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The Personalized Learning Initiative, supported by a collaboration between the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is an effort to invest in promising new approaches and technologies that can give students more agency in their own learning journey and provide teachers with tools to tailor classroom instruction to the unique needs of each student.
Two of the biggest names in technology and education philanthropy are jointly funding a $12 million initiative to support new ways of tailoring classroom instruction to individual students.
The grant marks the first substantive collaboration of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, chaired by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic and investment arm of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan.
Their joint award was given in April to New Profit, a Boston-based "venture philanthropy" organization. New Profit will in turn provide $1 million, plus extensive management advising, to each of seven other organizations working to promote personalized learning.
Since 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given more than $300 million to support research and development around personalized learning, including past grants to New Profit totaling about $23 million. (Education Week has recevied support from the Gates Foundation in the past for the newspaper's coverage of personalized learning.)
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meanwhile, was launched in 2015. Zuckerberg and Chan said then they intended to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion at the time—to a variety of causes, headlined by the development of software "that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus."
The group's early grants have gone to the state of Rhode Island, to a network of state and district leaders known as Chiefs for Change, and to the College Board, among others. CZI is also hiring its own engineers to help develop personalized-learning software tools.