Facebook is out to upend the traditional student-teacher relationship.
Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network with headquarters in Silicon Valley, announced that nearly 120 schools planned this fall to introduce a free student-directed learning system developed jointly by the social network and the charter schools.
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.
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. Students may also work asynchronously, tackling different sections of the year’s work at the same time.
The system inverts the traditional teacher-led classroom hierarchy, requiring schools to provide intensive one-on-one mentoring and coaching to help each student adapt.
This summer, more than 1,500 educators and leaders of public, private and charter schools participating in the program, called Summit Basecamp, attended sessions to learn how to use the system. Among the 19 schools that introduced the new learning approach last year, at least a few educators and administrators reported a steep learning curve.
“There were many points where we weren’t sure the Summit Basecamp model was what our students needed,” said Claire Fisher, the principal of Urban Promise Academy, a public middle school in Oakland, Calif., which introduced the platform in its sixth-grade classes.
By the end of the school year, however, 31 percent of the school’s sixth graders were reading at or above their grade level, compared with just 9 percent in the fall. That was a larger improvement in reading than students in seventh and eighth grades, which did not use the platform, Ms. Fisher said.
Early this month, Summit and Facebook opened the platform up to individual teachers who have not participated in Summit’s extensive on-site training program.