Israeli middle schoolers create app to help students in time of crisis

“Our goal is to change the education system by making sure that every student is seen and heard,” 14-year-old Itay told The Jerusalem Post.

The ConnectOrt group from Givat Ram Ort Middle School in Jerusalem at Datathon 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The ConnectOrt group from Givat Ram Ort Middle School in Jerusalem at Datathon 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A  group of Jerusalem middle schoolers is working on creating an application to help fellow students to navigate through the difficulties of school life. After winning a national ed-tech competition and participating in one of the largest conferences in the psychology field in Israel, the team is ready to take the project to the next level, in spite of the setbacks caused by the coronavirus emergency.
“Our goal is to change the education system by making sure that every student is seen and heard,” 14-year-old Itay told The Jerusalem Post.
About six months ago, Itay, Jarrad, Maya, Oria, Amit, Tommy, together with their teacher at the Givat Ram Ort Middle School in Jerusalem. Hadassa Shoorba, started to work on a project to participate in “Datathon,” a contest to present new ideas in the education sector promoted by several organizations including the Jerusalem Municipality and the Bloomfield Science Museum, open to entrepreneurs, schools and individuals or groups.
“Connectort” won the first prize, beating 65 other contestants.
The idea of the eighth-graders was to create an app to support teachers and school counselors monitoring the wellbeing and mental health of the students. As explained to the Post by the group, the students would be asked to fill out questionnaires in a dedicated app, so that their answers could give teachers and counselors the opportunity for a psychological evaluation of all the pupils in order to identify those who might need support.
The middle schoolers pointed out that large schools every year welcome hundreds of new students and it takes a long time for the staff to get to know them and therefore to intervene if they need help. The tool they are working on would make a big difference in addressing this challenge.
“Our idea could help especially at the time of transitioning to a new school, like between elementary and middle school,” Maya said
.
“On a personal level, I think an opportunity like this would have helped me face social difficulties better and faster,” Oria explained.
The group pointed out that developing an app is the right tool because it would allow students to access the questionnaire at any time and in any place. They have been consulting with many experts in different fields to understand better the needs and the right course of action.
The victory in the Datathon was supposed to secure the project some funds and to kick off the development phase, but the coronavirus emergency put a halt to it. The group is therefore actively looking for investors, after receiving a lot of support from specialists in the sector of educational psychology, who also invited them to participate in a major conference to present their idea.
“We believe in our project 100%” Itay said. “We want to innovate in the education field that is so important for us as young people, the most important thing.”
The goal now, as pointed out by their teacher, is to create a pilot to carry out in their school, possibly at the beginning of the next school year.
“As a teacher, it has been amazing to see how within a week the pupils learned what I had been trying to teach for two years, how to think about the future, how to pursue dreams and to have dreams in general,” Shoorba told the Post. “Thanks to this project, I discovered energies in these children that I don’t think could have emerged in any other way.”
The students and their initiative also received the praise of Givat Ram Ort Middle School principal Michal Dalal.