Accountability(); Pt. 1 Intro

Procrastination is a wonderful thing. I meant to start documenting this back in august when I started working on the app, but then I made a promise to myself that I would do it the next day.

Anyways, it's November, so better late then never right? According to blogspot the only people who read this blog anyways are bots from porn websites, so who am I disappointing?

The Basic Premise

As a quick reminder I currently work at an after-school care program for elementary school students, and one of the main things that we have to do is something called "Accountability." Unlike a normal classroom, where a teacher will tend to deal with his/her entire class as a whole IE: Sending them to music, the gym, computer lab, etc, we allow kids to move (somewhat) freely between different rooms, such as the art room, gym, multi-purpose, and alike. This means we CONSTANTLY need to keep track of which kids are in which room as they switch.

Pretty much every school in our program uses the same whiteboard method. One staff in each room is assigned a board that typically looks something like this:

Where the students are listed in alphabetical order, and we mark off the students who are in the room we are in, with a running number written somewhere. Our facilitator (boss person) has the running total in the main room, and if she checks and the number of kids we are supposed to have doesn't match up, then we are in trouble. Most of the time it's simply the staff forgetting to mark down a kid, or accidental brushing the whiteboard against their pants and erasing a name, but it could also mean that one of the kids has wondered off (which did happened once due to a careless staff member and it was a NIGHTMARE!) so it's little big deal.

However, there a few problems with this system:
  • The names are easily erased by accident, by brushing it over with your hand or against your pants. This isn't a big deal in a small room where you can count manually and see if you are off, but when you are outside with 60+ kids on a playground going up and down slides and stuff, it's more of a problem.
  • The number is constantly changing, meaning that our facillitator is constantly calling us over the walkie-talkies asking for our counts, so you better not have erased any names by accident
  • It's too easy to leave someone marked down when you send them to another room (possible because there are 3 other children around your ankles as you do so asking you a million different questions), mark the wrong sibling, or kid with identical first name and 1 letter different in their last name
  • The boards are printed and laminated, which means when a kid is added or dropped from the program, we have to make all new accountability boards, so needless to say we end up with about 5 kids at all times hand written in the margins

My Solution

Our old boss had purchased some cheep Dell Venue 8 tablets a few years ago for the kids to play on, but never quite got them working with the mandatory network logins etc, so we could never use them, and they have been sitting in a corner ever since.

So I got to thinking, and decided that it might be possible to build an app that allows us to do this whole thing in a much more efficient way. Basically the same as before, except digitally, which allows a few cool things:

  • The ability to sync between rooms over wifi. No more checking in to see who is where, as the facillitator will just have to check the tablet.
  • Error checking: If you try to mark down a kid that is already in another room, then it can offer some kind of notification to alert you might have hit the wrong thing.
  • The ability to have a "Send" and "Request" list. Especially helpful when they call and need 12 specific kids to do an art project. A person can build a list of "Requested" kids and it appears on the appropriate persons board based on if the kids are in their room or not. Same with "Send" just the opposite.
  • Undo/Redo buttons, as well as action history, search functionality, sort order, etc.
  • Easily update-able. Simply add the name to the app and it's added to all tablets
  • You can lock a tablet, meaning no accidental name erasing from kids coming up and grabbing at it going "Let me see my name!" and erasing half the list.

Problems to Overcome

I have never developed an android app before, I have never developed a server-client application of any type (which will be needed when it comes to syncing between rooms), and other then some game scripting, I have never programmed any piece of software from start to finish that has actually been used in a serious manner, or in other words, actually had to work.

Should be fun :)

next post I will be going over the start of programming it, so all you porn-bots stay tuned


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