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Three Irving Middle Schools join Verizon Innovative Learning Program

Irving — Three more Irving ISD middle schools joined the Verizon Innovative Learning (VIL) initiative during a kick-off event held at de Zavala Middle School on Friday, Sept. 6.

The VIL provides free technology with internet access and hands-on learning experiences to help educate underserved students. de Zavala, Johnson and Travis Middle Schools are among 52 schools joining Verizon Innovative Learning for the 2019-20 school year. With the new cohort, the total number of middle schools in the program nationwide is now 152, which includes Irving ISD’s other five middle schools that joined the program in 2017.

Jeannine Brew-Braggs, a Verizon spokeswoman, said Irving ISD is now the only school district in the country where all the middle schools are participating in the program.

“It’s always exciting to be a part of these events, because they’re so symbolic of learning, education, being a part of the community and really investing in the students and the future,” Braggs said. “It represents an investment in the community that Verizon is a part of. In total, eight Irving middle schools are a part of the program, which is 100 percent of the middle schools in Irving. It’s the only school district in the country that has all their middle schools in the program, so it’s really exciting.”

“The VILs initiative means a lot to our de Zavala students, staff, parents and community,” Anika Horgan, principal of de Zavala Middle School, said. “Technology has revolutionized the way we think, work and play, and when it’s integrated into the curriculum, it revolutionizes the learning process for all of our students. The VILs initiative provides different learning pathways that many of our students would normally not have an opportunity to experience. Research shows technology integration in the curriculum improves students’ learning processes and outcomes.”

The VIL not only provides students with their own individual tablets, but access to Google Classroom and other data services teachers can easily integrate into their curriculum and students can easily access while away from the school.

“There’s an opportunity to learn other languages, to practice coding and to learn more about math,” Braggs said. “They’ll be able to do this at their fingertips at their leisure at home, but also the teachers are able to infuse that into the curriculum here at school, especially since all the students will have the tablets. You don’t have to worry about who has them and who doesn’t. It’s a really extensive process to be a part of the program, because the whole purpose is to make certain the students and the teachers are successful.”

“I am excited this opportunity will allow all middle school students in Irving ISD to have access to the internet and other resources at home, so they can extend their learning,” Horgan said. “As we prepare our students to be successful in their careers and in college, the VILs initiative helps us develop our students’ personal and social responsibility, critical thinking and reasoning.

“Through Google Classroom and various instructional apps, students have the opportunity to build strong communication skills for both interpersonal and presentation needs. We know this initiative will help our students have better cross-cultural understanding as they Skype with other classrooms or professionals, experience virtual learning, and visualize and decide when to use technology to complete a task or learn about a topic.”

One parent, Jennifer Casas, said her son Andrew was eager to use his new tablet both in the classroom and at home.

“[Andrew] is excited to use it at home and to be able to do all his homework at home,” Casas said. “I think it’s great, because when they assign stuff, they use Google Classroom a lot, so [the students] can actually go home and do it immediately at home. They won’t have to go to a library to use the computer, because they’ll have that technology right at their fingertips.”