Future of Learning

Summit Public Schools and Facebook announce new personalized learning platform project

Here’s what you might not have heard last week when Facebook announced a project to create new software for schools.

Teachers had the idea. Educators at Summit Public Schools, a charter network with schools in California and the state of Washington, developed a prototype while tinkering with available tools. They decided to customize the school day for students, and harnessed available technology to serve that goal. But these are teachers, not technology experts, so what they came up with was imperfect. That’s where the social media giant comes into this story. Developers from Facebook then worked alongside teachers to make their vision a reality.

The program fits the personalized learning approach that is a hallmark of Summit Public Schools.

“Kids are literally making decisions about how they are going to learn and when they are going to learn. They are so engaged that it is spilling into the rest of their life and it [learning] is 24/7,” Diane Tavenner, the founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools said last week in an interview with The Hechinger Report. “We are about three years in, and it’s taken that long for kids to really break free of that old model.”

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The software created through the partnership was used by more than 2,000 students and 100 teachers last year. They expect to launch a larger pilot this year. The long-term goal is to develop a free program that any school or teacher can use.

The partnership with Summit Public Schools isn’t the first time Facebook’s name has been involved in education. Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s billionaire CEO, was named as an investor in a small, private school that is developing personalized learning strategies. And in 2010, he famously donated $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey, public schools. That didn’t pay off, according to a new book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” by reporter Dale Russakoff.

“There are tremendous numbers of parents and teachers in Newark who felt that the schools needed radical change, but there was no acknowledgement that those people should be playing a role in this One Newark process,” Russakoff said in an interview with The Hechinger Report.

Perhaps that experience could be influencing Facebook’s more recent attempts to improve schools?

I write about these kinds of issues and others in the ed tech world every week in my – free — Blended Learning Newsletter. To have a copy delivered to your in box each Tuesday, sign up here for a free subscription, and invite a friend to subscribe.

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Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is a staff writer and social media editor. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind/Shift,… See Archive

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