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Photography of Alvaro Montoro being a doofus
Alvaro Montoro

Former Child

Help a teacher. Become a better developer.

career watercooler discuss codenewbie

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 friend! 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.

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