It's the fashion these days to blame teachers for everything that is wrong with American education. But teachers are still the people in our schools every day, and they know what our schools are lacking. That's the premise of DonorsChoose.org, a website where teachers can ask for specific items for their classrooms, and users can give them money to buy those items.
But that information has, until now, been scattered across the site in unsuable form. Today, however, it announced Hacking Education, a new contest to make apps and crunch data to find trends in what teachers aren't getting across the country.
DonorsChoose's CEO Charles Best told us that, "My dream is that someone will create an analysis that inspires real educational change in at least one city or state."
The contest--to be judged by Arianna Huffington, Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, and Fred Wilson--is asking users to make use of the 300,000 project requests (at 40% of U.S. schools) on the site, which are now available, as well as the API. They want users to crunch the data to do things like find out if certain cities are chronically underfunded in certain areas--maybe teachers from Boston are constantly requesting more money for chalkboards--so that they can take that data, show it to the honchos running the system, and actually have them rejigger the budget to give the teachers what they actually need.
Novel idea! Or maybe see some trends in education that people may have missed, like, say, that lower-income English teachers are always requesting the same book that their district isn't buying them.
For programmers, you can use the API to make apps that make the DonorsChoose experience more exciting, because mobile apps are the future and everyone must have one! If you're interested, submissions are due by June 30 (full details here). The winner gets... a trophy. Say what you will about crowd-sourced contests (we know, we know, they're nothing good), but think of this one as pro-bono work. And Stephen Colbert hands you the trophy. That's worth something. It's for a good cause: the children! The data crunching section will result in some cool infographics; check back here for updates about them once the contest ends.
[Photo from Flickr user Woodleywonderworks]
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