Facebook’s newest partnership with Summit Public Schools introduces an innovative approach to learning
On Tuesday, Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network, announced that 120 U.S. schools are planning to introduce a free student-directed learning system this fall.
Co-created by the social network and the charter school network, the “Summit Personalized Learning Platform” system puts students in charge of selecting their academic projects and setting their individual space. The overriding goal of the program is to encourage students to develop skills, such as resourcefulness and time management, that might help them succeed in college and later in life.
The learning system’s software enables students to create their own timelines for completing projects and lessons for the year, supplemented with one-on-one mentorship by teachers. Students are given a full view of their academic responsibilities for the year in each class subject and breaks them down into customizable lesson modules they can complete at their own pace. The software will be free of charge to schools.
Summit Public Schools first partnered with Facebook engineers in 2014 to custom-build technology solutions for Summit’s teachers. Together, the educator network and Facebook developers created a platform capable of recommending “learning playlists” for each student. Shortly after, other schools were asking for access to the platform. Last school year, 19 partner schools experimented with the software as part of a pilot program.
With the pilot program proving to be a success, Summit decided to expand their Personalized Learning Platform to over 100 additional schools across 27 states. “When we embarked on this journey back in September, teachers told us they were interested in personalized learning, but didn’t have the resources to bring it to their classrooms,” said Summit CEO Diane Tavenner. So far, early results have been promising. “Students reported that personalized learning empowered them, and made them realize they could drive their own learning and success,” Tavenner said.
The expanding program is further evidence of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in education and personalized learning in the U.S. When he announced the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in 2015—his $45 philanthropic project—Zuckerberg highlighted plans to invest in technology “that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus.” Zuckerberg also donated $120 million to school districts around the San Francisco Bay Area last year, with a focus on reform at the community level.