(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
A Verizon program that seeks to increase tech connectivity and skills in schools is expanding to Baltimore.
Each student and teacher at five Baltimore city public schools will receive Chromebooks, data connectivity and access to training and coaching. The schools are a handful among 100 across the country joining the Verizon Innovative Learning Program, the communications company’s education initiative.
Officials including Verizon VP of Entertainment and Tech Policy Eric Fitzgerald Reed, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and BCPS’ chief communications and community engagement officer, Tina Hike-Hubbard, were onhand at Baltimore Design School in Barclay on Tuesday morning to announce the expansion.
“By bring the Verizon Innovative Learning program to Baltimore City Public Schools, we are addressing barriers to digital inclusion by providing free technology, access and a next generation, tech-infused curriculum that transforms the students’ learning experience,” Fitzgerald Reed said to a group of students and educators. “We believe that this new partnership will help prepare Baltimore city educators to more effectively use technology in the classroom, and also enable students to develop the skills, knowledge and capacity to thrive in a digitally connected world.”
The schools that will join the program are as follows:
- Baltimore Design School
- Graceland Park/O’Donnell Heights Elementary/Middle School
- Holabird Academy Elementary/Middle School
- Vanguard Collegiate Middle School
- Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle
In a city with high concentrations of poverty, Young said the program can provide digital access to students who otherwise wouldn’t have it.
“Thank you, Verizon, for recognizing that there are too many children across the country who lack the technology and skills to succeed in today’s digital economy,” Young said.
Nationally, Verizon partners with the nonprofit Digital Promise on the program. Schools apply to be accepted, and must demonstrate enthusiasm and vision for the technology. Lydia Logan, who leads the program nationally as executive director at Digital Promise, stressed that the initiative goes beyond a “device contribution” program.
Students and teachers receive access to 10GB of data so that the technology can also be used at home, and families can also benefit. The program also includes an in-school coordinator who is supporting the effort, professional development for teachers, coaching and mentorship, as well as a chance to connect with other schools in the program and learn best practices.
“This is about using technology to leverage teaching and learning,” Logan said.
At Baltimore Design School, leaders see it as an opportunity to encourage entrepreneurship. Students can pursue career and technology education pathways such as architecture, fashion design and graphic design. Principal Zaharah Valentine said that 95% of the population is African American, but only 5% of those professions are African American worldwide.
“Our goal is to make sure we advocate for our youth, but to also diversify the fields that we offer here and across the world,” Valentine said. “So this is an opportunity that aligns perfectly.”-30-
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