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Alvaro Montoro
Alvaro Montoro

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Help a teacher. Become a better developer.

Teachers play a key role in our communities. They sacrifice their time, their money, and much more for their students. And, more often than not, their efforts are not as recognized and appreciated as they deserve.

While fixing this situation requires systemic changes, there are some ways in which software developers can help. And in the end, it can be a mutually beneficial collaboration.

I often talk to teachers (my wife is one), and most have great ideas for apps and games for their classrooms. But unfortunately, many don't have the resources available or the technical practice to turn them into reality. And that's where developers need to step up.

We can help them. And teaming up with teachers is a win-win:

  • Teachers will get valuable assets for their classrooms that will help them present lessons in innovative ways.
  • Developers will earn experience developing real-life projects, working with clients, and testing new technologies.

These collaborations are not fully altruistic. Apart from being rewarding, developers will benefit from the exchange: experience, demos, a portfolio... all while helping a greater cause.

The apps that teachers require are a nice break from the work routine or the school projects. They spark creativity and encourage research and learning. Teachers don't need to-do lists, tic-tac-toes, or Netflix clones that no one will ever see. Instead, they need something practical that dozens of students will use.

The projects may be simple, but they are perfect for developers of all levels (especially for beginners). And there's always the satisfaction of knowing that your work is being utilized and that there are people that find it extremely helpful.

Over the years and alongside my wife, we have developed many apps and mini-games for her Spanish classes. Some examples are:

  • An 8-ball with personalized expressions.
  • A webpage for students to practice verb conjugations.
  • An app to reorder and complete sentences.
  • A fill-in-the-gaps using songs and videos.
  • A virtual assistant that listens to the students and answers questions.

Each of them helped me learn/practice new things: randomization, multimedia integration, third-party and Web APIs, drag-and-drop, etc., along with the core concepts of programming: loops, conditionals, data structures, events, asynchronous functions... Plus, they were fun to develop.

Cartoon version of Frida Kahlo

Frida is a virtual teacher assistant that helps during Spanish class. It was
developed in vanilla JavaScript using Web APIs and basic control structures.

These are apps that require similar skills as the classic learning projects but have a cool edge that will impress friends, colleagues, and even recruiters.

So, next time you sit down in front of your computer, thinking What should I build next?, don't look at the same old threads with the same old dull learning project ideas. Reach out to a teacher! Ask them what they need. They’ll give you ideas.

Teachers inspire students daily, and they can be a great source of inspiration for developers too.

Top comments (8)

gatewayparkour profile image
gatewayparkour • Edited

That's a great idea! I'm a student of one of the IT faculty at Arizona State University. But I was interested in it during school too. And I also did several projects for my math teacher. It's a great opportunity for young IT specialist to boost their skills and prepare for real work. You might have some problems with inadequate expertise, but you can always ask for help in different resources like or from your Computer Science teacher, for example. Education is essential, so you cannot limit yourself only to essay writing and doing some routine homework. Look at the bigger.

grahamthedev profile image

This is a great idea!

You need to get 10 ideas together than the teachers want building so you can do a useful version of "10 software projects ideas for new developers" and get thousands of views.

Who knows, an idea this good could become its own site (charities, teachers etc. need a simple calculator, tool etc. building and provide a spec, new developers (or older ones wanting to help / try a new language etc.) build them to learn from etc.

alvaromontoro profile image
Alvaro Montoro

I initially put all the apps/games into a website señ but the ñ in the URL was a bad bad bad idea (it looked like fun at the time). Then created a small e-learning platform Textivities where I put all of them. It is still live, but I stopped building it. I always say I'll finish Textivities, I should have done it a few years back.

grahamthedev profile image

Like the style of it...don’t worry, it is comforting to know I am not the only one with half launched products.

Perhaps one to revisit though as I think it has some merit, and I am sure there are ways to make it profitable so you have a reason to work on it (as that tends to be why good ideas get abandoned...we all have to eat!)

ashoutinthevoid profile image
Full Name

I like the idea, but "Reach out to a teacher friend!" perhaps makes a few assumptions about developer's social connections. Maybe I'm just unusual in not having friends who work in education 😅.

Getting together and creating a (small?) platform to enable these connections might be a useful path.

alvaromontoro profile image
Alvaro Montoro • Edited

That is a good point. Not everyone has teacher friends, so I edited the article and removed the "friend" part.

If you don't have teacher friends, don't worry, you can still help. Most of us completed (or are completing) high school, so we can reach out to one of our high school teachers. They may not be friends-friends, but they are in our networks, and they'll appreciate the help.

I like the idea of a creating a small platform that would help create these connections... maybe a next side project 😊

ashoutinthevoid profile image
Full Name • Edited

I do hope the platform idea gets serious consideration (from yourself, or perhaps a reader in search of project ideas).

Looking at your profile, I'd venture we're around the same age. A teacher who started their career when I was a highschool freshman would be eligible to retire with a pension at this point. My interactions with university professors were even more impersonal at the time, and completely non-existent since graduating.

I may have been mistaken in including myself in the target audience. If not, something better than cold calling strangers (which is what I feel I'd effectively be doing) would be a massive help in getting development resources to teachers who could use them.

To reiterate, I love the general idea, but from my (limited) perspective it's only actionable for a very specific subset of developers.

michaelprimo profile image
Michael Primo

I agree 100%. Making edutainment games is also good. The students needs to know more what amazing things they can do with what they are studying and they need space to experiment that.