Software Design: Mobile Pen Based Computing

Three South Fayette students, Ben Kenawell, Radhir Kothuri, Vaurn Thangavelu, previously mentors with the Android App Lab, wanted to take their programming skills to the next level. As a result, this summer our students worked with Dr. Gunawardena, Professor of Computer Science at CMU, on a summer internship to create “Flashcards”, a mobile pen-based computer application for the tablet, using C# programming language. The project team, worked at South Fayette Monday through Thursday each day throughout the summer, under the supervision of Shad Wachter and Aileen Owens to develop a Flash Card challenge game and study guide for students in grades K-12. The team met weekly with Dr. Gunawardena, alternating between skype conference sessions and on site meetings at CMU,  to problem solve and present project updates. The card game originally was being designed to help bring students below proficiency to proficiency level in basic math skills. However the team went farther and it can now be used in every curriculum area.

The importance of the designis that we will be using a pen-based model. Rather than having students click on numbers on the keyboard they will use a digital pen to interact with the computer. In this online platform, the students created a teacher login section and a student login section. The teachers will be able to create Flashcards based on Common Core Standards and PA Common Core Standards, and assign Flashcard decks to individual students. Teachers will be able to see the students’ practice work and determine what concepts their students may need extra help and additional learning exercises for improvement.The significance of this project is that our student team, with guidance from a CMU professor, is creating an innovative product, relevant to our K-12 curriculum, to help improve teaching and learning for our district, and eventually for others. When the prototype is completed our student team will begin alpha testing in the elementary school under the supervision of Laurie Gray, Elementary School Principal, and Greg Wensell, Intermediate School Principal. We are also hoping to find teachers in the middle school and high school, interested in piloting this project in the near future. Once the product is refined, our student team will begin  beta testing with our students for additional feedback. The development stage of this project is expected to take place through the 2012-2013 school term. Ben, Radhir, and Varun will soon be expanding their team to include more student programmers and graphic designers from South Fayette School District.

Our student team collaborates with the CMU professor through a social media site called Classroom Salon. The team exchanges information and posts updates through the site. When there are questions regarding programming code, the code is posted and reviewed to help with the problem solving. The South Fayette team was given their first assignment through the site. The assignment was to review an earlier version of the Tablet PC Flash Card program and determine how to improve upon the system and prepare a scope and sequence for completing their improvements. Our team created a proposal and presented it to CMU during their first team meeting. One of the business leaders,  Ann Williams who was present at the first meeting was thrilled with the proposal. She said that she had been working in the industry for 30 years and would have given anything to have such clear and well written proposals presented to her. She was very enthusiastic by what the students had prepared and Dr. Gunawardena was as well.

Among the improvements that the students completed are as follows: (1) an option for teachers to align the cards to Common Core Standards and PA Common Core Standards, (2)  two game modes in the deck; one for basic facts and the other for contextual math questions which will allow for word problems, (3) a teacher dashboard that allows the teacher to create flash cards based on standards and with the ability to personalize student learning for each student, (4) a student account that allows students to play the card deck delivered from the teacher’s account and to create their own unique card decks for their own individualized practice, (5) designed the interface so that students can have immediate gratification for correct answers and alerts to show when problems are incorrect, and (6)  a system to identify student scores and the amount of time it took to complete the card deck challenge. In the future, with help from their expanded team,  the flash cards will include a motivational element which replicates some aspects of a video game to motivate young students play the game.
Our student team currently has begun the second stage of the project. After gaining permission from the Board to proceed,they plan tosearch for businesses who may be able to sponsor Windows based tablets to test their product on students and teachers in South Fayette in the near future. Currently our team is outfitted with Bamboo Tablets that attach by USB connection to their computers. However, due to the limited amount of computers available in the elementary school, our student team must secure tablets for their alpha and beta tests.Currently they have identified the Windows 8 RT Tablets for this project.

Our student team has many more surprises coming soon. Stay tuned for more!