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Earlier this year, the charitable website DonorsChoose opened up its data to the public: data from 165,000 teachers in over 43,000 public schools, data from over 300,000 classroom projects that have inspired some $80,000,000 in charitable giving. In order to encourage developers to create apps and analytics tools with the info, the organization sponsored a contest -- Hacking Education -- and today announces the winners.

From the winners listed below, one grand prize winner remains to be chosen. That person will get a trophy -- and a thumbs-up -- from Stephen Colbert.

Data Analysis (Tie)

Lisa Zhang -- "Hacking Education" Series: An examination of the kinds of projects that teachers post and the kinds of projects that donors decided to support. Also, an analysis of the differences in funding success between male and female teachers, and between married and unmarried teachers.

Tiffany Bergin -- Data -> Knowledge -> Insight: A very user-friendly analysis of project funding trends.

Apps

Javascript: Jed Wood -- DonorZon: Search on Amazon.com and this browser extension shows related classroom projects within the Amazon UI.

.NET: Jeremy Kratz -- Donors Choose Factbook: On this user-friendly and dynamic dashboard, you can slice and dice the org's historical data by a number of facets, including date range and state.

PHP: John Mertens -- DonorsChoose Projects Near Me Wordpress Plugin: This WordPress plugin determines the geographic location of each blog reader and displays nearby classroom projects.

Python: Max Shron, Mike Dewar, Adam Laiacano, and John Myles White -- DC2J: The DonorsChoose.org Automatic Press Release System: Automatically composes compelling summaries of completed classroom projects and notifies local television and newspaper journalists.

Ruby: Michael Nutt -- DonorsChoose Signature: Create a dynamic email signature to show classroom projects in need of funding each time your email is viewed.

Wildcard: Mark McSpadden -- Charity Chirpa: Suggests classroom projects you should recommend to your Twitter friends, based on your friends' geographic locations.

These were chosen from the 50 apps that were submitted for review, but more important than the submissions or even the winners, was the interest the contest seemed to generate among developers. 400 developers joined the Hacking Education email list and 70 attended a 10-hour hackathon at General Assembly. After all, hopefully this isn't just a one-time contest but rather part of a longer term effort to engage developers and data crunchers in working in the education space.

Looking at the apps and thinking about the wealth of insights that we can glean from the DonorsChoose data -- what projects teachers propose, what supplies teachers want, what projects donors are likely to fund -- I can't help but wonder how we can continue to ask smart questions and develop smart tools and analysis. Like it or not, we're moving towards more data-driven decision-making in education. We need to have that be more sophisticated than simply a track record of test scores, attendance, and budget line items.

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Audrey Watters


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