DC Public Schools tout new app designed by students


A Washington, D.C. school is helping parents keep up with their kids with an app – developed by their kids.

Four pupils at McKinley Technology High School in northeast D.C., beat out about two dozen other schools in the District of Columbia to design an Android app that helps parents find out what their children are learning, and how to help them at home with their studies.

The DCPS Parent Guide app is now available for download on Google Play, and helps parents follow along with what their children are learning during any given semester. The app has 32 downloads so far, the students said.

With the help of experts at Accenture during a six-week internship over the summer, the students worked on the programming, development and other technical aspects to build the app. DCPS’s Office of Family and Community Engagement provided the content.

“The idea was to
make an app to allow parents to view their child’s curriculum, what they’re
learning in school on a month-to-month basis and what activities the parents can
practice with their child at home,” said Sean Pine, a junior who worked on the four-member team that dubbed itself “DCPS Code Whisperers.”

Prior to the app, he added, “Parents
weren’t really involved in their child’s learning” because of difficulties using the school’s learning management system.

DCPS recently switched from using Blackboard to Canvas, a new LMS that allows teachers to assign unconventional tasks and students to upload their homework and assignments in different formats. For example, their computer science teacher recently asked her students to upload rap recordings about security portals for cybersecurity class.

“Right now, I think every teacher wants to try to find some component of blended learning,” said Melanie Wiscount, the computer science teacher. “A lot of
teachers here are finding ways to get creative, not just to teach the students, but to assess their learning as well.”

Wiscount, who had all four students in her cybersecurity class and other courses, said the app idea was useful because about 32 percent of her students either don’t have access to a computer or Internet at home, but most of the students have a smartphone.

“I think that is great to be able to make curricular resources available” on mobile devices, she said in an interview.

“I think these
four have created a nice winning environment to get other studnets to be
inspired to do what they have done,” she added.

Pine, who wants to pursue a career in cybersecurity, computer science or astrophysics, said he enjoys the creativity that comes with building an app.

“If you enjoy
math or logical thinking or creativity, those are parts of programming,” Pine said. “There are so many
different things you can do with it.”

The app can be downloaded on a mobile Android device or on a desktop computer.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com or follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.