An Educational Technologist Building Software for Tomorrow’s Leaders


Why Women in Tech Matter More than Ever this Women’s History Month

Ashley Sanabria, PhD, an Educational Technologist Building Software for Tomorrow's Leaders

This Women’s History Month, our spotlight shines on trailblazers who merge the worlds of technology and education, carving pathways for the leaders of tomorrow. Standing prominently in this distinguished lineup is Dr. Ashley Sanabria, a researcher and educational technologist, building software that’s shaping the educational technology of tomorrow. Our conversation with Dr. Sanabria was enlightening and deeply inspiring, showcasing a career defined by breaking through boundaries, a relentless quest for knowledge, and exemplary leadership.

Ashley is deeply committed to making education more accessible and engaging, particularly for diverse learners. Further, Ashley is an advocate for women in tech and STEM, speaking with us about the critical role that women in STEM have in enriching the field

Celebrating Women’s Contributions to Tech: Ashley Sanabria’s Impact

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s recognize the indispensable contributions of women like Dr. Ashley Sanabria. Her work is not merely about developing educational technology; it’s about inspiring future generations to break through barriers and embrace innovation. We hope that Ashley’s journey inspires our readers, as it has our team at Outcome Engine, to champion a more inclusive and forward-thinking approach to technology and education.

The Journey of a Trailblazer: How Dr. Ashley Sanabria Found Her Passion for Educational Technology

Dr. Ashley Sanabria’s journey in educational technology is filled with exploration, resilience, and ultimately, achievement. Starting her academic career in biochemistry, Ashley quickly discovered this was not her true calling. “I got just about a year into that and decided that was definitely not for me,” she reflects, marking a critical point of self-discovery that’s all too familiar in our professional lives. This realization led her to pivot towards psychology. “I switched to a Psychology major. I really loved that. I loved studying the human brain,” Ashley says, highlighting her deepening interest in the human psyche and behavior.

Her passion for understanding language and cognition was sparked during a transformative year in Spain. “I lived in Spain my junior year of college… that’s when I got excited about what happens to people’s brains as they acquire language,” Ashley recounts. This period was not just about academic growth; it was a journey into the intricacies of learning and communication, steering her toward speech, language, and hearing sciences.

Overcoming Setbacks: Ashley’s Journey from Rejection to Recognition

Nevertheless, Ashley encountered significant obstacles along her path. A notable challenge was her initial rejection from a master’s program, a program within which she would later become an educator. “I got denied admission to the master’s program for which I currently teach. So I volunteered in the research labs for a year and reapplied the following year,” she reveals. This setback, rather than dampening her spirit, showcased her resilience and dedication to her chosen field. Through volunteering and immersing herself in practical research, Ashley not only broadened her expertise but also solidified her resolve in her chosen domain. 

Ashley’s narrative serves as a compelling testament to the often-unpredictable journey of our careers. Her shift from biochemistry to psychology, and her eventual foray into educational technology, underscores the value of nurturing one’s curiosity and embracing change. Furthermore, her capacity to transform rejection into a catalyst for success offers a powerful message on the essence of perseverance. Today, Dr. Ashley Sanabria exemplifies the impact of facing challenges head-on, following one’s passions, and the enduring tenacity necessary for professional fulfillment.

Ashley Sanabria, PhD, an Educational Technologist Building Software for Tomorrow's Leaders is presenting her work

Dr. Ashley Sanabria is making waves as an educational technologist building software that connects technology with education, devising research-based tools and assessments to revolutionize our understanding of student learning and enhance teacher effectiveness. She leads several innovative projects and is working hard to change the educational landscape for the better.

Ashley is passionate about the potential these projects have to shape the future of education and technology. With technology, as Ashley puts it, “we can visualize things for teachers automatically and beautifully.” It’s about streamlining tools, making information accessible, and, most importantly, saving time- a commodity that’s all too precious in the classroom today

One of the highlights of Ashley’s work is her collaboration with Nick Voegeli and the team at Outcome Engine. Together, they’ve been instrumental in developing software that’s both powerful and practical. This partnership stands as a prime example of how merging technology with educational research can produce tools that significantly enhance classroom experiences and bolster student learning. It’s a reminder that when we bring education and technology together, we can create solutions that are not just effective but transformative.

