Every day in schools across the country, students are told to turn off and put away their mobile devices. Yet, studies show that these devices can get students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. And Verizon has a plan to do something about it.
The Verizon Foundation announced on Thursday (Oct. 18) a major education initiative to accelerate the use of mobile technology in the classroom and advance student achievement in what are known as STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math. This new initiative is designed to strengthen teachers' expertise in integrating mobile technology into STEM instruction and to engage students in innovative and creative ways.
The education initiative consists of three integrated programs: the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools and the new Thinkfinity platform.
The Innovative App Challenge, created in partnership with the Technology Student Association, is a competition that invites middle and high school students to design concepts for mobile apps that integrate STEM and address a problem in the students' school or community. To guide the students, Verizon's Innovation Center engineers have created a set of instructional videos on app design and development that will be on the App Challenge website, www.verizonfoundation.org/appchallenge.
"We know that technology can transform the way teachers teach and students learn," said Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation, in announcing the education initiative during an event at the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, in Marlborough, Mass.
"This new app challenge is our way of meeting kids where they are and showing them how technology can be used in unique and fun ways to help them learn," Kirk said. "Our engineers are excited to participate and lend their expertise to make this learning experience more relevant and engaging for the students."
The winners of the app challenge - five middle schools and five high schools - will be selected by an expert panel of judges. Each school will receive a $10,000 cash grant along with training and support to build the apps and bring them to market. Each member of the team will also receive a Samsung Galaxy Tab. The contest registration opens Oct. 17, and submissions will be accepted from Dec. 1 through Jan. 18, 2013.
"It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate with the Verizon Foundation on developing this app challenge," said Dr. Rosanne White, executive director of the Technology Student Association. "Mobile technology is such an important part of young people's lives today, and this is an exciting opportunity for students to bring their ideas around STEM to the table and learn about creating apps at the same time."
The second part of Verizon's education initiative is the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program, which is designed to help teachers utilize technology and integrate mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, into classroom instruction to enhance student learning and achievement in STEM subjects. The International Society for Technology in Education and the Verizon Foundation have been working with 12 schools, designated as Verizon Innovative Learning Schools and located in underserved areas across the country, to design and deliver a comprehensive, year-long professional development program for teachers and administrators. Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School is one of the 12 schools.
The development program - which includes onsite workshops as well as online webinars such as "Transforming the Science Class with Mobile Technology" - began this summer and will continue throughout the school year.
The third part of Verizon's education initiative is Thinkfinity.org, which was recently redesigned with an integrated platform for educational resources and an online professional learning community. The website now provides teachers nationwide with free access to the new training materials from the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program to complement Thinkfinity's wide range of digital content in STEM and other subject areas, developed by leading educational organizations.
Verizon's new education initiative is shaped by a growing understanding of the role of technology in transforming STEM instruction in America. Student performance and engagement in STEM are critical to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs, although the number of American STEM graduates has remained stagnant. According to the National Science Board, only 233,000 of 3.8 million 9th graders ultimately choose a STEM degree in college.
The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company's innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, health care and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon's employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.2 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon's philanthropic work, visit www.verizonfoundation.org; or for regular updates, visit the Foundation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/verizonfoundation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/verizongiving).