Cyber Talk Radio: Merging Technology and Education Strategy

Bret Piatt, CTR host, and Michelle Vega, chief technology strategist at the Intercultural Development Research Association - Episode 167 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Saturday, December 7, episode 167 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I sat down with Michelle Vega, chief technology strategist at the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), to discuss how she researches and implements the use of educational technology in public schools. We also have a special guest from Keystone School in San Antonio, Shreya Chaudhary a tenth grade student who is currently a part of the Chief Science Officers program.

We start the first half of the episode off by asking Michelle to explain the function of the IDRA. It was founded 45 years ago after San Antonio’s Chicano walkouts protesting inadequate and unequal learning conditions and opportunities. It was founded by the Departments of Education and Justice to secure equitable education for all students, starting as a desegregation effort. Now, they’ve determined that desegregation isn’t enough to bring equality — now there is still an effort to integrate. What exactly does Michelle do? She helps with anything in regards to technology, from hiring teachers who can teach computer science, integrating new technologies in the classrooms and making sure all students have access to a device and the internet. One of her biggest challenges is finding, attract and retain trained and accredited faculty for teaching STEM and computing subjects. This type of work means that her and her coworkers need continuous training and continued education, which is very valuable in the constantly evolving tech field. How did Michelle find her way into this field? She noticed that tech jobs were more valued, and decided to get out of food service by starting in banking and then she went to digital conversions and then worked in education. Went to school at the University of North Texas and got a degree in applied technology and performance improvement. After graduating, she worked in the Northside ISD tech program, and that led her to her current role at IDRA. She truly believes that technology is a great way to level the playing field of education and related opportunities!

After the break, I talk with one of the students that Michelle works with, Shreya! Shreya is in the international Chief Science Officers program, which is now in its second year in San Antonio, with over 90 students citywide. The program gives students a voice in making educational decisions, and it creates a diverse group of STEM leaders in middle and high schools (they are also piloting the program in elementary schools). It’s valuable because it encourages peer leadership and makes STEM more attainable and accessible to all students. Shreya found out about the program at the last minute and went through the application process and got in! She joined to spread her STEM knowledge, enthusiasm and opportunities with others. Shreya tells us about the many different leadership activities and opportunities she’s been able to participate in because of the program.

Back to Michelle, we discuss how education platforms are changing and becoming more relevant to what students need, like Google Classroom and Meet for collaboration. Constantly emerging technology makes it so that oftentimes teachers and students are learning the same things at the same time!

Before ending the show, I ask Shreya to tell us some of her priorities as a Chief Science Officer. They’re creating a FIRST Robotics team in order to enhance the engineering programming in Keystone, and they’re currently working on finding funding and grants for the upcoming competition in January!

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about the IDRA and STEM and technology integration at schools.

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