Verizon Innovative Learning, the education initiative of the telecommunications company’s foundation, pledged more than $200 million Monday to furnish technology, teacher training, and internet connectivity in K-12 schools, which would double its investment over the next five years.
With the new funding, Verizon plans to expand the number of in-school programs from 100 to 200 by the end of 2020.
Also today, Amazon announced it would offer online Advanced Placement computer science courses, college scholarships, and student internships as part of the $50 million computer science pledge the company made in September.
Verizon Innovative Learning programs are geared to high-need urban and rural schools, providing tablets to support a 1-to-1 program adoption and supplemental 4G internet connectivity. Teachers attend a summer training, and the program provides funding for an educator at the school to serve as a technology coach, working with teachers to facilitate tech integration across subjects, said Rose Stuckey Kirk, the chief corporate social responsibility officer for Verizon, in an interview.
The program intentionally focuses on middle schools, said Kirk. “The data has shown that’s one of the most critical times for students, relative to their level of engagement,” she said. Courses get more rigorous in the middle school years, and students’ performance in these grades predicts how well they will do in high school—especially in advanced math courses, said Kirk.
Verizon support continues at the selected schools for two to three years, said Kirk. After that point, schools lose the Verizon-provided 4G connectivity and funding for tech coaches, but can keep the devices.
Verizon Innovative Learning attempts to work with several schools in a district at a time, she said, with the hope that they will be able to work together and support each other in continuing the program at the end of Verizon’s involvement. Kirk noted that some schools issue bonds to continue to fund the program. “The whole goal is to make sure that they can be independent,” she said.
The program’s selection process for schools is also changing. To identify schools for the program in the past, the organization worked with Digital Promise to establish which schools had the greatest need, in part measured by the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch. This year, members of a school’s community will also be able to nominate the institution by reaching out to Verizon on Twitter with the hashtag #humanability.
Amazon Highlights Computer Science Education
While Verizon’s programs offer hardware and tech training, Amazon’s will provide educational software. Schools and individual students can apply for financial aid from Amazon to offset the cost of the company’s online computer science program, aligned to the Advanced Placement courses in computer science principles and Java.
Amazon’s curriculum integrates AWS Educate, the company’s platform that teaches cloud computing skills. The course also includes educator support—"teachers don’t have to be computer science experts,” said Emily Grad, co-CEO of Edhesive, a STEM online curriculum provider that collaborated on the curriculum, in a statement.
This announcement comes just a few days after TenMarks, Amazon’s online learning platform for math and writing, said that it will no longer be available after the 2018-2019 school year. In the K-12 market, Amazon also offers a digital content platform and Amazon Web Services, a cloud-based storage and analytics system.
The company’s $50 million pledge also included $10,000 college scholarships for students “from communities currently underrepresented in tech” and internships at Amazon offices for college students pursuing computer science.
CORRECTION: This post has been changed to reflect that Amazon’s recently announced computer science initiatives are part of a broader $50 million investment.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.