Interviewed by: Ahmed Siddiqui
After graduating from MIT with a B.S. in Biology, Melissa Gregson joined Teach For America and taught middle school science at MS 321 in New York City. After her time in the classroom, she moved back to Boston and joined Teach For America’s staff as the Recruitment Director for MIT and other Boston area schools. She now serves as the Managing Director of Teach For America’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Initiative. Outside of work Melissa served as a board member for the Young Non-Profit Professional Network and was a School Board Fellow working with Somerville Public Schools.
As a mentor for our upcoming Startup Weekend Bay Area EDU event, Melissa answered some questions about the integration of technology in education:
AS: How do you see education technology being used to benefit underprivileged schools that do not have access to new technology?
MG: It is incredibly important for all kids to be prepared for a future of opportunities and choices. Our world is becoming increasingly technological and global and part of an excellent education is preparing our students to participate in the increasing technological and global society that we live in. I think technology can be a great enabler, but also has the potential to increase the disparities that exist in our schools if not everyone has access to the technologies created because of cost, training, or staff capacity required to implement programs. I taught in New York City and was very lucky to have some of the worlds’ greatest museums at my fingertips to be able to take my students to. In many places this might not be the case and technology can open up opportunities to take advantage of these types of opportunities from a distance. Using technology, you can have an astronaut, engineer or doctor join your classroom from a different state, country or from space, which opens up an incredibly exciting and inspiring world for students.
AS: Where do you think education technology can bring the greatest impact?
MG: I think that education technology that has the biggest impact is technology that serves to increase the capacity that great teachers have in the classroom to ensure that they have more time to do the very hard work of ensuring that all kids are learning in their class. I believe that the types of technologies that allow for greater efficiency in tasks that teachers do frequently will ultimately have the greatest impact on student achievement since they give teachers more time to focus on student learning. Examples of this include technologies that facilitate data collection and better communication and sharing between all audiences involved in a child’s education (parents, guardians, other teachers, etc).
AS: What are your favorite educational technology startups? Which ones should we be watching?
MG: As noted above, I think the educational technologies that can have the biggest impact are the ones that increase a teacher’s capacity on a daily basis and create efficiencies so that teachers have more time to do the very hard job of ensuring that all of their students learn. Some start-ups I have really enjoyed watching include Kickboard by Drop the Chalk and Better Lesson started by a few Teach For America alumni.