Behind the Scenes: Creating a Tool That Helps Students and Teachers Achieve Their Goals

This post is the first in a series of segments we are calling, TEN7 - Behind the Scenes. Each month, one of our team members will provide a peek behind the curtain of the work we do, showcasing the technical and creative energy that is the “secret sauce” of TEN7.

These posts allow our team to showcase their passion, lessons they have learned, and some of the tips and tricks that only come from dedication to their craft. We hope this series will help you understand the makeup of our team, what it’s like to work with us, and how we might be able to help you! Call us.

 

My name is Chris Dart, and I’m a software developer with TEN7.

One of our clients is the Bloomington Public School district, and they have a project called Personal Growth Plan or PGP, which is a way to engage students in thinking about their future, and it’s tailored to different grade levels. So the middle schoolers it tends to be more focused on broad strokes and goals. For high schoolers it’s more focused on what they plan to do after high school. Do they want to go to a trade school? Do they want to go to a select college? And what they’re doing now, how does it help them get there?

There really isn’t a tool available off the shelf that would help them. They tried a couple, and they just weren’t satisfied with them. So, we built this custom tool for them starting last year.

I like to be able to help a school. In my family there’s a very strong emphasis on education, many of my relatives are educators. When I was a kid, if we were slipping in our grades, my parents would get me a tutor with no questions asked. The most important thing was learning and being a better learner.

So I really value education, and I value the work that the people in the school district are doing. They really are working hard to help a wide range of students, especially in this case, the high school and middle schoolers.

So, now that the software has been live for several months, and maybe I have to do an update or something, I can go in there and I can see that the interface is working, that students are entering information and that really feels good. It’s like, I built this tool, and it’s being used by real people, and I can see a student has written, I want to do better at this or I need to study harder or I need to make sure I set aside time for math or reading, or I need to work on my friendships. And I really hope this tool continues to help them b e better at planning for the future and thinking about who they’re going to be next year or in two years, or three years or four years.

When I am building software there are two things I keep in mind. First of all, software should never need a manual, or a huge manual at least. It should be really obvious to users what the interface does.

In the case of PGP students, teachers don’t use it on a daily basis, and so it can’t be a stumbling block that they have to spend time remembering how to use it. So, we focused on that. I imagined in a classroom of teachers trying to introduce this to students and have them enter information and the student says, I can’t log in, or it says I don’t have permission, or it won’t let me pick teachers that I trust, or something like that. And that cannot happen.

So I like thinking about that and I do get positive feedback which is really nice. It makes me feel good. I feel like I’m having a positive effect on the world.

Chris Dart

Drupal Developer
 
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Chris Dart

Chris came to TEN7 from the world of nonprofits where he was a jack-of-all-trades, self-taught tech guy, and he’s excited to be our newest team member and front end developer (and we’re sure he’s got hidden capabilities we haven’t even discovered yet). He’s a curious, even-keeled fellow who loves to challenge himself with new technologies. Chris is passionate about good design, believing that it enables users to do the right thing. He loves ensuring that our clients feel cared for, and he’s endlessly patient at explaining the intricacies of Drupal to non-technical folks. Chris has a background in the fields of ethnography, linguistics and anthropology, which he balances out with barbershop singing.