With New Tech, Cleveland Students Leave the Digital Desert Behind

Verizon Innovative Learning transforms the middle school experience for students and their families.
Jun 29, 2022 3:10 PM ET
Blog

Miles Park School student Anthony Black explores a virtual reality experience.

Anthony Black, a 7th-grade student at Miles Park School in Cleveland, remembers what it was like before his school became a Verizon Innovative Learning School. To get online, Black would need to wait for an open desktop in the shared computer lab. At home, he and his three siblings shared the family computer, rushing to finish their homework so the next child could have a turn.

“Everything changed once we got [tablets],” Black says. “We don't worry about arguing over the computer, or who has more work to do.”

Miles Park School is a PreK-8 school on the city’s southeast side. Many students’ families cannot afford internet access, says school principal Tamika Taylor-Ivory. When she arrived at Miles Park School eight years ago, there was little technology or digital learning. Teachers relied on textbooks and administered pencil-and-paper tests.

“I wanted our school building to be the feeder to the community,” adds Taylor-Ivory. “We educate the kids and provide them with the resources that are necessary to become 21st-century learners. The goal was that if we taught them those skills, they would go home or go into the community and be able to educate others.”

Miles Park is now in its second year as a Verizon Innovative Learning School. Working with nonprofit partner Digital Promise, Verizon provided each student in grades 5-8 with a connected tablet to use in school and at home. In addition, last year the school debuted a Verizon Innovative Learning Lab, complete with 3D printers, virtual reality devices and a next-gen curriculum, developed in partnership with the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at Arizona State University.

The learning transformation extends beyond the Lab, too: Taylor-Ivory says digital technology is now integrated into all classroom learning. Students, for example, use online tools and apps to create interactive stories and multimedia presentations.

Ashley Helber, a former teacher who is now both a Verizon Innovative Learning School Coach and a Lab Mentor, says she’s seen students’ confidence and collaborative abilities go through the roof over the past two years—including in students who were previously disengaged in learning. “I would say the long-term impact of this experience will be that they’ll have skills that set them apart from their peers at other schools because they were given this opportunity,” Helber explains. “When they are looking ahead to high school and college, they’ll know the careers that they want because of the different experiences they’ve had here at school.

Verizon Innovative Learning is a key component of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan helping to move the world forward for all.

“When they are looking ahead to high school and college, they’ll know the careers that they want because of the different experiences they’ve had here at school."