Inspired by the birth of their daughter, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan started the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in December 2015, pledging to give 99 percent of their shares of the company during their lifetime to support its mission. Focus areas include personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.
It’s not the first time Chan and Zuckerberg have shown their support for education. Their efforts include funding for a personalized learning program by Summit Public Schools in Silicon Valley; efforts in San Francisco and New Jersey; and private investments into education startups such as Panorama, AltSchool and Ellevation Education, as well as the Primary School, a private school led by Chan. These efforts, as well as education programs abroad, will now be led by Jim Shelton.
Shelton changed how technology is funded as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Later, as president of education provider 2U, he led transformation in higher education by enabling students to earn degrees online.
One focus of Shelton’s at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will be developing and promoting tools for personalized learning. “People have potentially overly narrowed the definition of personalized learning,” he told EdSurge. “We’re taking it in the broadest sense: It should help you engage in a way that takes you to a different level. Not just what you know and what you want to know — if we do that right, you can do personalized learning through projects, creating work — lots of things, not just adaptive platforms.”
While at the Department of Education, Shelton combined forces with Aneesh Chopra (U.S. chief technology officer) and Vivek Kundra (U.S. chief information officer) to help put forth Obama’s vision for schools, making him a good choice to help Chan and Zuckerberg envision the future they want to help create.
“Having this child has made us think about all the things that should be improved in the world for her whole generation. The only way we are able to reach our potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world,” said Zuckerberg in a video posted on the initiative’s website. “Can people in the next generation learn and experience 100 times more things than we have? ... I think we’ll get there.” —Jennifer Snelling