21 June 2012

The Ultimate Teacher App (That Doesn't Exist Yet)

I got an iPad to use in class and quickly realized something: all the apps for teachers are crap. Until I learn how to make apps, all I can do about it is share what I think would be the ultimate teacher app, told in second-person omnipotent. I even mocked up some designs in Adobe Illustrator to help share my point.

(Note: a lot of the design and functionality was inspired by LearnBoost, a web app I discovered that comes closest of all the apps out there.)

You get to school and you pull out your iPad. Open the app and it takes you to the customizable home screen. Optional, resizable widgets might include:

  • the agenda - lists all your classes, in order, color-coordinated, with title and truncated description of today's activities, if available
  • materials/setup - if you have included in your lessons and/or calendar a list of materials or things to do, they will show up here in chronological order
  • recent infractions - tardies, absences, misbehavior, missing assignments, with name of student
  • DropBox - quickly browse your recent files in here, with the ability to preview/open in other apps
  • email - link your teacher and/or personal emails here
  • calendar - list or grid view
  • grades - displays worst, best, or random grades
You peruse the infractions, considering whether to tap one of them to bring up parent contact information so you can send a quick email. A student in 3rd period walks in and asks if he has any missing assignments. You tap the microphone button and say "Zack Morris" and the app quickly interprets your words, then pulls up grades, attendance, and behavior for the student. In the grades section the default view is all grades, but you change that to the missing view and instantly it shows exactly what assignments are missing. You tap the button that says "email" and you send an email to him and his guardians that says, "Dear parent/guardian, As of 8:01am on Friday 18 May 2012, Zack Morris has 3 missing assignments:" it then lists the assignments as well as descriptions. At the end, as you had previously specified, there's a short snippet about when students can come get help outside of school.

You put your iPad aside to organize your desk, and then the bell rings to start first period. You open the app back up and it brought you straight to the seating chart/attendance view for first period. (You see, you input the schedule information so the app always knows what period it is, even on odd schedule days, and during the first few minutes of class, it assumes you're going to take attendance.) You tap the seats that you can see are empty, and it labels those students as 'absent.' Two students file in late so you tap them again to change the 'absent' to 'tardy.' For one student that's 4 tardies, so the app lets you know so you can send him to the office to talk with an administrator.

On the attendance page is a small button that takes you to the class agenda. You could have traditional lesson plans, but you're the kind of teacher that likes more of a to-do list to cover. A few minutes in, another student walks into class. She has an excuse slip. You hit the button that takes you back to attendance, tap/hold the student's name to bring up special attendance options, and you choose 'late - excused.'

When second period rolls around, a new student walks up and announces that she's new. You hit the ADMINISTRATION tab to access the student lists and seating charts. You go straight to the seating chart and find an empty seat in the room. You tap the seat and type her name in as she spells it for you. It automatically adds her to your class list, and excuses all assignments in the grade book before today.

Second period is when kids start waking up and misbehaving. As you try to explain the concepts, some girls in the back can't seem to stop talking. You switch to the seating chart from your lesson plan and add a behavior note for both of them. Default behavior options are simple thumbs up and thumbs down, but you added other behaviors, including talking, cell phone, horseplay, and gum. For the two girls, you hit the 'talking' behavior, and it saves the date and time. It's only their second infraction, so no warnings pop up. You linked this behavior with an assignment in the gradebook labeled "participation." Infractions take points away, but positive marks add points.

Third period starts. As usual, during the first few minutes of class, the app automatically takes you to the attendance seating chart. After attendance, you move into the randomize seating chart in order to create groups for the next project. It creates groups based on grades, making sure all the kids with good grades aren't in the same group nor is there a group of kids who are all failing.

Fourth period is a class that has an assignment that simply needs to be checked off. After attendance, you switch to the grading seating chart, and move around the classroom giving students checkmarks for completion. When you set up the assignment in the gradebook, you chose 'complete/incomplete' as the grading option. You could also choose letter grades, percentages, or points. Grading goes by quickly when you can just tap on the student's seat and scroll through available grade values.

The day goes on. After school is out and the students file out of the room, you switch to the daily summary. This shows you a quick list of attendance marks so you can input them into the official district grading software. It also shows you behavior infractions, graded assignments (to be put into the system), a reminder about assignments that need to be graded, and the required materials/setup for the next day of class. One of the setup reminders tells you to send an email to all the parents of 2nd period students, reminding them that projects are due in a week.

Right before packing up and heading home, you remember that midterms and parent-teacher conferences are coming up, so you set up a reminder to send out an email to all the parents about it, and then another reminder to email the parents that did not come to PTC a copy of their student's grades. When those days come, the reminder will appear anytime you open the app before or after school.

Then you wake up and realize that this app doesn't yet exist. Yes, it was one of those predictable it-was-all-a-dream plot twists that everyone hates.


  1. Hey, may I use some of your ideas, to make that kind of application?

  2. Hi there I was just wondering about how you played this. What rules did you use?
    Did you use the standard monopoly rules for playing?
    And what did you use for money?
    Thank you