Over 100 students from the Secondary School of Journalism located in New York protested the Summit Learning platform last week. They have since written a letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Summit Learning’s CEO regarding their concerns. You can find the letter and more information here. This thread will be a place to discuss the current state of education, though likely focused in the US, as well as, Summit Learning.
For those who are unaware, Summit is an online learning platform developed by Facebook engineers and endorsed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. It’s aim is to provide an individualized learning approach by pairing 21st century learning competencies with content knowledge.
Students of the Secondary School for Journalism bring up several issues with Summit such as privacy, boring/easy curriculum, cheating, too much screen time, and a lack of human connection. I myself having worked with a school district using Summit would like to provide my perspective on their concerns.
Firstly, to any school/district thinking about implementing an online learning platform like Summit, just stop! Time and time again I’ve seen schools go 1:1 or switch to a platform like Summit without asking or telling their students anything. Students must be presented with information regarding these programs and why their school is considering switching to it. Students must also receive a chance to voice their thoughts and concerns and have them addressed before a final decision is made. This will work out much better for your school as students will feel valued and often have very different perspectives.
Now let’s talk about the privacy concerns of the Summit Learning platform. As mentioned in the article Summit is developed by Facebook engineers and receives a lot of information on it’s participants. This information is also sent to 19 different companies. Simply put, this is a blatant disregard to the privacy of everyone involved, as are chromebooks, and it needs to be addressed immediately.
While I agree 100% with these students regarding their privacy concerns, that is where my agreement ends. I have no doubt the issues they have presented are true, but it is almost certainly circumstantial. Summit ships with default content compliant with the Common Core educational standards. However, all of this content can be changed or replaced as needed by the teacher. This ensures that the teacher has control over screen time, engaging content, difficulty of content, etc… Cheating can become more prevalent with online learning platforms, but proper supervision, and technology management should prevent most of these concerns. Also mentioned, was that some students did not receive devices. If Summit is providing those devices this could easily be their fault, but it could just as easily be an error of the Secondary School of Journalism.
It is my opinion having seen and used successful implementations of Summit, that this is unfortunately a poor implementation. It should also be known that Summit is meant to work in tangent with facilitation based learning methods like IBL and PBL. Having no information on prior teaching methods used at the Secondary School for Journalism and having read this letter, my guess is as follows. As said in the letter, no students were informed of the switch, nor did they have a chance to voice their concerns. Despite this a full implementation of the Summit Learning platform was done anyway. It is also likely the Secondary School for Journalism was not using a facilitation based learning model prior to switching to Summit. With no warning or adjustment period and potentially insufficient staff training it would nearly impossible to have a successful implementation. This is merely my opinion given the little information available.
I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on the current state of education and Summit.