Monday, October 26, 2015

LOA Diaries: Edmodo - Judging the Hackathon

Allison kicks off the presentation of projects
I was honored to be included on the judging panel for our Hackathon. I loved hearing about the amazing things these teams had accomplished in just 24 hours. I am always willing share my opinion, when I feel safe to do so. I do think most of the engineers valued a teacher, their customer's perspective. Chris presented a project to filter and block malicious links from being posted to +Edmodo. It occurred to me that there is much that goes on behind the scenes that we customers never see. From the judges table I pointed out that teachers, really any customer, will not be shy in letting you know when your product does not meet expectations, doesn't work, is slow. But there is much work engineers do to protect our students and keep them safe, without us even knowing. I thanked him for that.  And the most adorable thing happened, he blushed! Working in safety and security, he usually only hears about from customers when something doesn't work. It may very well be the first time a customer had thanked him for his work. This was a good reminder to me to show gratitude more often. 

In addition to Zach's formatting project, as each group presented I realized how many of the projects were designed to enhance the user experience, from giving us bigger video viewing area to more content in Spotlight, to helping new teachers get comfortable with Edmodo, the customers really are foremost in Edmodo's work, even in their passion projects..
The Judges (yes, bribes are on the table, chocolate and wine)

Despite jokes about accepting bribes, I did recuse myself from deliberations regarding my team and our category of Company Culture. And yet, our project, Humans of Edmodo, won!  So in addition to experiencing this inspirational event, our team won $500 for each member! That never happens in public education.  Even better, +Zach Rutta, who had done his initial presentation alone and had asked for engineers to help him create something teachers had been wanting for years, won the grand prize!  So really I felt like I won twice!

As I was drinking a celebratory plastic cup (recycle able of course) with the judges, we explored the idea of bringing the Hackathon concept into staff development days and classrooms on campuses. It would be interesting to see what could be accomplished. I'm not sure the union or parents would approve of a 24 hour project but imagine if we gave teachers and/or students a focused, dedicated block of time to pursue a project they thought could make a difference...whatever that means to them! I'm still working on how to implement it, but I think there is potential there. Participants develop perseverance, creativity, communication and collaboration which are all critical skills for future ready teachers and students.
I am a Human of Edmodo

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