Why bother with Experts? The “secret sauce” of Apps for Good

We work closely with teachers and are always trying to understand what can help or improve our Apps for Good course, to turn it from good to great for students.  One thing has become very clear to us, Experts make a clear difference for students, whether it be offering tech advice, inspiring students, building confidence or adding that extra something for teams when preparing for the competition. We know how easy it is to put off booking an Expert session, but those who did so tell us again and again it was easier than they thought and it paid off both for the course and their students.  Because of this, we now consider our Expert volunteers to be the “secret sauce” of the Apps for Good course.

Experts are technology professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world who are not just experts in their field, they are passionate about technology education and keen to share their skills and knowledge with Apps for Good students:

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The impact of bringing the real world to the classroom

Our data shows us the positive influence Experts can have in the classroom to pivot the students’ ideas and support our educators.

Last year, 70% of Apps for Good students rated Expert sessions as helpful for improving their app ideas. Their teachers were also impressed: two-thirds of educators said students were more motivated, confident, and focused after Expert sessions and teachers identified speaking to Experts as one the most enjoyable activities in the course for the students. The remaining third didn’t have an Expert, so clearly when teachers had an Expert, they made a real difference.

Mount Grace School: pivotal input for an Award-winning team

Experts can play a crucial role when it comes to success in our national competition, the Apps for Good Awards. It made all the difference for the team behind Social Bank, who won the People’s Choice Award at the Apps for Good Awards 2013.

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Team Social Bank at their App Launch event on 30 January 2014

Fathima Anwari, Lead Educator at Mount Grace School, tells the story:

The Expert session is one reason why the team behind Social Bank won an Apps for Good Award. Initially, they were developing a shopping app that pin points the nearest shops around you. They spoke with an Expert, who gave very honest feedback, making it clear that there are thousands of ideas like that out there already and encouraged their enthusiasm to come up with something new. They got rid of their initial idea right after the session and started from scratch. It was this new idea that won an Award and that the team have developed into a app on the market.

Through this experience, it became clear to me that students have a lot of trust in Apps for Good’s Experts. The students take their feedback more easily and more seriously than we teachers can ever hope for.

Expert sessions also bring a new dynamic into the classroom as the idea of using Skype and talking to someone from the outside tech world really excites the students.

Westfields Junior School: making it work in a primary school

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One of the finalist teams from Westfields Junior School pitching their app idea at the 2013 Apps for Good Awards

Our primary schools have jumped on the Expert bandwagon, too! Karen Richards, Year 6 Teacher at Westfields Junior School, explains their experience with our Apps for Good Experts:

Our children have spoken to Experts in New York, London, France and Spain – and this year, to our great excitement – Uganda. As well as giving the children an exciting opportunity to speak to ‘real experts’ this has led to discussions about each of the countries, the importance of technology in the lives of people across the world and the opportunities for travel offered by a career in IT.

The Experts we have ‘met’ have motivated the children by valuing all of their ideas, whilst pushing them to think realistically about the potential or feasibility of their ideas. They have also helped the teachers following the course by leading the session and giving ideas as to how to help the children to develop specific areas of their apps.

If you haven’t booked a session yet – give it a try. It can be a very rewarding experience both for you and your children.

Chris Aitken, our Teacher of the Year 2013, also highly recommends booking in Expert sessions:

Read more on how to prepare and host an Expert session in this blog post