Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network, have announced a joint free student-directed learning system entering 120 schools nationwide this fall. The innovative learning management system, called the Summit Personalized Learning Platform, gives the students the opportunity to select their projects and to set their studying pace. The goal is to encourage students to take initiative, to manage their time properly, and to develop problem-solving skills that may help them progress in college. The software is free of charge for all the institutions.
The software gives the students a full overview of their school responsibilities for the year and breaks them down into smaller, customizable lessons that they can handle at their own pace. A student working on his science assignment, for instance, can decide whether to feature a video, text, or audio file. Students are free to tackle different sections of the year's work simultaneously.
The new platform inverts the traditional classroom hierarchy, and it encourages one-on-one mentoring and personal coaching to help each student adapt, write Natasha Singer and Mike Isaac of The New York Times.
As Dianne Tavenner, the co-founder and chief executive of Summit Public Schools, wrote in a Facebook post, the Summit Basecamp program includes more than 1,100 teachers and 20,000 students across 27 states and the District of Columbia. Over 1,500 educators from 80 districts took part in Summit Basecamp earlier this summer.
At the end of the summer camp, partner schools said that their students were more excited about studying, which resulted in increased attendance and improved classroom behavior. Based on the publicly accessible district and state benchmarking tests, Summit Basecamp alumni either outperformed their peers or grew more compared to previous years.
As Corinne Lestch of EdScoop noted, above 80 percent of students claimed that personalized learning empowered them. In addition to that, 95 percent of parents admitted they wanted their kids to become "self-directed learners."
Emily Morris, a history teacher at a high school in Texas, was among the first educators to try out the program. She used to have trouble engaging her students in history and its relevant to their everyday lives. By using the Summit Personalized Learning Platform, her students conducted research on the impact World War I had on Europe. They also investigated the differences in European art before and after the war. Subsequently, each student came up with their own piece of art to express a response to an emotional or traumatic event in their lives. As a result of the experiment, Morris noticed her students developed their analytical and critical thinking skills . They also improved their oral presentation abilities. she said.
Facebook competitors Google and Microsoft have already made footprints in education and are trying to establish brand loyalty among US students. As Abby Jackson of Business Insider notes, Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to try to fix the problematic school system in Newark, New Jersey in 2010. According to many, the investment was a failure. However, it did not stop the Facebook founder from committing to public school reform. In 2014, he donated $120 million to San Francisco Bay Area school districts that will focus on changes on community level rather than the top-down approach in Newark.