The 2010s have seen a massive leap in the number of tech and software companies getting on-board the education bus. This year, Facebook is the latest of these. On Thursday September 3rd, just as schools all over the country were starting or preparing to open, the social media giant announced a partnership with Summit Public Schools, a non-profit organization running charter schools in two West coast states. Together, the two aim to build educational software that can then be offered for free to public schools all over the country. Or even further.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long wanted Facebook to be a force for good in education. Originally, the network was only available to current students. After it went global, he made major financial contributions to education, including a $5 million scholarship fund from his own money for undocumented students, and a $100 million gift to a failing school system that, unfortunately, did not save it.
Facebook will be placing a team of software engineers and other professionals with each of Summit’s schools to work with teachers and students in refining the software. The goal is a personalized, learning lesson plan that allows students to learn at their own pace while rewarding progress and giving them a path of goals to follow. The same reward system that makes video games so addicting has long been indicated to be a highly effective educational model, and that is one element they are planning to try.
Facebook’s chief product officer, Christ Cox, said that a Facebook-based version of the software has been running since 2014, with more than 2000 students and 100 teachers participating. What Summit will be launching is a small pilot program to test dedicated software with more options, and most importantly perhaps, more privacy for all involved. Cox says that the new software does not require a Facebook account and will be subject to strict privacy controls.