Katherine Guevara, a Center for Excellence in Teaching Instructional Designer at USC, developed an app at the beginning of the semester with a team of students called Mobile Teacher to provide a platform for educators to share effective teaching methods in regions without internet connection.
The Android app, which has received a grant from the U.S. State Department, has been in development since the beginning of the semester when three Viterbi School of Engineering students selected Guevara’s idea as their Capstone Project.
Guevara said that her time working with the U.S. Peace Corps and the time she spent as an English language fellow in Ecuador inspired her to create the app.
“When I was working in Ecuador, I did a TV English program that reached over a million people,” Guevara said. “That’s when I realized there’s a potential for technology to scale teacher training.”
The purpose of the app is to localize expertise, providing a platform for people in developing countries to share what teaching practices worked for them with other teachers. The app will have short videos submitted by teachers in different areas that will be accessible to users. Content will be searchable by country, subject and language.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to see someone that looks like you teaching in a context that looks like yours, and recognize that person as an expert?” Guevara asked. “That’s just not happening right now, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.”
While people from developing countries have access to phones, internet connection can sometimes be unreliable, Guevara said. This app works offline with Youtube Go, another app that allows viewing and sharing of videos without WiFi.
Veronica Perry, who works as a social media volunteer to manage the app’s online presence, said the app can help combine passion for education and teaching programs and access.
“This app serves as a point of connection in a community where people can come together and share ideas,” Perry said. “It brings together all of these individuals who don’t necessarily have the same access that we do, but they have the same passion for education and the same drive to inspire and to educate their community.”
Along with the app, Guevara also designed a scoreboard of best practices for potential technology developers who are considering creating a similar program. The scoreboard acts as a checklist to ensure that the app is accessible to people who are in areas of low internet connectivity.
Timothy Malaney, a member of the computer science team, said that designing the app was both exciting and challenging, since he previously had designed mainly intuitively or aesthetically.
“Designing and developing for accessibility was interesting in lots of ways,” Malaney said. “We had to restrict our user interfaces to using few images and simple user flows.”
The team recently received the first submission for the app from a teacher in Peru.
“[The U.S. Peace corps has] contact with teachers where they are assigned at their sites,” Guevara said. “They are encouraging their local counterparts to submit videos.”
From here, Guevara plans to pitch a second phase, which would feature language translation features and more texting capabilities as a project for computer science professor Jeffrey Miller’s class in Spring semester.
“We’re hoping that over the course of the next few months, the app builds a following of enthusiastic users who can help spread the word about Mobile Teacher to their local communities,” Malaney said.