Facebook exploring personalised learning

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Social networking site Facebook is working with Summit Public Schools in California on a technology project aimed at developing personalised learning.

Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said a small team of Facebook engineers had started working with the schools in 2014 to rebuild a Summit technology tool called the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP).

He said Summit Public Schools came to Facebook’s attention because of the impressive results they achieve ‘while serving a very diverse student population’. He attributed this to their ‘very different approach to learning’.

Students at the schools set long-term goals, which they then devise a plan to achieve over a period of years. Content and assessments are delivered online through teacher-created materials, and classroom time is reserved for teacher-led real-world projects and collaboration. Students work at their own pace and use PLP to visualise and track their progress.

Cox said Facebook contacted Summit to see whether there was an opportunity for it engineers to help them. ‘They told us that while this model was changing the way kids learn, the technology just wasn’t good enough’, he explained.

Last year, more than 2,000 students and 100 teachers spent the school year using PLP. For 2015, Facebook will be supporting Summit in a small pilot program in which it partners with public schools who want to explore personalised learning. ‘We’ll use feedback from this program to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the US that wants it,’ Cox said.

Facebook was keen to stress that the team 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.’

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