With the school year fast approaching, students of all ages will soon be spending their evenings finishing up homework and cramming for tests.
These assignments will frequently need to be completed online or require the use of the internet, a seemingly simple requirement that nonetheless poses a barrier to millions of children throughout the United States.
More than 3 million children throughout the US don’t have an internet connection at home, making it hard to keep up with class assignments and maintain good grades. And especially as more careers depend on digital literacy, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for children to succeed in school and beyond without regular and fast internet access.
Over the course of a student’s life, not having internet access can open up a digital divide that prevents them from learning emerging technologies and computer programming languages that are increasingly becoming the bedrock of the economy. This, in turn, makes it harder to pursue higher education, various careers, and other opportunities.
It’s an injustice that Verizon wants to end through its Verizon Innovative Learning initiative.
The Verizon Innovative Learning program takes many shapes and forms, adapting to the needs of a particular school or classroom, but is ultimately designed to close the digital divide by providing free technology, internet access, and instruction in a classroom setting.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a robotics teacher received a grant to provide all of his students with tablets and a data plan for instruction. The grant helps his students learn fields as diverse as robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D printing. Whereas, in Los Angeles, California, sixth graders at one Verizon Innovative Learning partner school are learning how to program video games through tools and guidance provided by Verizon.
Since 2012, Verizon has committed $400 million to funding 150 Verizon Innovative Learning programs in schools throughout the country, helping more than 1.7 million disadvantaged students learn the digital skills they need to do more in the classroom and beyond. By 2021, the company wants to double the amount of schools it partners with to reach an additional 2 million students.
“At Verizon, it’s our mission to use technology to enable people,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer, Verizon. “That is exactly what Verizon Innovative Learning does. Through our commitment to digital inclusion, we are providing access to STEM education to underserved students and communities and empowering children with the skills they’ll need to contribute to the global workforce of tomorrow.”
For sixth grader Danielle Amos, Verizon Innovative Learning has helped to instill in her a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, areas of study that once seemed limited to boys.
“I read somewhere that for every one girl that’s in a STEM career, there’s like five boys,” she told Verizon during a technology session. “To see that there are 50 girls who want to partake in this is just crazy.”
The effects of Verizon Innovative Learning are both immediate — as seen through Danielle’s enthusiasm — and long-lasting. In fact, 54% of students participating in Verizon Innovative Learning were reported to be more engaged in school and 58% of students became more proficient in STEM, doing better in both math and science courses, according to the telecommunications company.
Verizon says students who participate in VIL are also more likely to look forward to school. And when robots and video games are a part of the curriculum, it’s easy to understand why.