The Summit Learning Platform is growing throughout the United States.
The question many have is will it help fix a much needed change in our current education system.
In this post we’ll discuss:
- What is the Summit Learning Platform
- The recent NY Times article on a Kansas School Rebellion
- Summit Learning Reviews (the good & the bad)
- Some thoughts on personalized learning platforms
What is The Summit Learning Platform
While you may be hearing of Summit for the first time, it’s actually been around for four years and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students.
Summit is a web-based educational program that promotes “personalized learning,” using online tools to customize the child’s education. It was developed by Facebook engineers and funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan.
Using this program, students spend much of their days in school on their laptops and go online for their lesson plans and quizzes. The idea was to give underfunded school systems with deteriorating test scores access to high quality curriculum for free. Students complete their work at their own pace and teachers are there to assist students, lead special projects and hold mentoring programs.
The Kansas School System That’s Rebelling Against Summit
Not all parents and students are happy that Summit has moved into town.
In fact, one Kansas School System made headlines when parents and students said that they had had enough of the Summit Learning Program, which had moved into their area eight months earlier.
“I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I’m not doing it anymore,” said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington.
Initially families in the area embraced the idea of giving their children access to high quality curriculum.
But that didn’t last.
After a while, students began going home at the end of the day with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they were feeling an increase in anxiety.
Students were being isolated while sitting in a classroom of their peers, and parents were far from thrilled.
In a recently released survey in the district, “77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform.”
Summit Learning Reviews: The Good and The Bad
There are a lot of positives for embracing Summit:
- Access to high-quality curriculum
- An approach that lets students go at their own pace, firmly grasping the concepts
- Independent study that allows accelerated students to excel in the classroom
A learning platform like this gives poorly funded school district access to high quality education for students. It also can help in areas where there are concerns about the student to teacher ratio, concerns that kids aren’t getting the individual attention they need.
Some teachers have also said they prefer not to have to spend time on curriculum and instead prefer focusing on the students, entirely.
But there are also many negatives as well.
Students are being isolated and the increase in anxiety experienced by the Kansas students is likely a direct result of that. It’s also not healthy for all students to sit at a laptop all day (as we see from the example of the student who saw a large increase in seizures from the increased screen time).
Teachers are reduced to tutors in their own classrooms. If students don’t understand the way the videos explain the lesson (like in more complex subjects like math), they have to wait until the teacher is available to answer questions, making it easy to fall behind.
Some Thoughts on Personalized Learning Programs
One 11-year-old posted some thoughts online about Summit. The child writes:
- We suddenly have a LOT of responsibility
- It makes us feel a lot more stressed than we should (my friends think so too)
- A lot of people get headaches from staring at screens (including me)
- We have less human interaction than we should
- Our teachers don’t have to help us due to HUGE classes
- The videos are blocked sometimes
- The videos are hard to follow
- Math class is completely confusing for everyone I have asked (we need someone to explain what we’re doing wrong to us)
I would argue that while the intentions behind this program were positive, every student learns differently and a computer can’t replace the benefit of having a real life teacher in front of you, explaining and answering questions on the spot.
Not to mention the physical and mental health impact of sitting on a computer, isolated, day in and day out.
While I do think that personalized learning programs like this have a place, like for accelerated students or for those who are self-motivated and want the flexibility of learning at their own pace, I don’t personally believe a web-based program should be replacing teachers.
Conclusion: Summit Learning (Yes or No)
As we mentioned, there are a number of benefits to Summit:
- High-quality curriculum
- The ability to go at your own pace
- To learn to be self-directed and self-motivated
But there are also cons as well:
- It’s easy to fall behind
- Children are isolated
- Spending hours every day staring at a screen is unhealthy
What do you think though? Would you allow your child to attend a school if Summit was in the classroom?