Newspaper article International New York Times

Facebook Takes Step into Software for Education ; Tech Giant Joins Forces with Charter Schools on Self-Directed Learning

Newspaper article International New York Times

Facebook Takes Step into Software for Education ; Tech Giant Joins Forces with Charter Schools on Self-Directed Learning

Article excerpt

In collaboration with a charter school network, Facebook has developed a student-directed learning system.

Facebook is out to upend the traditional student-teacher relationship.

On Tuesday, Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network with headquarters in Silicon Valley, said that nearly 120 schools planned to introduce this fall a free student-directed learning system developed jointly by the social network and the charter schools, which are government-funded, but privately run institutions.

Rather than have teachers hand out class assignments, the Facebook-Summit learning management system puts students in charge of selecting their projects and setting their pace. The idea is to encourage students to develop skills, like resourcefulness and time management, that might help them succeed in college.

"As parents and kids and teachers get access to this type of learning, I think more and more will want it," Diane Tavenner, the co-founder and chief executive of Summit Public Schools, said in a telephone interview.

The Facebook-backed platform is entering the public school software market when rival tech giants like Google and Microsoft have already established big footprints in education, in an attempt to build brand loyalty among students.

In June, Google said more than 60 million students and teachers worldwide used Google Apps for Education, a suite of free products that includes Gmail and Google Drive for document-sharing. Many other schools use Microsoft productivity tools and Skype, a videoconferencing tool, in classrooms. Amazon also plans to soon introduce Amazon Inspire, a site where teachers can share free instructional materials.

But the Summit-Facebook system, called the Summit Personalized Learning Platform, is different.

The software gives students a full view of their academic responsibilities for the year in each class and breaks them down into customizable lesson modules they can tackle at their own pace. A student working on a science assignment, for example, may choose to create a project using video, text or audio files. …

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