James Johnson, a Drexel Master of Business Administration student, co-founded Tech2Educate with Tony Perry, a recent Temple University graduate.
Tech2Educate is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in charter schools with technology. Among the board members are Lawrence Duke, a Drexel marketing professor, and Kristina Najera, a Temple education professor.
Intent on making a difference in the community and passionate about education and improving it, Johnson established Tech2Educate. Johnson applied his passion for education to try to improve troubled Philadelphia schools.
“What I see in Philadelphia is a growing trend of charter school expansion. Specifically, they’re shutting down district public schools and turning them into charter schools. So as that market grows, they’re going to be left with a void in technology and resources. That’s where Tech2Educate fits in, to fill that resource void and make the classroom engaging,” he said.
The mission of Tech2Educate is to provide teachers, students and independent public schools, such as charter schools, with up-to-date technology and software to engage students in the classroom and enhance students’ educational experiences.
“It’s all about engaging the student. It’s all about making the classroom fun and exciting,” Johnson said.
To enhance the classroom experience for students, Tech2Educate outlines three clear campaigns: the Tablet Campaign, the eReading Campaign and the Computer Lab Campaign. Johnson plans to implement all course subjects with the Tablet Campaign eventually. For now, though, math is the primary focus.
“Our first campaign we’re going to be implementing is mathematics because the current principal at [Knowledge is Power Program] West Philadelphia wants to improve math, especially middle school math,” Johnson said. The first program will be developed with the principal of KIPP West Philadelphia Charter School over the summer.
Additionally, there is a goal to implement interactive business courses with tablet-based learning. “As an undergraduate and current graduate student at Drexel, we do simulation courses which give us business experience. It makes the classroom fun and competitive. Friendly competitiveness is good for learning,” Johnson said.
Duke believes that competitiveness will spur innovation. He explained that within the LeBow College of Business, professors use competition to encourage innovation.
The eReading Campaign focuses on reading and writing, which Tech2Educate considers essential skills. These skills will be emphasized with Najera, who specializes in using technology to enhance critical writing skills.
The Computer Lab Campaign successfully made its first donation April 1 to the KIPP charter school with 25 Google Chromebooks. These computers will enable Tech2Educate to establish the first computer programming club at that school.
Tech2Educate decided to make its first donation to KIPP West Philadelphia because it is a school with insufficient resources. “They have roughly 350 students and only had about 30 laptops for the entire school,” Johnson said. With the generous donation from Tech2Educate, KIPP West Philadelphia will be able to engage students and implement educational modules.
“We are providing an advisory role on how technology can be used effectively in charter schools,” Duke said.
The effectiveness of technology-based learning will be measured by testing all students’ abilities and proficiency in each course. Johnson offered as an example, “If it’s a reading and writing program, they will be tested prior to the implementation of the program. Post school year we’ll test them again to measure the results, and we’ll post them on our website for donors to see.”
Currently, Tech2Educate is seeking funding from individual donors, who can access Tech2Educate’s website and donate via PayPal, in addition to community and corporate grants. Tech2Educate also started a crowd funding campaign to help raise funds for its mathematical tablet program. The crowd funding campaign will be conducted through Indiegogo, a platform that enables individuals to donate conveniently to campaigns.
Future plans for Tech2Educate include expansion to New Jersey, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., but for now the focus is in Philadelphia. “The current number of charter schools in Philadelphia is around 100, so there are plenty of schools for us to work with now,” Johnson said.
Additionally, Johnson plans to raise awareness about charter schools. “People need to know how charter schools work and how they can be a very positive thing for the public education system. And there are so many college students in Philadelphia — Drexel, Temple, [the University of Pennsylvania] and La Salle [University]. We want to work with them and get students involved.”
Johnson attributes his success in establishing and running a company to his education at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business, where he received a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in operations management in 2011. It was during his undergraduate years at Drexel when Johnson learned about the nonprofit sector in great depth.
“I took a business consulting course with professor Linda Reilly. We worked with an executive director at a local nonprofit, and we analyzed its fee structure. That was my first interaction with nonprofits,” he said. “There are so many skills I have learned. I learned marketing skills and basic accounting skills, which have been crucial to starting a nonprofit.”
Johnson encourages all to help Tech2Educate advance in its goals to improve education in charter schools. More information and ways to contribute can be found at igg.me/at/tech2educate.