I've wanted to do something with education and Alexa for a while, and after thinking about a few options, I think this is the best place to start, easing communication between parents, students, and teachers using Alexa.
For a long time, in order to communicate with parents, teachers rely on students to transport papers with important information from school to home and back to school. We now have the advent of some technological resources that allow parents to login to web apps and see what their student's grades are looking like and possibly see some communication from the teacher about what's going on in the classroom.
This application will allow parents to get the information without the additional step of logging into a portal, something I have heard teacher friends complain about before.
What it does
Teachers sign up for a Classroom ID, a randomly generated set of letters and numbers. Whenever a teacher wants to post an update, whether it's daily, weekly, or once per semester, they record a voice memo on their phone or using their computer, and email or text it to an assigned number. The number texts back some questions about the recording - what is your classroom id, what is the start date for this announcement, what is the end date, etc. After a teacher completes the texting process, the update is live.
At home, parents who have been given a classroom ID from the teacher and confirmed their enrollment in the classroom via a challenge question can ask, "Alexa, ask My Teacher's Assistant if I have homework tonight" or "Alexa, ask My Teacher's Assistant about the classroom announcements for this week", and Alexa will play the voice recording from the teacher for their classroom.
How I built it
I used AWS Lambda functions, Twilio's API, and Dynamo DB as my backend for this project. Most of the coding was done in Node.js but I also used Python.
Challenges I ran into
I had a lot of ideas for this project but I'm unclear on the kind of information Amazon will allow me to pass back through the application (i.e. grades) so I chose to make it a more simple application to start. I'd like to make the app more robust for teachers if it's found to be useful.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I think this could be helpful for teachers and parents, and might cause some students headaches :)
What I learned
I learned a lot about Twilio in this project, and some important lessons about Dynamo DB as well. I'll definitely be using both more going forward.
What's next for My Teachers Assistant
I think adding more abilities if the project is useful will be helpful. Logical choices would be grades, scheduling parent-teacher conferences, allowing parent-teacher conferences through Alexa (even asynchronously), homework help via the show (i.e. allow teacher to input helpful Kahn Academy or other Youtube video links along with the assignment for the day), and possibly even fundraising for classrooms through Alexa by tying in Amazon accounts to the app