Fort Mill teacher’s tech skills earns first-prize at inBloom Camp

mharrison@fortmilltimes.comApril 2, 2013 

— Are you a parent who wants a quick and easy way to monitor your child’s academic progress at any given time? There’s an app for that.

At least there’s one in development and if it does become available, you’ll have Fort Mill Middle School teacher David Richards to thank for it.

Richards came up with the idea, which took first prize in the inBloom Camp and EdTech Codeathon held March 23-24, in Raleigh, N.C. Working with coders who designed an app based on his suggestion, Richards, an eighth-grade teacher at FMMS, came home with the $2,000 first prize.

Richards visualized a simple thermometer icon for “taking the temperature of how a kid is performing in class.” A reading in the red should be a red flag to parents that the student is failing. The better a student’s standing in the class, the higher the reading goes. Peaking into the green signals a healthy academic standing.

The way Richards described the event made it sound like a techie version of “The Bachelorette.”

“They posted the ideas on giant Sticky Notes and then you stood underneath your idea while the developers walked around and if they saw an idea they liked, they interviewed you about it,” he said.

When one group of coders saw Richard’s app, it was a match made in a computer lab.

“As teachers, we always think we have all the answers, all the ideas, but then you see how someone with the skills can put together an actual app in 24 hours. It was incredible.”

According to inBloom’s website, the camp and codeathons are “informal conferences where developers and teachers can come together to contribute, discuss, share and problem-solve, and are an important tool of open source code development.”

Richards, in his fifth year at FMMS, earned his post graduate degree in education technology.

“I definitely have an interest in information technology and technology is an important part of my students’ lives, so exposing my students to new types of technology would make my day even more,” Richards said.

“We’re lucky here in Fort Mill, where we have tools at our disposal like Google Chromebooks,” he said. “Reading ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is hard enough for eighth graders, but what makes things interesting is when you can add technology to it and get their attention.”

The husband of a teacher – his wife, Gwen, teaches at Fort Mill High – Richards says they both feel the need to find better ways to communicate with parents.

“Sometimes it’s hard for us to express (to parents) how well a child is performing in our classrooms,” he said.

Although he’s unsure if the app will ever be applied, Richards, aside from the money he won, enjoyed the experience.

“It was a first for me and it was a lot of fun. They liked my idea, which was really awesome, but then they brought it to life. It was cool.”

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