Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Facebook CEO visits Eastern Ky. to support education initiative

 Zuckerberg checks out a robotics project by Appalachian
students. (Photo provided by Jacob Stratton)
Students and teachers in Eastern Kentucky got a big surprise Saturday when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came for an unannounced visit, Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Students from five counties were invited to meet with staff from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in Hazard. The purpose of the visit, they were told, was to "demonstrate and discuss some of the innovations taking place in schools and classrooms that are transforming teaching and learning," said Ron Daley, an official with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, which is a consortium of 22 public school districts in Eastern Kentucky.

"KVEC is working to help pilot a technology initiative called the Summit Learning Platform in several schools in the region," Spears reports. Summit is a free online tool that helps teachers create customized lessons for each student. It's funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which explains Zuckerberg's visit. He wanted it to be a "listening and interaction opportunity without media," Daley told Spears.

Zuckerberg, who also visited West Virginia over the weekend, was impressed. He posted on his Facebook page: "I talked to some students who were using the Summit personalized learning tools we’ve been building at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and who were learning how to code. These kids were showing me the games, robots, drones, and VR apps (!!) they were coding." His post went on to say that more than 300 schools in the US will be using the Summit program this fall.

Rural Kentucky tech ed innovations have gotten increasing media attention in recent years. KVEC and Belfry, Ky., teacher Haridas Chandran were written up in a recent Atlantic magazine article. Chandran and KVEC are also featured in a documentary that will air at 10 ET tonight on the National Geographic Channel. "Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America" is about schools in disadvantaged areas that are trying to prepare students for life in a high-tech world.

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