Charter Network Teams with Facebook for Blended Learning Tools

About a year ago I blogged about a successful charter school in Minneapolis leading the way in personalized learning: Venture Academy. Now they are helping to lead the nation. Venture Academy was recently chosen as one of 19 district and charter public schools around the country for a pilot project in blended learning created by a powerful team in California.

At Summit Public Schools, a California-based charter network, teachers created a prototype of a new tool that enables them to customize personalized learning for each student. Who better to ask to improve their product than developers from Facebook? After a year of work by the Summit-Facebook team, the 19 partners were invited to expand the pilot project and provided extensive training, coaching and monitoring. Each partner school was allowed to adapt the model to its own system, using the best practices that worked for them.

According to this October 14, 2015 story in the Hechinger Report, the new program, free to partner schools, “streamlines the process of creating individual learning paths to fit the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. It serves as a digital warehouse of sorts.”

The software helps teachers use the system as “a sort of electronic filing cabinet,” where they can quickly retrieve best lessons or projects for student individual needs. Students can view the program too—they see their progress (or not) in each subject and preview future lessons. Students move at their own pace. “Students say they feel liberated by the freedom and challenged by the responsibility,” says article author Nichole Dobo.

Teachers still work with students in person, and guide their learning. Like at Venture Academy, teachers are “coaches” and students are “trailblazers.” Teachers learn right along with students.

Today, Facebook is devoting a team of 20 employees, including engineers, to customize the platform to suit the needs of schools. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintains that the Summit platform is completely separate from the Facebook service, and that strict privacy controls are in place to protect student data.

This public-private partnership is one example of several such partnerships in the US working to bring 21st century education to our public schools. These powerful partnerships can fast-track breakthroughs in learning. Today’s students are waiting for this!