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Facebook Partners up to Develop Education System

Facebook Partners up to Develop Education System

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been openly expressing his interest in education since he donated $100 million (£65.5 million) to the Newark school since in New Jersey. Last year, he and his wife gave a further $120 million (£78.6 million) to Bay Area schools in San Francisco last year.

And now Facebook is taking another step into the education game with software that should allow children in the US to learn at their own pace.

This project, the Personal Learning Plan (PLP), is in partnership with Summit Public Schools and completely separate from the Facebook social network.

Summit is a non-profit organisation that has a network of charter schools – publicly funded independent schools – in California and Washington. Schools in this network consistently rank among the top schools in the US.

So it’s not surprising that Summit is behind PLP, a pioneering teaching method that allows students to learn online and be mentored in their own personalised learning of traditional subjects like maths and English.

Although Summit had already developed PLP, they only had a single engineer. The dashboards were also connected to various third-party systems, which the students had to log into separately. Of course, this meant that the app ran slowly and would sometimes even break down.

Summit Chief Executive Diane Tavenner decided to approach Mr Zuckerberg and ask if there was anything he could do to make it better. Which is exactly what he decided to do.

“[PLP] is really driven by this idea that we want to put learning in the hands of the kids,” Ms Tavenner explained. “And the control back in the hands of the kids.”

This is what a student's dashboard looks like

Since last year, a small team of eight Facebook engineers have been working full time on the PLP app, rolling out a pilot earlier this year in Summit schools in California. This means that the new and improved version of the PLP has been used by more than 100 teachers and 2,000 students.

Ms Tavenner explained that the software should allow students to work with their teachers to create tailored online lessons and projects. Another aspect of the app is that it can grade and track personalised quizzes teachers assign to their students.

In a blog post, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox explained that the company wanted to help build a classroom that is centred around the students’ own ambitions.

He added that the app frees up the classroom for teachers to mentor their students directly, and for students to collaborate with each other. Everything else – tests, content, information – can be delivered daily through the system.

Facebook and Summit plan to offer the free software to any school in the US that wants to use it so that all children will be able to learn at their own pace.

“We’ve seen that there’s an opportunity to help apply our skills to the future of education,” explained Mr Cox. “We all wanted to find a way to help make an impact by doing what we do best: building software.”

Image Source: Activate Instruction

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