College of Education App Helps Keep Student Teachers on Task

Southeast Computer Science Students Help Create App for Southeast Student Teachers

Dr. Bill Bratberg, associate professor of middle and secondary education at Southeast Missouri State University, and a team of students from the Department of Computer Science recently created an app to help Southeast’s student teachers track their progress towards becoming future educators.

The app is an organizational tool that provides a checklist for artifacts – important documents students in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education must collect while student teaching–and allows push notifications to be set as reminders. The Missouri Pre-Service Teacher Assessment (MoPTA) requires these students to collect this documentation during their student teaching semester.

The MoPTA is a series of four assessment tasks that demonstrate performance in content coursework and clinical experience for teacher candidates. Each assessment contains a series of tasks requiring written commentary and submission of “artifacts.”

“The artifacts are not something that you can do last minute,” Bratberg said. “When education majors go out to do student teaching, they do not have someone to nag them about when things are due, so we created an app that has due dates and reminders on a regular basis.”

The app is called SEMO AR, and it is free to download. The app is formatted for the iPad Air, which is the technological tool used in the one-to-one initiative of Southeast’s College of Education.

“All of our education majors have iPads. We use them in-class for instruction as well as for course work,” Bratberg said.

The app is the result of many hours of work by five Southeast computer science students.

Using the code necessary for an Apple product proved challenging for the computer science students, yet they were determined to make it work. Creating the app was their capstone project for UI450 class. Ryan Brock of Scott City, Missouri; Roger Beasley of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Adam Grass of Perryville, Missouri; Samay Seidu-Sofo of Ghana; and Pacome Domagni of Agnibilékrou Côte d’Iviore –all participated.

“The code is written in a language made by Apple called Swift. Every one of us had to start on a clean slate for this language and learn what we needed in order to get this done,” said Brock.

After lots of work learning the Apple language and fixing the bugs that popped up during the process, the team found a solution.

“One of the best parts of the project was that I got to work with the Department of Computer Science,” Bratberg said. “We met several times as a team. We talked about what I expected, but they are the ones that did all of the heavy lifting of coding. I just had some ideas that would help make it work.”

Southeast student Lauren Fischer uses the SEMO AR app to set reminders for her MoPTA requirements.

Twenty-one students in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education currently use the SEMO AR app. The app has helped them through the first quarter of the MoPTA.

“What I like about the app, other than the complete list of artifacts needed for each task, are the list of due dates and the ability to set more than one reminder,” said Lauren Fischer of Fenton, Missouri, who is studying middle and secondary education. “If there is something any teacher or aspiring teacher needs, it is multiple reminders. My desk, my computer, my planner, even the dashboard on my car are covered in sticky notes. All are reminders of the many things I need to do both as a student teacher and a student at SEMO. Therefore, it is easy to imagine how the most important reminders of all, MoPTA artifacts, can get lost in the sea of things to do.”

Bratberg said, “I wanted to try it with a small group of students that I know are not shy in giving me feedback. They have all had positive responses. They thought it is useful, and they will continue to use it throughout student teaching. We are going to build on that.”

While the app targets student teachers focusing on middle school and secondary education, the next step is to make it more flexible within the College of Education. All College of Education students are required to complete the MoPTA unit and collect artifacts; however, these artifacts can vary and be in different orders depending on the level of education being taught. Different configuration files and options will be included in the app in the future.

“I have made arrangements with some of the students that worked with me last semester to help teach me the things that I do not know how to do,” Bratberg said. “We want to see if we can give this application a further life.”