altschool

22.06.2015

AltSchool: the school that just received $100 million from Zuckerberg

Image | AltSchool

It’s not a tool for the cities of the future, an artificial intelligence technique nor a virtual reality machine: the latest project that has caught the attention of the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is a school.

Known as AltSchool, this educational center uses technology to educate each child according to his or her abilities and interests.  This type of personalized education  is reminiscent of the Italian Reggio-Emilia’s pedagogical approach, but supported by tablets, 3D printers and Arduino based devices.

Recently, AltSchool received a round of funding of $100 million (about €88 million) from Founding Fund, the foundation of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, as well as other investors and philanthropic organizations.  With that money, AltSchool, which already has four centers in San Francisco, expects to open 20 more centers in other cities.

Why this interest in AltSchool? Unlike other private schools, the center is defined as a micro-school in the sense that each class has one teacher for just seven students. Children are grouped according to their interests and skills and not by age, so if a child has trouble understanding a concept, another may help him or her understand.  While pen and paper remain, this time they are accompanied by tablets that students use to perform their classroom tasks.

Founded by Max Ventilla, on of the creators of Google+, the organization not only aims to expand its network of micro-schools, it also wants to create an operating system that enables teachers from various learning centers to share new practices with each other, allows parents to know at any time how their son or daughter is doing at school and encourages both groups to communicate. “Our platform can reduce many costs and headaches associated with running a school,” the founder stated.

Despite its high price – AltSchool costs about $20,000 per year (€18,000) – Ventilla’s courses are between 10% and 15% cheaper than other private schools in San Francisco and 40% of their students receive a scholarship.  Next year the center will open in Brooklyn, New York. Only time will tell if more schools adopt this method of personalized technology education.