Two middle schools in the Orange Unified School District will soon benefit from a nationwide tech education program set to provide free devices, internet access, and innovative learning programs to under-resourced students.
In partnership with Digital Promise, Portola and Yorba middle schools are the first in Orange County to join the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) grant program. The program — which launched in 2012 — equips every student and teacher at select middle and high schools with a device and data plan, and provides students without reliable home internet access with a mobile hotspot. The initiative currently serves nearly 500 schools nationwide, equipping more than 200,000 students with technology resources.
To celebrate the new program, the district hosted a kick-off “Tech Carnival” at Yorba Middle School on Sept. 1, and a similar event at Portola Middle School on Sept. 2, where students received their devices as well as a VILS carrying case. During the event, students also participated in tech-related activities such as a Sphero Ball station, relaxation station, dance station and more.
Over the course of the two-day event a total of 1,200 Chromebooks with built-in LTE were provided to students. Yorba Middle School Principal Sandra Preciado-Martin says that teachers will also receive 180 minutes per trimester of teacher training, support, and the opportunity to engage in a unique, immersive curriculum to leverage technology in their classrooms.
“The grant application process was a labor of love and a true collaboration between school-site leadership and the district,” said Preciado-Martin. “With this grant we are able to give our students increased access to curriculum, reliable internet access at home and — as an added bonus — our teachers are given the support they need with a built-in Verizon Innovative Learning Schools coach.”
According to the district, both Yorba and Portola middle schools have hired a full-time coach dedicated to providing teachers with support to leverage technology in the classroom. Funded as part of the grant, the school-based coaches help provide professional learning and identify appropriate resources and opportunities to support teachers at varied levels of readiness.