Facebook working with charter schools on software

Facebook is developing software, which it hopes to one day make available to any school that wants it, that helps teachers run personalized lesson plans for students, the company said Thursday.

The company is helping to further develop the software used by charter school operator Summit Public Schools, which says it tailors lessons to each student.

“They told us that while this model was changing the way kids learn, the technology just wasn’t good enough,” said Chris Cox, the company’s product head, in a blog post. “So what if we could build this together and then give it away for free?”

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The product appears to allow teachers to craft curriculums for students and for students to track their progress, according to screenshots offered by Facebook. Cox said that the technology gives teachers more time to work one-on-one with students in the classroom. The charter school network used Facebook’s version of the tool during the last school year — and the company says it is hoping to bring its work to a wider audience.

“For 2015, we’re supporting Summit as it partners with public schools who want to explore personalized learning through a small pilot program,” Cox said. “We’ll use feedback from this program to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the U.S. that wants it.”

Cox looked to calm potential fears about the privacy of students who use the software. He said that it does not require students to have Facebook accounts, and that the team developing the program is separate from the social giant’s main operations.

“Everybody working on the [tool] is subject to strict privacy controls that help protect student data,” he said, adding that the school — and therefore the software — complies with the President Obama-backed Student Privacy Pledge.