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Facebook working with schools on a personalized learning app

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
September 4, 2015
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In an unusual side project, Facebook has built an app that helps teachers create tailor-made student learning plans, and it may come a US school near you for free. The social network got involved in the project after it learned about an institution called Summit Public Schools, which is consistently ranked among California's best. The school gets those results by creating programs customized for each student, then tracking their progress with a software tool called the "Personalized Learning Plan." However, it told Facebook that the technology behind it wasn't up to snuff, so the Zuckerberg and Co. donated a small team to help revamp it.

In 2014, Summit started using the tool, designed to work smoothly with large number of students and teachers. The app has nothing to do with Facebook itself; in fact, students don't even need a Facebook account. The social network implemented strict privacy controls, and its team must handle data in accordance with the White House-endorsed Student Privacy Pledge. As it hasn't been a paradigm of privacy protection, it's no doubt hoping to fend off any criticism with those steps. The final app (below) looks polished, and gives students and teachers a number of ways to create long-term career goals, plan coursework and track progress.

The team described the project as "personal for those of us working here... we all wanted to find a way to hep make an impact doing what we do best -- building software." Facebook and Summit are launching a pilot program this year for a small number of public schools that want to use the same personalized teaching methods. It plans to use the feedback to improve the program, and will eventually give the software away to any US schools that wants it.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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