OLOS: A Technological Leap in Classroom Observation

One such collaboration is Observing Learning Opportunities for Students (OLOS), a groundbreaking classroom observation system that enables researchers to meticulously record instructional dynamics and student engagement. This tool captures the essence of effective teaching strategies and provides invaluable insights into their correlation with student outcomes. The design of OLOS presented many challenges, notably in user experience (UX) design, where capturing intricate classroom interactions has required innovative solutions. By utilizing ReactJS and prioritizing intuitive UX, the team succeeded in creating a platform that navigates the complexities of real-time classroom observation with ease.

Empowering Educators and Students: The Impact of Dr. Sanabria’s Work

OLOS holds the promise to provide groundbreaking information to researchers and educators, such as meticulously documenting the amounts of time children are spending in literacy learning opportunities in America’s classrooms and predicting student success through classroom behaviors, underscoring the potential of technology to inform and transform educational strategies. Further, the project’s insights into the relationship between socio-emotional skills and literacy open exciting new avenues for K-3 instruction, promising a more holistic approach to early education.

Adapting to Modern Needs: The Evolution of Assessments

In addition to OLOS, Ashley’s collaboration with Outcome Engine has led to both the modernization of several research-based assessments of English language and reading and the creation of parallel assessments in Spanish. Projects like Word Match Game and Reading4Meaning have transitioned from outdated technologies to ReactJS / Laravel, making them usable on mobile devices and more adaptable to ongoing calibration. Similarly, Letters2Meaning underwent significant refactoring and redesign to enhance usability and maintainability, marking a significant step forward in educational assessment technology. The creation of parallel assessments in Spanish will allow teachers to understand bilingual children’s language and reading skills in all languages they speak and will ideally lead to better recommendations for literacy instruction for this population.

Overcoming Software Development Challenges with Outcome Engine

A significant challenge was presented by WiFi instability in schools. The team developed a solution to pause assessments during connectivity issues, significantly improving the assessment experience for students. Moreover, redesigning the user experience (UX) design specifically for younger students ensures that even kindergarteners can participate without the frustration of unintended inputs. These enhancements highlight the team’s dedication to creating an inclusive and accessible educational environment.

Revolutionizing Education: Ashley’s Vision for Future Education

Looking ahead, Dr. Sanabria envisions a future where technology and education are seamlessly integrated, offering personalized and engaging learning experiences for all students. She envisions a world where tech isn’t just an aid but a fundamental component of how we teach, especially for children with language and learning disabilities. “Technology,” she reiterates, “allows us to do so much more with so much less time.” With projects like OLOS and the continuous improvement of educational assessments for dual-language learners, Ashley, and her collaborators are laying the groundwork for a future where technology empowers educators and students alike, making the dream of customized, impactful learning a reality.

The Impact of Mentorship and Collaboration

Ashley’s career in educational technology and her passion for advancing literacy development are deeply influenced by her mentorship with Dr. Carol Connor. Dr. Connor led the way in transforming language and literacy instruction. Her research led to a U.S. patent for innovative software algorithms that supported teachers in providing small-group, individualized instruction in the classroom. The software that she developed, in conjunction with Nick Voegeli, has empowered educators to modify their teaching strategies to fit the unique learning needs of each student, significantly improving 3rd-grade literacy rates in the classroom.

Dr. Carol Connor: A Profound Mentor for Educational Technologists Building Research-Based EdTech Software

This profound relationship between Ashley and Dr. Connor was central to Ashley’s focus on bilingual literacy and integrating technology into educational practices. Beyond Ashley, Dr. Connor’s generosity with her time and expertise had a far-reaching impact, touching the lives of many others in the academic and tech communities, including both Nick and Kanani Voegeli. Kanani agreed with Ashley that Dr. Carol Connor’s mentorship also had a profound effect on her career, highlighting Dr. Connor’s role as a mentor and guiding light, who stood for women in technology, freely shared her knowledge and insights, and worked hard to foster growth in others.

Ashley, now continuing the legacy of Dr. Connor, expands the achievements of a true giant in the field. With funding from the Department of Education, she is working with Dr. Jin Hwang (another of Dr. Connor’s mentees) to create appropriate assessment methods and modify the algorithms that Dr. Connor developed to provide personalized literacy instruction for bilingual children. By following in Dr. Connor’s footsteps, Ashley ensures that the transformative impact of her mentor’s work lives on, inspiring ongoing innovation in educational technology and touching the lives of future generations of educators and students alike.

Ashley’s journey highlights the crucial role of mentorship and collaboration in driving innovation, particularly in educational technology. It’s a testament to how the unique perspectives and generous spirit of women in tech can profoundly impact lives and propel forward innovation. Through nurturing and mentoring, women like Ashley and Dr. Connor don’t just advance their fields; they enrich the entire tech industry, underscoring the collective power of guidance and collaboration in molding the educational landscape for generations to come.

