Leveraging Educational Technologies for Student Achievement

By Olivia Allen

Today, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics (STEM) are cru­cial fields when it comes to dri­ving inno­va­tion, yet busi­nesses in the United States are find­ing it increas­ingly dif­fi­cult to recruit qual­i­fied STEM employ­ees into their work­force due to a skills gap. Accord­ing to the Gates Foun­da­tion, just 25% of high school grad­u­ates in the United States have the nec­es­sary skills to pre­pare them for col­lege and the work­force. Tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion in the edu­ca­tion sec­tor is one part of the Gates Foundation’s three-pronged approach to edu­ca­tion reform, and social enter­prises such as Khan Acad­emy have responded to this issue through pro­vid­ing an open source, online plat­form so any­one can access a world-class education. 

On the grass­roots level, Roshni Mir­chan­dani, a 2011 grad­u­ate of the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness with con­cen­tra­tions in Finance, Mar­ket­ing, and Social Entre­pre­neur­ship, and cur­rent Teach for Amer­ica Corp mem­ber has suc­cess­fully har­nessed cod­ing and other educational-focused tech­nolo­gies into her class’s 8th math curriculum. 

As an active par­tic­i­pant in the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute field study pro­grams, Mir­chan­dani felt com­pelled to “do some­thing that made a larger impact on soci­ety as a whole.” After grad­u­a­tion, Mir­chan­dani joined Teach for America’s 2011 Corps, serv­ing as an 7th and 8th grade math teacher in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island. 

Her sharp focus on incor­po­rat­ing tech­nol­ogy into the math cur­ricu­lum was first ignited by a grant that placed iPads in the class­room, and the pos­i­tive response it gen­er­ated among stu­dents. “Stu­dent engage­ment lev­els were at its high­est when they were on the tablets — and under­stand­ably so, since our stu­dents have grown up in the dig­i­tal age. It was only nat­ural to teach using the tools that they use every­day instead of forc­ing them to digest infor­ma­tion from text­books, said Mirchandani.

While many teach­ers are hes­i­tant to embrace tech-centric class­room, Mir­chan­dani has made con­sid­er­able gains in her class­room and has the power to mit­i­gate edu­ca­tion inequity. “I believe that inte­grat­ing tech­nol­ogy in the class­room is a pos­si­ble solu­tion to edu­ca­tional inequity. Even in a low-income school with stu­dents enter­ing 3–4 grade lev­els behind, edu­ca­tional tech­nol­ogy helped my stu­dents demon­strate the high­est growth in math scores in the entire state on the Rhode Island State Assess­ment (NECAP).” For Mirchandai’s stu­dents, 90% of which live below the poverty line, “ven­tur­ing into more real-life appli­ca­tions, stu­dents were finally able to grasp why it was impor­tant to learn math in school. By teach­ing them how school applies to daily life and how they can craft their own jour­ney, I hope to show my stu­dents the value of education.”

Despite the suc­cess Mir­chan­dani and her stu­dents have shared as a result of tech­nol­ogy in the class­room, she asserts that ed-tech is not a panacea and requires exper­i­men­ta­tion and stu­dent input. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer to tech inte­gra­tion — what may work in one class­room may not for another. For exam­ple, I had some col­leagues who loved using Khan Acad­emy. I actu­ally stopped using it in my class because it wasn’t work­ing for my stu­dents,” said Mirchandani.

In addi­tion to impact­ing her student’s lives and poten­tially career tra­jec­to­ries, the ed-tech space has inspired Mir­chan­dani to scale tech­nol­ogy in the class­room. I would like to spread the impact of edu­ca­tional tech­nol­ogy and help other teach­ers and schools bring inno­va­tion into their class­room. I would also like to work with ed-tech com­pa­nies to ensure that their prod­ucts are fea­si­ble in the class­room and will help teach­ers instead of bur­den­ing them.”