This week at HackEd 2.0, the Quizlet team built an app to teach you new words by translating a word from a friend's status to unlock your phone. Try it out! We think this app can have a huge impact on the daily lives of all those millions of students who use Facebook everyday. And even better, we won! Read the GigaOm write up.
95% of teenagers on the Internet use Facebook. Anyone who can add real learning value to the Facebook experience can impact a huge portion of US students across socio-economic boundaries. For HackEd 2.0 (a hackathon sponsored by Facebook and the Gates Foundation), the Quizlet team set out to deliver on that promise and opportunity.
Building a learning tool using Facebook
We arrived at Facebook's offices early Tuesday morning to work alongside 25 other teams building apps that tried to harness the power of Facebook and make a difference in the education of millions of students' lives in the US.
We wanted to build an experience that could integrate with how students already use Facebook, make learning relevant, and that the entire audience could use on the spot.
We had the original concept the day before, when driving back from a school visit in Oakland, testing out some new features.
What if we could make Facebook an education experience by translating your friends' statuses?
We were inspired by some of the new Facebook Home designs, and joked that we should call it Quizlet School. We decided to go with a mobile first approach, but have it accessible through the web as well.
5 hours of coding
In the morning, Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg gave some opening remarks before the hackathon started. Andrew snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook.
And then we were off. The first step was coming up with our game plan.
Andrew tackled the Facebook API to get us the status and photos we wanted. Anand made the log in screen and an interface that worked on both web and mobile. David built the draggable selector for the lockscreen and packaged all this into an Android app.
Joanna and I built the dictionaries, using Quizlet to create two massive lists of 1000 words in French and Spanish that would probably appear in your friends' facebook statuses. Unfortunately, we couldn't add Chinese since we'd left Thompson Paine back at the office.
When we finally got most things working, it was exciting to see the photo of Sheryl Sandberg that Andrew posted earlier show up in the app to teach us how to say "Day" in French.
When the correct answer "le jour" was accepted, we knew that we'd built something that actually worked.
There's nothing like a live demo
My advice to anyone participating in a contest like this is to do a live demo. The power of putting what you just built in the hands of the audience is unparalleled. No Powerpoint, just everyone in the room using the app at the same time.
After a ritzy sushi and sake reception, we were psyched to find out that we'd won for best out of school study app (and $5,000)!
We're even more excited about getting this tool into the hands of the millions of students who use Quizlet so that it can start having the impact that it's capable of.
Try it out with your Facebook Feed
Go to quizlet.com/lockscreen and login with Facebook.
It should work on your computer and on your phone, in all browsers. Thanks to Facebook and the Gates Foundation for putting this event together and to all the other teams that participated!
So what are we doing with the $5,000?
We've decided to donate the money to the charter school in Oakland we visited the previous day. Unity High School is doing great work on college readiness (which was one of the major themes of the Gates Foundation's work). Therefore, we thought it was a fitting cause and we wanted to thank them for welcoming the Quizlet team into their classrooms over the last year to get feedback from their students on new products we're developing on Quizlet.
And special thanks to Damon Grant (9th and 12th grade English) who helped set up the visits!