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West Chester University Students Create
New Windows 8 App for Educators

November 15 , 2012

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Tablet computers like the iPad and Microsoft's Surface - with their smooth touch screens and millions of both useful and fun apps - are becoming more commonplace even in the traditionally conservative field of academia.

"Education tends to be a conservative institution, but we're not seeing that at all on the iPad,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a July quarterly earnings call with investors. "The adoption of the iPad in education is something I've never seen in any technology."

While there are thousands of education-oriented apps for tablet computers and mobile devices, Andrew Madonna didn't see one that enabled teachers to take attendance in their classrooms. So the West Chester University senior created "Attendance."

A computer science major and intern in the University's Demonstration and Application Center, Madonna has hands-on access to new technology through Microsoft and the partners that provide the Center's hardware and software. He had already created a prototype interactive campus map for the Microsoft PixelSense table computer when Microsoft representative Carl Kishel took note of Madonna's skills and offered him the opportunity to work on apps for their upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Kishel focused on education-oriented apps and identified the need for one that addressed classroom attendance.

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Nicolette Patete and Andrew Madonna have access to new teaching technology in the University's Demonstration and Application Center and Classroom of the Future.

"Attendance allows instructors with Windows 8 powered devices to easily take attendance and arrange students in groups," Madonna explains. "It lets instructors use photos of the students so they can more easily recognize students and associate faces with names. Instructors can also automatically place students into groups and store those groupings for later."

Madonna was the sole software developer for the app, writing all the code necessary to make the app a reality. The code is invisible to the user, but the app's logo or icon - its graphical identity that makes it recognizable – must catch a potential user's attention and be simple enough to be a tile that launches the app from the start screen, the splash screen, and in the Windows Store. That task fell to another software application training intern: communications studies senior Lauren Glassey, who also created the logo and other graphics for the Demonstration and Application Center.

Microsoft’s Kishel came to campus periodically to meet with Madonna and the two also held weekly status meetings over Microsoft Lync. A local Microsoft partner company, Teknikos, examined the app’s user interface. "The Teknikos software engineers and user interface designers had a few suggestions for the user interface but were very impressed with what I had done and the progress I had made," says Madonna.

"Windows 8 can also be used with devices other than tablets, such as traditional laptops and desktops running Windows 8. That way, instructors can still use apps even if they don't have the latest device."
As of this writing Attendance is still the only standalone app available in the Windows Store for taking attendance.

Deborah McMullan, the Information Services technology project specialist who oversees the Demonstration and Application Center, notes that "Attendance" is also being used by teachers on field trips, by coaches of sports teams and in such extracurricular activities as karate classes.

The WCU Demonstration and Application Center and Classroom of the Future, which was established this spring, is a site where K - 12 teachers can join those in higher education to sample new and emerging technology and collaborate on innovative ideas about synching technology with the learning environment.

To learn more, visit www.wcupa.edu/dac.