Any parent of school-aged children can relate to the challenges of trying to remember geometry lessons from decades ago to help their children with homework.
But Verizon is finding that with their Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program — where classrooms have access to a huge array of digital-first curriculum — parents are just as eager to learn alongside their students.
This desire to actively participate in student learning, particularly amid a moment of growing reliance on new technologies that may be foreign to some parents, can create a positive impact that extends far beyond the classroom.
Researchers have found strong connections between family involvement in the school life of children and academic achievement, and beyond that, schools that support family engagement in fostering student digital use at home report better outcomes.
What Is Verizon Innovative Learning?
For over a decade Verizon Innovative Learning has provided technology, curriculum, and connectivity to over one million students. The initiative was originally created to ensure equitable access to technology, resources, and training among students and educators in the US.
Alongside nonprofit partners, the award-winning program provides under-resourced schools around the country with STEM curriculum, digital connectivity, technological tools, and extensive teacher training, which helps educators integrate technology into the classroom. In turn, students learn new skills required for success in today’s digital economy.
With the Verizon Innovative Learning HQ online portal, teachers nationwide can access free lessons, training tools, and innovative apps like these to help bring next-gen tech into the classroom.
The project is part of Verizon’s mission to ensure digital inclusion for all. On the Global Citizen Festival: NYC stage this past September, Verizon’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Rose Stuckey Kirk stood alongside Verizon Innovative Learning student alumni to reinforce Verizon’s commitment to provide digital skills training to 10 million youth by 2030.
Since its inception, Verizon Innovative Learning has committed $1 billion in market value to support digital equity and inclusion within education for some of the most vulnerable populations across the country, reaching over 1.5 million students in the process. Now, leaders of the program are discovering that students aren’t the only ones who can benefit.
How Verizon Innovative Learning Is Engaging Parents
While the primary intent of the program is to engage students and give them access to tools to help close the digital divide, schools are increasingly offering classes geared toward parents — providing an opportunity to learn about and gain exposure to the same digital tools and STEM skills their children have.
That includes a range of emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
In Phoenix, Arizona, a tech class for adults at Madrid Neighborhood School has attracted a full classroom of parents who are eager to learn the same things their children are learning in their school’s Verizon Innovative Learning Lab.
“We have it in our mind that [our kids] are doing the same thing we did when we were in school, but they’re learning so much more, their world is so much broader,” remarked Tiffany Rosenburg, a Madrid Neighborhood School mom.
Gateway Program for Parents
Dr. Tamara Campbell, the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach at Madrid Neighborhood School in Phoenix, says students are a gateway for parents to be more curious about technology.
“That enthusiasm for technology-based learning is contagious with the older generation,” says Campbell. “Here’s something their kids are learning, and they do it and they get so excited.”
Students are invited to help teach sessions to the class of parents, showcasing what they’ve learned in their own classrooms and sharing their new digital skills.
“I like how I … get to show people how to make stuff with their own ideas,” says Jazmyn Singleton, of teaching adults TinkerCad, an online app used for 3D digital design. “It’s so cool,” says Oliver Chavez of TinkerCad. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever learned.”
The classes also give parents a chance to ask questions about how to keep their kids safe online. The Madrid School uses a special software to filter content to ensure children aren’t exposed to inappropriate content. There are additional free courses offered through the Verizon Innovation Learning HQ education portal on how to raise students to be “digital citizens.”
Seeing parents and kids working together "fearlessly", as Dr. Campbell describes it, on higher level tech skills has inspired her as a teacher. “It gives me hope for where the community is going to go,” she says.