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I hadn't heard of Summit Learning before this, but I just did some reading and feel like I drank the Summit Kool-Aid. I'll concede their materials are suspiciously vague about exactly how the program is structured, and they offer a distracting amount of redundant literature supporting meant to support the program's theoretical basis in 4 primary student achievements: cognitive skills, content knowledge, habits of success, and sense of purpose. At its crux, Summit's intention is to provide students with personalized learning tracks... and from what I've learned in my School Psych and Developmental Psych graduate work, this is ideal. One of the most impactful elements of the Summit system seems to be the 1:1 mentorship between each student and a teacher. They're supposed to meet frequently to discuss progress, issues, experiences. Having positive personalized attention from an authority figure is tied to favorable outcomes across the board (school, social/emotional development). But this kind of personalized attention also means schools can't implement this system as a means to reduce teacher load. Implementing this kind of system would require significant structural changes to the classic school/classroom setup. I'd imagine most issues schools are facing with this program are a result of widespread resistance to this shift, and lack of teacher and/or student support as the community works through this new way of learning. Maybe EdTech companies need to take on more responsibility during the transition phases in terms of teacher training and successful implementation/student success... from a PR standpoint, this would prevent schools from lashing out and make headlines with their negative experiences. From an education standpoint, kids would learn more... which is nice.
Thank you for sharing this interesting piece!I haven't further reviewed Summit program yet, but from the description about it in the article,I'm not surprised that it doesn't work with students. The goal setting and materials selection in these self-directed learning activities seem to be based on what Freire called the banking concept of education. In other words, technologies are used to help educators feed knowledge to students, not to assist them to construct their own understandings.Self-direction doesn’t mean much in the banking education model that treats students as empty containers to be filled with pre-determined knowledge sources. Think about the following scenario that replaces laptops and online materials with textbooks and workbooks: “students spend much of the day on their textbooks and workbooks for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace”. I bet this self-directed approach will encounter similar resistance from local communities.The major challenge for edtech industries is to come up with solutions that integrate educational technologies in classrooms to facilitate problem-based, project-based and experiential learning. At the same time, these technologies need to help students gain disciplinary domain knowledge with deeper understandings and self-direction.To effectively support self-directed learners, educators need to help students 1). set meaningful learning goals, 2). identify valuable learning materials (peers are great learning resources so self-directed learners shouldn't feel alone as described in the article), 3). design appropriate pacing, and 4). reflect on their progress. These supports demand much more than reading or watching materials on screens. Learning platforms that facilitate communication, collaboration, and creation are essential to fully support self-directed learners. From this perspective, there still exist innovation opportunities for edtech companies as we haven’t seen such products on the market yet. 
 Ching-Fu Lana month ago