Monthly Archives: October 2012

Team Wins Hackathon with School Office Pal prototype

It’s hard to resist the urge to build an educational app once you do it. Reina, Francisco and I went back to the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto Saturday, where it all started back in June with first place winner Read With Me App .

This time around, we built a prototype concept called School Office Pal. The web app tries to simplify the time-consuming office referral process while simultaneously helping to calm the student using videos on mobile devices.

Usually when kids are sent to the office, they sit there, sometimes for hours, waiting to get processed by staff and administrators. If a serious enough incident has occurred, the process usually requires an investigation, the  calling of witnesses, validation of the different versions of events, student written reflections, conflict resolutions, etc. This can take up a lot of time from busy admins, not to mention lost class time. In the tradition of Read With Me, which hopes to streamline bottlenecks in the reading assessment arena, School Office Pal also tries to tackle the overwhelming problem of school referrals by making the process faster and digital, so that data can quickly be analyzed and saved.

Here is a short video from the Hackathon:

School Office Pal first calms the student down using a meditation video. The student is given a list of options to choose from for the reason they were sent to the office. Some options include fighting, bullying, being sick, or misbehaving. Each option leads the student through a set of questions that can help school staff handle each case faster and more accurately.

After filling out the questions, the student can watch a short video clip about the situation, including ways to remedy the issue or help the student emotionally. They are encouraged through the questions to reflect about the incident, what they could have done differently, what the other person might say about what happened, etc. A student’s testimony is then recorded, saving the principal or vice principal the time of conducting extensive investigations, dealing with changing stories, or uncommunicative kids.


That’s not to say that there is no room for deep conversations about what happened. Principals can and should continue to have in-depth dialogue with students caught in negative behavior cycles. In fact it is the very purpose of the app, to relieve the data gathering, the self reflection, the pre-conference metacognitive thought process, so that when the principal, parents, counselors are ready to meet, all that is already taken care of, and the deep conversations can begin in earnest.

Our team was awarded twice: second place Best General Social Good App and as Best App using Stackmob , a database service that allows applications to store data remotely. We also used Tout,  a short-length video hosting service who was also present at the hackathon.

We are currently reviewing how this prototype can be integrated with the products currently in the development pipeline. We believe that helping teach students ways to self remedy or handle situations they find themselves in can lead to a more productive school ecosystem, allowing staff more time to focus on and help students instead of filling out paperwork.

The team is looking for feedback and suggestions, which can be sent via this form .