The students at Crawford W. Long Middle School and H.J. Russell West End Academy will be the first in the state of Georgia to have access to the Verizon Innovative Learning Labs, which opened on their respective campuses last Thursday.
Verizon and The Heart of America Foundation partnered with Atlanta Public Schools to help foster digital inclusion through a transformative education initiative called Verizon Innovative Learning.
“Technology and connectivity are incredible enablers for learning, and at Verizon we are committed to digital inclusion and ensuring that students have access to emerging technology and powerful learning opportunities in the Verizon Innovative Learning Lab,” Verizon’s director of community engagement and government affairs said. “This will be an exciting learning experience that will help ignite interest in STEM and an opportunity for everyone to become lifelong learners, creators and problem solvers. We expect this lab will offer opportunities for educators to leverage and integrate emerging technology in the classroom.
What used to be a standard classroom with rows of desks and limited equipment has been completely redesigned and repurposed to introduce the students to a variety of emerging technologies.
“This was about a year and a half transformation process, and this gives our scholars the opportunity to have hands-on engagement lessons and engage with technologies that are beyond the scope of the regular classroom,” Long middle school principal Carla McCall-McCou said.
The students now have access to Ultimates 3D printers, virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR), Spike prime robotics, Sphero RVR dynamic robotic rovers and more in the Verizon Innovative Learning Lab.
“The purpose of this lab is to offer our students real experience with the different resources and technologies that are available,” Long middle school Verizon Innovative Learning instructor Taquoya Portee said. “The new skills, in the STEM world, will allow them to go into different fields and be better equipped and exposed to different areas.”
Evan Flanigan, an eighth-grade student at Long middle school, had little interest in STEM learning until he walked into the Verizon Innovative Learning Lab at his school for the first time. When the class VR headsets put him face-to-face with a great white shark, the initial shock turned into a fun, immersive learning experience.
“Now, when I come to school and I have STEM, I’m happy to come here,” Flanigan said. “The activities are fun. The experience is fun. What we do is really intriguing and I learn a lot in the process.”
The students at H.J. Russell West End Academy were just as excited to show off their Verizon Innovative Learning Lab. School has been open less than a month and the students were already proficient in coding robots through mazes, setting up virtual reality museum tours and creating designs on their 3D printers.
Ni-khole Goulding and her brother Nikoh Goulding, eighth-grade students at H.J. Russell West End Academy, were excited to use the technology they have only had limited experience with.
“I was excited about the VR headsets because last year we were introduced to them, but we didn’t really use them much,” Nikoh said. “Seeing the whole lab and how the technology came together was pretty cool to see how much stuff we were open to.”
Having the Verizon Innovative Learning Labs in Atlanta, at APS, and on campus allows students at Crawford W. Long Middle School and H.J. Russell West End Academy to be prepared for a future with jobs and skills that have yet to be imagined.
“Because of great partners like Verizon Innovative Learning and the Heart of America Foundation, our scholars will be equipped to make a better tomorrow, to build a better tomorrow with tools that they may be touching for the very first time,” Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said.