Portland Education Hackfest

On Saturday, June 2, the team at FunnyMonkey participated in Hack for Portland Schools. The event was designed to brainstorm and, if possible, build, tools that help foster connections between schools and their surrounding communities. Research within Portland shows that nearly 85% of people living in Portland do not have a child in the school system. Despite this, however, many of these people have a strong interest in contributing to their schools.

However, despite the desire of people to help schools, and despite some areas where schools say that they would like community support, there are still ummet needs. These unmet needs are exacerbated now more than ever, as public education has seen several successive years of funding cuts.

Hack for Portland Schools

Our app aims to facilitate connections between schools, the professionals within schools, the students learning alongside these professionals, and people outside schools who are in a position to help.

It's also worth noting that the toolkit we are building can be used equally well by a school, a school district, or a non-profit organization bringing goods and services to schools and communities.

Our app lowers multiple barriers in connecting schools/organizations and volunteers:

  • It allows schools/organizations to define and publicize the areas where they want help;
  • It helps volunteers identify the areas where their expertise or resources will do the most good;
  • It eliminates the need for a third party to hold onto information for a school, and for a school or district to be dependent on a third party system;
  • It creates a mobile-friendly signups that work on any modern mobile device.

Using our app, a school/district/organization can create a mobile version of all signup opportunities. So, when people are doing outreach, they can sign up volunteers on the spot, and immediately get them into their database. This eliminates the gap between a person's desire to contribute, and the inertia that must be overcome to actually follow through and contribute. This also allows the organization seeking volunteers to do more focused outreach, as they can communicate with people who have already expressed an interest to contribute to a specific project.

Ideas for future expansion include:

  • integration with other donor apps via their apis (Kickstarter, Donors Choose, etc);
  • for organizations serving a broader geographical area, the addition of geographic data to allow for mapping of opportunities;
  • iCal integration;
  • in larger install, including more metadata about events to allow for more precise categorization of events
  • [your idea here] - please share any additional ideas in the comments

This app is currently available on Github - for people who just want to get started, the entire codebase is available for download. It runs within Julio, our distribution for schools and districts. This app also leverages the very awesome Registration module made by ThinkShout.

Comments

Our focus wasn't just a calendar, but as many tools as would create a "reality" based educational technology website.

Rather than talking about it though, here's a demo video.

I'm a State Certified Teacher and geek and I built this with my own kids in mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpQ-hDiyBKs

Regards,
joefrosty@gmail.com

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