Facebook has taken its first steps into the education market with software that it claims allows children to learn at their own pace.
It is working with non-profit Summit Public Schools which has pioneered a teaching method that allows students to learn online and be mentored in class.
Facebook said that he project was completely separate from its social network.
There has been some scepticism about the technology firm’s move.
In a blog post, Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox said that the firm wanted to create a classroom “centred around students’ ambitions”.
The system allows content and tests to be delivered online and classroom time is reserved for “teacher-led real-world projects and collaborations”, it said.
“The technology itself has the power to bring to life the daily work by putting it in context,” said Mr Cox.
“It frees up classroom time for teachers to do what they do best – mentor students directly – and for students to spend time collaborating with, and in some cases, teaching each other.”
“We are very concerned about the privacy implications of this deal. Facebook is known for violating privacy and seems to be getting worse in this regard,” Leonie Haimson from US non-profit Class Size Matters told the Xul News.
“Who will control access to the personal student data and who will protect it? Who will decide? Parents or Facebook or the schools or districts? This is a critical question which must be answered – especially given its reputation.”
The small team of engineers working on the project were subject to “strict privacy controls to help protect student data”, Facebook said.
The Personalised Learning Plan it has developed has so far been used by 2,000 students and 100 teachers in schools in California.
Summit Public Schools, Facebook’s partner in the project, is a non-profit organisation that runs schools in the states of California and Washington.
There are several elements to Summit’s curriculum – students spend some time working on projects and other time on the personalised learning of traditional subjects like maths and English – mostly via online content.
Ms Haimson is not convinced it is the best method to teach children.
“There is a growing body of research showing that online or ‘blended’ learning actually widens the achievement gap,” she said.
“The educational tech boosters call it personalised learning, but its really depersonalised learning. Most parents don’t want their kids spending any more time in front of computer screens than they do already – but want more human interaction with their teachers and their classmates.”
Facebook and Summit plan to offer the software to any school in the US that wants it.
The social network is not the only technology giant involved in education. Google offers a range of educational products and Chromebooks are commonplace in classrooms.