ARDEN HILLS, Minn. - Many schools are now implementing open time during the day when students can choose what they want to do. Whether it's a weekly or daily event, that time can greatly reduce stress on students who need to visit a teacher, re-take a test or get homework done.
Used unwisely, that opportunity can be wasted. That's what lead students at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills to develop software to help.
According to senior Sam Lerdahl, students have access to educational software, but it was lacking. "All of the software we use at school doesn't really feel designed for us."
Lerdahl and other students were learning about entrepreneurship in a Junior Achievement program. That's where a plan took root to develop something from a student-centered point of view.
"They saw a need for being able to track kids, and for kids to be able to track where their friends are," said principal Jeff Ridlehoover. "They all started talking about the analytics behind it."
And that's where the student developers saw another opportunity. "The ability to understand your students and to be able to ask more questions of your students is beyond powerful," explained Lerdahl.
The students created Edupass, software that encourages students to check into classrooms, signal their intent to attend a classroom, accept a teacher invite for help, and also to find out where their friends are.
"I can see how many people are in a classroom so I can get more help in this room than I could if I was in this room," said junior Gretchen Triese, who was one of the original testers for the software.
Teachers can use the data to find out who might be needing extra help. It gives them a heads up on how many people to expect for a study session. If a large number of students are re-taking tests, the software can alert teachers that subject might need more time.
For students, the software is also a taskmaster. Not only does it keep track of students' time in a classroom, it also lets them know how much time they're spending getting to class. Too much travel time might indicate a waste of time.
"It kind of forces you, a little bit, to actually do something," said senior Quinn McDonah. "As a senior, especially, you need that little bit of kick to get yourself going and get your assignments done."
This year the school has been piloting the software, with a rollout planned for the entire school next year.
"We've actually had conversations with other school districts as well," Ridlehoover said.
While Lerdahl is graduating, he will remain involved in the development of Edupass, along with other students who have already moved on to college. Younger students are also part of the team. Lerdahl has big dreams for Edupass.
"I would like to see Edupass in as many schools as possible."
"It's fun to see small business entrepreneurs taking off," said Ridlehoover. "Maybe they'll give me a job someday!"