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about 10 years ago

Tips on developing for a middle school classroom

Thanks for supporting the NYC Schools Gap App Challenge! As you work on your apps, remember who you’re developing for—educators and students. Make your user experience as seamless as possible by keeping in mind the needs of both groups. 

For educators:

  • Give them ways to support individual student needs. It’s difficult to respond to the individual needs of 29 individual kids. Some need encouragement, others need discipline, and others just need repetition. If your tool can make it easier to teach kids individually, that’s great.
  • Give them ways to give feedback. To close any gap, educators need to know what that gap is. Enable them to get this information in real time, so they can help students overcome their gaps and track progress.
  • Help them connect with each other. Educators’ needs go beyond the lessons themselves—they are also looking for help connecting with and learning from one another. Think about how your app’s digital experience can trigger a physical one.
  • Keep it simple. The most limited resource in schools is time, so if it takes educators a long time just to learn how a tool works, they might not bother. Keep it simple and easy to use.

For students:

  • Make your app relevant and experiential. Visuals, stories and tactile experiences jive well with most kids. But math for the sake of math doesn’t quite cut it. Try to link math to the things kids enjoy, so they really get into it.
  • Provide multiple ways to engage. One student might love a challenging competition, while another just wants to repeat the same problem until she's figured it out. When building your app, try to account for students’ different ways of learning. 
  • Enable student collaboration across different abilities. Group work is great, but when kids have different capabilities, it can be a challenge. If you can help kids from different skill levels work together, that’s awesome. If you can help them learn from each other, that’s even better.
  • Understand that apps will likely live in the classroom. Mobile technology is widespread, but the kids who are behind in learning often don’t have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access at home. If you want to count on technology in some form, remember that your best bet is the school. 

And finally, remember that these are just tips—not requirements! It’s great to keep all of these ideas in mind, but we don’t expect all needs to be met in one app. There are many possible solutions, and one size won’t fit all.


Please shoot us an email at and include “Gap App” in the subject line.