Inside Verizon Innovative Learning

The centrality of the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—in today’s classrooms cannot be overstated. Professional opportunities in STEM fields are growing twice as fast as those in other sectors across the U.S. economy. Despite the rise in STEM jobs, America’s children aren’t being properly educated and groomed to seize them. Only 1 in 5 college students feel their K–12 education prepared them “extremely well” for college courses in STEM.

It’s against this backdrop that Verizon Innovative Learning, an initiative of the Verizon Foundation, operates. Helping bridge the digital divide—the gap between kids with access to technology and those who lack it—has been central to the initiative’s mission since its launch in 2012. Verizon Innovative Learning provides free technology, free internet access and a next-gen, technology-infused curriculum that changes the way teachers teach and students learn. Since 2012, Verizon Innovative Learning has committed a total of $400 million in transforming schools and children’s lives. The program has helped over a million kids to date.

But what does that work look like on the ground? What is Verizon’s unique lens into arguably the defining societal challenge of our time?

For starters, it is more than just providing technology. Verizon Innovative Learning is an ecosystem consisting of engineers, educators and curriculum designers. It’s also an investment in America’s future, and preparing under-resourced children today for tomorrow’s world is a full-time commitment. By 2021, three million students in 350 schools across America will have made their way through Verizon Learning Initiative curriculum.

By making a commitment to the next generation with investments in network, hardware, curriculum and mentorship, Verizon is working to equip under-served kids to succeed. Here’s how.

Network

Verizon Innovative Learning works with Verizon’s in-house Network Engineering teams to ensure that participating schools and students experience the highest standards of network quality and reliability—from campus seminars to finishing assignments at home. To date, Verizon Innovative Learning has committed $400 million to providing free tech, free access and learning that put schools at the cutting edge of STEM instruction.

And as network technology advances, so will learning in the classroom. As 5G availability expands, more students will experience more personalized learning. In early 2019, Verizon announced the winners of the 5G EdTech Challenge, an initiative undertaken to discover innovative education technologies with the potential to transform middle school education. In the not-too-distant future, 5G will be used to help unlock entirely new paths of instruction and classroom engagement, and as the EdTech Challenge has proven, the creative work is already well underway—and will make its way into Verizon Innovative Learning classrooms.

Hardware

After Olmsted Academy North, a middle school in Louisville, Ky., received a Verizon Innovative Learning grant that supplied nearly 200 students with a tablet and a data plan, sixth-graders began learning how to code. But Verizon Innovative Learning didn’t just drop off the hardware and leave teachers high and dry. Teachers are consistently supported to ensure the equipment is used to its full potential. Verizon bundles a steadfast commitment to resources, and that starts with the physical hardware in the classroom.

“Nearly two-thirds of middle-school kids who don’t have technology are revising their dreams and lowering their expectations for their futures,” says Rose Kirk, Verizon’s Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer. All of our students, no matter their ZIP codes, deserve the same technology tools and resources so they can excel academically, personally, professionally, and emotionally.”

Curriculum

Just as technology’s importance is requiring a full reassessment of how America educates its children, so too is it impacting curriculum and lesson plan implementation. Students are taking quizzes on tablets and building out multimedia book reports. But as always, Verizon has its eyes trained on the future.

As noted with Verizon’s work in the 5G EdTech Challenge, some of the world’s brightest education application developers will be having a direct impact on Verizon Innovative Learning. And once 5G makes its way into classrooms, augmented and virtual reality could change the way kids learn, giving them a more visceral understanding of—and engagement with—their subject matter.

Mentorship

Verizon Innovative Learning’s impact doesn’t stop after the final bell of the academic year. In support of underrepresented populations in STEM fields, Verizon Innovation Learning works over the summer with middle school minority males at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) across the country. This is a dynamic, three-week summer program where participating students learn design thinking, 3D printing, augmented reality and social entrepreneurship.

Additionally, Verizon Innovative Learning conducts STEM-based coding camps for young women in rural areas. The skills acquired in these intensive, creativity-sparking settings transfer into the coming school year, and well beyond; participating students leave not just with new aptitudes, but new attitudes about pursuing STEM-based degrees and professions later in life.

Onward

Because of Verizon Innovative Learning, 76% of participating teachers report enhanced student engagement, 58% of students are more proficient in STEM, and 54% of students are more engaged in school. Verizon Innovative Learning is a force for change.

“Think about walking into a school, and there’s a whole laboratory that is Verizon-enabled,” says Kirk. “Think about under-served kids being able to use IoT, artificial intelligence and 3D design to actually solve societal problems. To create solutions. To be entrepreneurs. To be makers. We want these children to have every conceivable opportunity to be successful and make a positive impact on the world.”

Building a brighter future
Find out more about Verizon Innovative Learning.