I recently blogged about Ving – a fine app for greater connectivity between parents, students and teachers, with the caveat that it’s entirely dependent on internet access — maybe not a problem in some communities, but definitely a problem in others. If the local school district or kind philanthropists can donate laptops and internet access for needy families, that’s great! But I do worry about the digital divide. For every web-step forward a school takes, homeless families, or just plain poor or disconnected families, get left even farther behind.
That being said, there are some schools that manage just fine without internet access. Much of the third world I expect, but even some in the U.S. are doing without. Some even thrive. And then there’s Las Vegas — one of the worst rated school districts in the country.
They’re not Luddites, by any means, they’re just short on funds. But that makes what they’ve done all the more remarkable. Credit goes to two teachers, Rachel Warbelow (pictured) and Ben Salkowe, who put together the Scholars Working Overtime program (SWOT), billed as “the first high achieving college prep pathway for middle school students in East Las Vegas.”
As part of this rigorous program, they decided to build an app for tracking student behavior. Trouble was, they didn’t know how to create such an app. At all. Rachel finally went off to Dev Bootcamp, and learned how to code. And got excited about it. And brought that excitement back to school with her. She indeed built her SWOTbot — a “fully functioning student data management system” that allows teachers to track individual students’ behaviors on an I-pad without missing a beat, in the middle of class. (Pictured at top) Her students were highly impressed.
So much so, that they caught the programming bug. So now, on top of a full school work load, they voluntarily put in extra time learning to code. They’re truly inspired about learning a skill that might help them transcend their impoverished circumstances and go on to college.
So this is a very cool story, a true-life fairy tale — about brilliant teachers in the worst schools in the country, coaching their kids into the big leagues. An amazing-enough accomplishment even at that point. But what makes this a little crazier is that they’re teaching and learning computer programming — without access to computers! That’s right — all by hand.
Check it out:
Inspired to help? They need to raise $35,000 to set up a computer lab. You can reach them through their website, www.SWOTBot.org or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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