Facebook Engineers Enroll in Summit Public Schools Project

The personalized learning initiative spurred by Summit Public Schools in California enjoyed a major technology boost from Facebook.

The personalized learning initiative spurred by Summit Public Schools in California enjoyed a major technology boost from Facebook.

Chief product officer Chris Cox discussed how the social network and the school system are collaborating in a Newsroom post, saying that “a small team” of Facebook engineers has been working with educators on the project.

Cox described Summit Public Schools’ approach as follows:

First, the classroom isn’t for lectures. Content and assessments are delivered online through teacher-created materials, and classroom time is reserved for teacher-led real-world projects and collaboration. Second, the learning experience for students is completely personalized to them, and they move along at their own pace. Students start by working with teachers to set long-term goals (e.g., “become an investigative journalist,” “go to a state school,” “learn to code”), and then lay out a plan to achieve them over the course of many years. They can then visualize and track all of their coursework as a path towards these goals, connecting their daily decisions to their long-term aspirations. This means that every moment of each student’s day is motivated by what they want to be when they grow up. Alongside this, teachers can then check in on how their students are doing to give tailored feedback each day, and parents can do the same to view their kids’ progress at any time.

He also explained how the Facebook engineers and educators developed technology to help move things along:

We started by working together to rebuild Summit’s tool, called the Personalized Learning Plan, for Summit’s use in the 2014 school year. Last year, more than 2,000 students and 100 teachers spent the school year using it. For 2015, we’re supporting Summit as it partners with public schools that want to explore personalized learning through a small pilot program. We’ll use feedback from this program to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the U.S. that wants it.

The small team at Facebook that’s partnering with Summit operates independently. The PLP itself is completely separate from Facebook and doesn’t require a Facebook account. Everybody working on the PLP is subject to strict privacy controls that help protect student data. Summit subscribes to the White House-endorsed Student Privacy Pledge, which means that the Facebook employees working on this project are required to handle Summit students’ data in accordance with the Pledge.

Readers: What are your initial thoughts on Facebook’s work with Summit Public Schools?

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david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.