Ashley Sanabria, PhD, an Educational Technologist Building Software for Tomorrow's Leaders, is with her graduates

Empowering Diverse Learners Through Custom Software

Dr. Ashley Sanabria is making significant strides in educational technology by developing custom software for bilingual learners, aiming to create an inclusive education system where every student finds learning accessible and engaging. She values representation and relatability, stating, “It’s really meaningful for me to see my grad students connect with the kids who look like them and speak the same languages as them.” Ashley’s efforts ensure educational tools mirror the classroom’s diversity so that all children can see themselves reflected in their learning experiences.

Ashley’s dedication to empowering diverse learners through custom software underscores her belief in the transformative potential of technology in education. Her projects and initiatives highlight a commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that every student has the tools they need to succeed. In a world where education is the key to opportunity, Ashley’s work opens doors for learners of all backgrounds, making her a true pioneer in the field of educational technology.

Navigating Challenges: Motherhood as a Woman in Tech

Tackling the dual roles of motherhood and being a woman in tech is no small feat. Dr. Ashley Sanabria knows this all too well. Ashley is an advocate for change, stating that it’s not just about making work-life balance more manageable; it’s about recognizing and addressing the systemic challenges that are barriers for women who’d like to be a mother and have a tech career. Ashley shared her experience during the COVID-19 lockdowns as a powerful call to action for more supportive policies, flexible work arrangements, and a culture that fully embraces the value of working parents.

Ashley Sanabria, PhD, an Educational Technologist Building Software for Tomorrow's Leaders is with her family

Ashley painted a vivid picture of the relentless pressures working mothers faced during the pandemic “Imagine that somebody asked you to work 18 hours a day for a year, and also have no outlets to have any human contact,” This period was more than just a personal struggle; it was a reflection of the broader challenges that working mothers encounter. Her experience underscores a significant gap in systemic support, where the demands of career and family often collide, and few mothers receive adequate institutional backing. This lack of support isn’t just a hurdle for mothers; it’s a societal issue that calls for meaningful change.

Systemic Barriers for Working Mothers: Calling for Change

The story of navigating work and motherhood during such a trying time resonates with countless others in similar situations. It’s a stark reminder of the resilience required to manage these responsibilities and highlights the urgent need for societal and institutional reforms. Ashley advocates for a world where working parents, especially mothers, receive the support they need to thrive both in their careers and their families.

Women’s History Month: The Crucial Role of Women in STEM Fields

Women’s History Month shines a light on the pivotal role of women in STEM fields, celebrating their contributions to technology and education. Dr. Ashley Sanabria, a dedicated educational technologist, embodies the spirit of innovation and diversity that women bring to these disciplines. “I feel like there’s a capacity for seeing the big picture, and for multitasking, that women can bring to the field,” Ashley asserts, emphasizing the unique strengths that women can contribute to STEM.

Further, Ashley is a staunch advocate for increasing diversity within STEM, particularly in speech and hearing sciences—a sector where women are prevalent, yet lack leadership positions and representation from diverse racial and linguistic backgrounds. Her efforts aim to create an environment where educational materials and tools reflect the diversity of students, ensuring children and young learners have role models who mirror their experiences.

Her advocacy underscores the challenges in fostering diversity in academia and the tech industry. Through her work, Ashley demonstrates the importance of Women’s History Month as a time to acknowledge the contributions of women in STEM and to advocate for a more inclusive future. Her story and actions remind us that progress in STEM depends on our collective efforts to welcome and nurture talent from all walks of life, making the field richer and more innovative.

Celebrating Women in Technology and Empowering the Next Generation

Women’s History Month serves as an important reminder of both the progress we’ve achieved, and the work still needed to ensure women have equal opportunities to contribute and lead in technology, research, and EdTech. We believe that recognizing trailblazers like Dr. Ashley Sanabria honors their achievements and inspires the next generation of women to pursue careers in these vital fields.

Dr. Ashley Sanabria’s endeavors as an educational technologist exemplify the profound impact that dedicated professionals can have on both educational technology and the broader tech landscape. Her work, particularly in developing custom software that addresses the diverse needs of learners, showcases how technology can be leveraged to create more inclusive and effective educational experiences. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Sanabria for her collaboration, her commitment to enhancing education, and her role in paving the way for future women in tech.