Magazine article Technology & Learning

Learning Tech: Now It's Getting Personal

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Learning Tech: Now It's Getting Personal

Article excerpt

While Google Apps for Education, Microsoft productivity tools, and--latest to the scene--Amazon Inspire, have made inroads into the educational arena, Facebook's partnership with Summit Public Schools reaches new heights in connecting with students and changing the way educators approach personalized learning.

In 2000, hundreds of Silicon Valley parents and community members came together to reimagine the American high school. Summit Public Schools has since expanded into eight innovative schools around the Bay Area. Students log onto the Summit Personalized Learning Platform to access their entire curriculum, pick and choose projects, and self-direct their learning, all at a comfortable pace.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Summit in 2014. Inspired, he offered Facebook's engineering expertise to help turn the Summit Personalized Learning Platform into a dynamic, scalable platform that could provide schools across the U.S. with the resources they need to bring personalized learning into the classroom.

For the last two years, Facebook engineers have been working with Summit educators to make the platform an even more powerful tool that is free for students, teachers, and parents. Through a program called Summit Basecamp, schools adapt personalized learning to meet the specific needs of their individual school populations.


Making sure no child slips through the cracks is a key benefit to personalizing the student learning process. The Summit Personalized Learning Platform is heavy on analytics and real-time assessment, allowing teachers and students to pinpoint areas of need while avoiding wasted time rehashing mastered skills.

"We know that students learn best when they are getting constant feedback from their peers, from themselves, from their teachers," says Lizzie Choi, Summit's Chief Program Officer leading the Summit Basecamp program. "Because students come from different families and different backgrounds, we want to make sure that they are able to move at a pace and progression that honors their prior content knowledge. This way, every single student is able to reach their unique potential."

Having each student work at their own pace can relieve the stress or stigma for those falling behind, which could have discouraged them from class participation, often leading to a further decline.

"A student told me, 'I used to raise my hand when I didn't understand something, and then I would wait for the teacher to talk their way through 30 students and eventually get to me. Now, when I don't understand or remember something from last year, I can just pull it up.'"


Students might initially find the freedom challenging. However, unlike the freshman year of college, they can adjust to self-motivation while safe at home and with parental support.

"We provide pace guidance. If they want to finish the content by the end of year, they should be moving at 'x' pace," says Sam Strasser, one of the leaders on the Facebook team building the Summit Personalized Learning Platform. "There are built-in visual cues to demonstrate if they are ahead, behind, or right at that goal. When we report on progress to students and their families, we focus on the material they have mastered and what they have left to master. One of the most exciting things we saw was that a lot of students started the year slowly as they learned the new system and adjusted to the fact that they have control of their learning environment . …

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