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Replacing teacher-led lessons with computers 'left pupils like zombies’

On-line learning platform funded by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is attracting mounting opposition in United States


An on-line learning programme in schools which has led to pupils getting headaches and hand cramps after spending “much of the day” at their lap tops is attracting criticism from parents and students in several American states.

The Summit programme uses online tools to customise a pupil's education on their lap top through lesson plans and tests, while teachers, “assist with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects,” reports The New York Times.

Summit stresses that participating pupils do not spend the majority of their time on computers.

But it has still encountered widespread opposition in the US. There have been staged sit-ins and classroom walkouts in Kansas, where one child is reported to have asked to bring her dad’s hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone.

Mounting nationwide opposition to Summit also includes a pupil walk-out in Brooklyn, New York; with concern also reported in Wisconsin , Pennsylvanian and Indiana.

In Connecticut, where the programme has been suspended, schools chief executive Jeffrey Solan said he accepted the change was too much for some

"Some people were more comfortable with a model where a teacher stands in front of a class and lectures for 40 minutes. We haven't been comfortable with that model for a long time," he said in an interview. "That's an old factory model that doesn't fit in to contemporary learning."

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Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in Kansas who pulled his 10-year-old out of the school, said: “We’re allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies.”

Connecticut parent Theresa Commune said her 11-year-old son wanted more attention from teachers than he was getting.

"They need teachers to get them to love learning at this stage," she said.

The platform that Summit provides was developed with help from Facebook and is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative a company set up by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a paediatrician.

The free resources were initially welcomed by schools which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores and was seen, in Kansas as an educational "moon shot" where schools taking part where likened to "astronauts." It allows students to complete tasks at their own pace.on their own computer screens. 

Diane Tavenner, a former teacher and Summit’s chief executive, who developed the software so that students could “unlock the power within themselves,” said: “There’s people who don’t want change. They like the schools the way they are. The same people who don’t like Summit have been the sort of vocal opposition to change throughout the process.”

A Chan Zuckerberg Initiative spokesperson said: “We take the issues raised very seriously, and Summit has been working with school leaders and parents on the ground to address them.” She added that many schools that used Summit “love and support the program”.

The Summit learning platform is not connected to the Summit Learning Trust in Birmingham, England.



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