Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Facebook Founder Donates Billions to Education

By Kim Ehrhardt
Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan pledged to donate 99 percent of their company shares—currently valued at $45 billion—to support efforts to improve public health, education, and communities. 

A portion of that money will go toward backing the popular goal of promoting personalized learning opportunities for students. Zuckerberg and Chan announced their intentions in a Facebook entry titled, “A letter to our daughter,” newborn Max. 

The new parents said their broad ambition is to help their daughter’s generation accomplish two main goals:  “advancing human potential and promoting equity.” One component of achieving these goals, they said, rests partly with the question “can you learn and experience 100 times more than we do today?”

The couple described a vision for bringing personalized learning that would provide “more equal opportunity to anyone with an internet connection,” creating the potential to customize lessons to meet students’ academic strengths, weaknesses,  and interests. 

The Facebook executive and his wife said their donation to education, health, and other areas would be channeled through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which will be set up as a limited liability company.  Zuckerberg said he plans to continue to serve as Facebooks’ CEO for “many, many years to come,” and that the distribution of money from the couple’s Facebook shares would occur over the course of their lives. 

In the School District of Janesville, personalized learning pilots are in place at Lincoln, Van Buren, and Harrison Elementary Schools and at Franklin Middle School.  Plans are underway to expand the initiative next year to Edison and Marshall Middle Schools. Personalized learning is designed to increase individual student voice and choice resulting in an overall increase in engaged learning.  Coincidentally, last week Lincoln Elementary School (under the progressive leadership of Principal Shawn Galvin) made six different presentations at the annual S.L.A.T.E. (School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education) Conference.  The presentations were well received and the content detailed Lincoln School’s journey in implementing personalized learning experiences for their students. 

We know that the future is now, and as public educators, we are called to the challenge of responding to the rapidly changing world. Like Mark Zuckerberg, it is critical to embrace and support those strategies and tactics that bring learning into the twenty-first century. 

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