we were busy tweeting about #firstworldproblems].

Most Coapperative thought, discussed after the hackathon in the parking lot. An honorably-mentioned coder from Google humbly revealed that only after his app wasn’t chosen for first place did he realize just how little coders really know about solving problems in education. That’s why this hackathon’s premise of forming mixed coder-educator teams is so powerful.

Most InAppt: The AssignLine team kicked off their presentation by lamenting the problem of schoolchildren not being taught life skills such as remembering to write down homework. The solution? An app that lets you snap a picture of homework assignments and organizes them for you!

Most Imprapptical: Enter ChinaFlash! It was built by a veteran hoard of 10! It has sound effects! It works! It even wins bonus points for evoking the sense of minorities in its name! And as a snazzy virtual flashcard classroom game, it has no added value to what we can already achieve without electricity. I’d go so far as to say that it’s a significant negative value add, having to deal with 30 costly mobile devices to run the activity for a few minutes a day. This is the epitome of failed attempts at disrupting education figuratively rather than literally. Right now we are wasting much too many resources on insanely competent coders who are simply clueless about the challenges of managing and teaching a class of 30.

A workshop introducing a promising effort, Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), supplemented the hackathon. How often do you come across an online collection of learning resources? It seems like every other moderately tech-savvy teacher thinks he/she can somehow create a repository unique from the thousands already out there. LRMI aims to meta-tag the internet’s educational resources and centralize the fragmented silos across the web. Using the same simple technology that drives Google’s recipes, here’s an idea of how simple it will look to the user:

And this is the backend for those voluntarily tagging resources. A few tags include end user (teachers, students), age range, interactivity type (active, expositive), media type, educational alignment (i.e. Common Core), and dot notation (i.e. .mp3, .pdf). Test drive it here!

I can’t imagine many better ways to learn how to build and manage a product from ideation to delivery. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on my team’s project!

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