Putting smart technology solutions in the hands of students, teachers and parents has tremendous potential to change the educational culture.
Every week at certain high schools in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. students are piling eagerly into a school bus -- but they’re not going home or heading out for a field trip. In fact, they’re not even leaving the parking lot.
The bold graphics on the outside of the bus showing enthusiastic students using wireless devices reflect what goes on inside. Students snatch up wireless tablets and go to work with volunteers from local universities to prepare for their SAT exams. Dubbed a Mobile Learning Lab, this high-tech demonstration project is one attempt to transform education through the application of our technology.
As widespread access to high-speed networks stimulates innovation and new cloud-based, software-driven solutions, we asked ourselves how we could apply these increasingly popular technologies to improve education. How can we structure school programs to support 21st century learners? The Mobile Learning Lab is one of a variety of pilot programs Verizon Wireless is conducting to answer these questions at schools in underserved communities from the Baltimore-D.C. metro area to the rural mountains of southern Virginia.
Dr. Barney Wilson, principal of Baltimore’s Reginald Lewis High School, said Verizon’s Mobile Learning Lab not only delivers technology. “It brings students the feeling that they’re really preparing for college, feeling like they’re competitive,” he said. He hopes for a 200-500 point jump in the school’s average SAT score as a result.
In addition to the traveling wireless bus, we’re testing new markets by providing students in Baltimore with wireless tablets and high-schoolers in Mecklenburg County, Va., with wireless connections and discounted Netbooks.
The projects are aimed at engaging students by trading chalkboards and paper and placing in their hands the vast resources of the Internet. It appears to be working. As Wilson said, “We’re sucking them into learning.”
At Reginald Lewis High School, where Verizon partnered with Samsung to provide tablets and software for Spanish classes, students can access Gloria Estefan music videos, Spanish soap operas, Spanish coverage of the Super Bowl or World Cup soccer, as well as art and literature to enhance more traditional language exercises.
“They’re excited to get into class every day. They’re motivated and engaged,” said Spanish teacher Kamal Dawson-Quest. Once the class begins, she added, disruptions are few as students focus their energy on various Spanish experiences via wireless.
Longer term trials in rural Virginia’s Mecklenburg County have gone so well that the school district purchased netbooks that connect to our wireless network for every 9th and 10th grade student. High school students -- many for the first time -- can access the Internet from home using our wireless network. Channeled through the school’s server, learning can continue when the school and library are closed, or simply too distant for some students to reach outside regular hours.
School board member Mary Hicks said the wireless devices enable students to keep pace with their peers in suburban schools by delivering many of the same educational resources. The program has been so successful that it has been expanded to lower grade levels, with smartphones and tablets.
Through the use of a cell tower that extends our network to a remote area, we help open the door to a world of opportunity, and at the same time gain customers. And children who never had ubiquitous Internet service now have it as a routine part of their daily lives.
“This is what can happen when you have public-private cooperation with a great company like Verizon,” Reginald Lewis High School’s Wilson said. “It’s a home run, a grand slam.”
Learn more about the Foundation's work on Education.