Teen Coder Improves Classroom Software, Gets Hired By Company That Developed It

As technology advances at a more rapid pace than ever, we’re faced with a unique and dynamic set of both challenges and opportunities. YouTube videos reach more 18 to 34 and 18 to 49 year-olds compared to any other cable network in the United States. Unfortunately, a large portion of recent technology coverage has focused on the more malicious side things while eclipsing the encouraging amount of positive developments modern tech has facilitated. In fact, two-thirds of parents worry that their child spends too much time on electronic devices.

News in technology is more prone to highlight the dissemination of misinformation from fake social media accounts or the gross misuse of sensitive user data across widely used platforms. While these are important issues to bring accountability to the tech industry, they’re missing the innumerable positive influences these technologies have brought to education. What needs more time in the spotlight is educational technology and the leaps these advancements have spurred in the realms of online education, tech-based classroom design, and evolving digital learning mediums.

The best part about education technology is that students are often a part of the development process. Currently, about 25% of all U.S. schools are private schools — approximately 33,619 private schools — filled with some of the most gifted children in the country. Most schools have various technologies meant to modernize and streamline the education process, but, as we know about any new development in tech, things can start off a little clunky. Which is exactly what one 10th grader thought. What he didn’t think was that his curiosity about a certain software would later land him a job at the very software company his school was using.

In 2016, Australian student Dean Levinson was a 10th grader at the Melbourne-local King David School. As Levinson’s school got away from the all-too-familiar tangle of wires that was often part-and-parcel with classroom technologies, they adopted the budding wireless screen sharing and video streaming technology Vivi.

As we mentioned earlier, the earliest implementation of the technology was convenient, but with it came a few bugs. Or, rather, things that could be improved upon. Typically, these issues are solved by professional software engineers with extensive experience and education. But, rather than Vivi’s employees making a change, Levinson had an idea.

The self-taught coder and technological tinkerer had already shown aptitude in, and fascination with, computer programming. He saw an issue with Vivi’s platform that he thought should be addressed.

The initial version of Vivi could share videos from approved services like YouTube. It had problems, however, with playing DVDs and sharing videos from smartphones, tablets, and the like. With 80% of smartphone users having their devices within reach 22 hours per day, Levinson saw this as an opportunity to make Vivi more accessible to those users. With permission from his school, he set to work.

His final product was a way for his teachers to take videos from DVDs, their phones, tablets, wherever, upload them to his app, then the app would convert those videos into links easily playable on Vivi’s platform. He coded it in a month and it worked delightfully. In fact, it became something his teachers used regularly.

After that, as one does toward the end of primary school, he began applying to work experience programs. He put applications in everywhere, including one to the software development company that produced Vivi. They forwarded Levinson’s application to Vivi who then reached out to Levinson’s teacher. That’s when the technical director at Vivi found out that Levinson had successfully shipped a hack that improved their software. They one-upped an internship offer and hired Levinson, who worked at Vivi headquarters a few hours per week while he finished school.

Upon Levinson’s graduation, they promoted him to a full stack software engineer and continue to tap his insight into how students and educators use Vivi in the classroom. This brings a developmental aspect that’s been crucial in improving their education technology as a whole. At 18 years old, Levinson is the youngest employee at the company and has no intentions of stopping his growth in the field he’s so passionate about.

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