Before things get lost in memory, I'd like to share what happened with a project I had back in 2017.

The project

The project, called avaliando (Portuguese for assessing), was an ed-tech side project that aimed at helping teachers optimizing their time while doing assessments, by doing automatic corrections.

It came to my hands through an informal chat with a coworker, and I guess after I was in, I messed it all up 😂

With my ideas, the project became more of a social endeavour. I wanted to help public schools, teachers and students by giving them a tool to build, correct and track exams, apply adaptive learning based on the individual historical data and guide them through a better learning experience.

Our initial goal was to apply this in a very poor and unequal state in Brazil's northeast, not by choice but because we lived there.

Briding a gap for kids in public school and leveling them up a bit seemed a very interesting idea.

What went wrong

So, this was basically my naivety at trying to do something good. I confess that I spent only about 10% of my time on this, all else had to go to the actual paying job, even so I tried to do my research and see what we could do with this, and we did something, sort of.

Our MVP was okish to onboard a school and teacher and allow them to create exams, print and feedback to the system the OMR(optical mark recognition), using an Android app. As you can see, this was a total lack of reality check, trying to put a specific technology to solve a problem that requires a lot of groundwork.

I'll list some of the issues I remember:

  • Since this was an education project, it was really hard to figure out funding, even with some positive feedback from local governments they wanted to see everything working before paying(or going through the contract process). -- not to mention I'm really bad at it.
  • The government was only interested in Portuguese and Mathematics aiming the PISA assessment.
  • Building up a decent question bank to allow teachers to easily create and adapt to their own class reality was hard, we had no money ;)
  • Where was my head when I thought that a school teacher would apply OMR exams to kids in remote areas? Even with scanners, I was creating a problem.
  • When I mentioned I messed up, I think I broadened the scope of the project too much for a small team of 4 with none of them full time.
  • I had a strong bias towards the value I was proposing, and anything other than that was simply not good enough.

Lessons learnt

(maybe I'm stating the obvious)

  • Your time is scarce, it is bad to try to tackle a bunch of things altogether.
  • Tech folks alone can't do much, we need help from people that understand the business.