PKG Social Impact Internships: Rachel Cheng (’22)

Compared to other education segments, early childhood tends to be a highly undervalued area of growth. Not only does an initial investment create undeniable returns (approximately $8.60 in ROI per dollar spent), but the critical phases of development between infancy and age five are strong indicators for academic success. To contribute to wider efforts to reform the way we approach early childhood education, Cognitive Toybox (CTB) created the first-ever hybrid assessment system for young children. 

Over IAP, I’ve been working as a data visualization intern under CTB. Although a lot of their technology efforts are focused on teacher and student-oriented products, my project is centered on the redesign of their internal customer dashboard. In collaboration with a fellow intern (Shreyaa Raghavan, ‘23), we’ve transformed a manually maintained excel spreadsheet into a web platform, soon to be automated and integrated into the team’s existing web tools. 

As a company that prioritizes product efficacy and customer-centricity, Cognitive Toybox’s operations are extremely data-driven. In order to decrease the burden on teachers as they adapt their curriculum, CTB independently monitors the progress of each student while sharing actionables derived from assessment data. While moving through my own project deliverables, I saw this evidence-based mindset applied throughout every aspect of quality assurance. Each feature, alert, and graph is designed to provide an explicit insight, ultimately helping the team streamline the distribution of feedback. When it comes to teaching, time saved is invaluable, and enabling a smoother transition between instruction and assessment makes all the difference. 

Ultimately, my work with Cognitive ToyBox represents only a small part of their persistent efforts in the educational technology space. Research consistently shows that exposure to early learning initiatives, or a lack thereof, has significant impacts on a child’s academic future. Even a small disparity in preschool readiness is magnified when we examine statistics on employability, financial independence, and even juvenile offense. As someone who has personally benefited from highly involved educators and extracurricular programming, I strongly feel that we have a social responsibility to provide children with access to these educational resources, particularly those in underserved communities. In the past year alone, COVID has significantly impacted the educational landscape, challenging students and faculty across all levels of schooling to maintain the same quality of virtual learning. Still, CTB continues their commitment to support education—remote or otherwise—through the expansion and release of free resources for family use. 

It’s been incredibly rewarding to work on behalf of a team who is so invested in the educational experiences of students, parents, and teachers. I’m grateful to the PKG Center for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing my work part-time with Cognitive Toybox in the spring!

Interested in a Summer Social Impact Internship? Learn more about how to apply here!

Tags: K-12 Education, Social Impact Internships, Social Impact Internships IAP 2021

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