October 24, 2013
For Teach for America alumna, Rachel Warbelow, she sees the Las Vegas school system as an opportunity for educators to incorporate technology as a means to increase student and parent engagement and improve overall quality – one of the primary traits of the Scholars Working OverTime (SWOT) program.
SWOT was founded by Warbelow and fellow teacher, Ben Salkowe, as a college prep program for middle school students in East Las Vegas. In the four years that the program has been running, SWOT has managed to advance students from being two to three grade levels behind to some of the state’s highest achievers.
Throughout these four years, however, Warbelow was constantly frustrated by the inefficiency of tracking student behavior, grades, and attendance on paper and inserting that data into digital spreadsheets. Further, she found it inane that these data categories had to be shared piece by piece to parents and students because there was no one platform that handled all of the data.
“As teachers, we’ve found that being able to communicate data with families [can lead] to greater improvements in student performance,” says Warbelow on her inspiration for SWOT Bot.
So, this past summer, she took advantage of her summer break by enrolling in Dev Bootcamp – Chicago to help develop a solution to this problem. An autodidact, Warbelow’s obsession with data and Excel encouraged her to pursue coding; so, she put in a couple of hours each day and taught herself how to code through Codecademy. Realizing that the coding skills she learned through Codecademy wouldn’t be enough to prove useful in the classroom, she found herself in more advanced coding languages at Dev Bootcamp.
“[SWOT Bot] really focuses on accessibility and creates a tighter sense of communication between [teachers, parents, and students]. My hope is that this is something that teachers can and want to use.”
At Dev Bootcamp, she teamed up with Eric Allen, Jake Myers, and Allen Dayag to create SWOT Bot. Aimed primarily at tracking student behavior, SWOT Bot allows students and parents to track their academic performance via the Web, email, or text, and also gives teachers a more efficient and easier way to track student data.
“A lot of our students come from unprivileged backgrounds that don’t necessarily have these technologies at home. Being able to code, to learn about technology, and to know how the Internet works – it’s a really cool feeling for [the students] to feel empowered to not only change their lives but to also change the world.”
That’s why the team behind SWOT Bot has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the establishment of a computer lab for the students at SWOT. With just over a week left in the campaign, they hope to raise $35,000 to purchase 15+ pairing stations that will allow up to 30 students, at a time, to write code.
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