Remind me when the mail’s delivered

One of my favorite pastimes as an edtech enthusiast is to take commercial technologies that were not designed for school and adapt them for educational purposes. We’ve all done it: Tweeted out an assignment update; organized a school club via a Facebook page; asked a warmup question through PollEverywhere; recorded a student-written, spoken-poem through GarageBand.  There’s a little rush I get from pushing a technology in a direction other than that for which it was intended, marketed, deployed.

Recently, I’ve found myself going the other way: thinking about how certain edtech apps could be used outside of education.  Are there commercial or civic applications for technologies we use to inspire creative learning?

Given my satisfaction with Remind the last couple years (see my 500 Texts Later blog post), I was struck recently when my father mentioned the frustration he has related to the US Postal Service.  He lives in a closed community of one hundred homes whose mailboxes are clustered in a central area. Once a day, the mail carrier visits the complex and delivers the mail. During hot summer Phoenix days, my dad lamented, you never know when the mail’s been delivered until you park near the mailboxes, leave your car (and A/C) running, walk to your particular box, and open it with a sizzling key.  Is there a way to know if the mail's been delivered without getting out of the car, he wondered.  The traditional flag-up/flag-down mechanism doesn’t work with 100 boxes, so what to do...?

Have the mail carrier Remind you, I said.  The next day, we had the mail carrier download Remind, create a “class” for that community, and begin sending text alerts to neighbors who wanted a notification when the mail was delivered each day.  As in the classroom, this is an opt-in service for community members, and certainly a value-ad for the USPS, which you may agree is looking for ways to stay relevant.

With the potential of 100 text alerts simultaneously directing neighbors to their mailboxes, we now only need an app that can manage the pedestrian traffic.