Have you ever wondered why an ex-teacher-cum-academic (Becky), an ex-teacher-cum-journalist (Laura) and a full-time physics teacher (Alex) ended up asking teachers questions EVERY SINGLE DAY???
It all began with a simple question…
How would the world be different if you knew what teachers were thinking at any given moment?
Imagine if that was possible. If you could pin-point struggling teachers, then you could intervene and reduce turnover. If you could see how many teachers were struggling with behaviour, or curriculum, or if they were teaching in lots of classrooms, it might tell us why so many are struggling. Or, imagine being able to know, instantly, that the latest announcement by a politician was wildly unpopular. With that information you might be able to stop the silliness of its implementation before it even began.
Believing a method must be possible for uncovering such information, Becky plugged away for years trying to figure out how to do it. She experimented with different types of web-based and email surveys, but they don’t work so well for a profession that rarely gets to sit down at a desk! Eventually, the technology caught up and a chance conversation with Michael Mann at Nesta (who is now a primary teacher!) led her to receiving a small amount of money to experiment with an app. Tom Forth and Daniel Billingsley at Imactivate had already built demonstrator apps to show how technology can improve public services so they were the ideal partners to help her do it.
Becky had been trying to find a way to work with Laura McInerney, who was by then Editor of Schools Week since the first time they met (which you can read about on Laura’s blog). They had worked together in 2014 on the Touchpaper Questions – an event which got teachers to look at complicated problems in education and try to solve them. Survey teachers felt like the ultimate tool to help solve complicated problems in education by providing a route to new information. So, the pair decided to work together again and build the app as an experiment.
As the app developed it became clear that extra computing skills would be needed. Alex Weatherall, a science teacher with a programming bent, was the obvious person to help out. Becky and Laura knew him from researchED conferences (where he used to produce the brochures!). Smart, helpful, and a whizz at scripts, he was able to automate the tricky parts of the data process.
After a summer of experiments and fiddling… by September 2017 the app was ready to launch! We’ve already learnt so much about the teaching profession in such a short time.