Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg’s tech initiative connects teachers, students with online tool 'Along'

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Gradient Learning developed an online journal tool for students

Dr. Priscilla Chan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s technology initiative partnered with Gradient Learning, an education nonprofit, to create a new communication tool for teachers and students.

Together, the two organizations developed and launched Along, an online journal where students can share short video, audio and text messages to their teachers for reflection purposes. The free program launched in the U.S. on Monday and is meant to help teachers get a full picture of what’s going on with their students, according to a press release issued by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

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"What I know from my personal experience and what we heard from teachers is that they want to get to know each student and support them individually, but a lot can get in the way of having regular, one-on-one check-ins," said Gradient Learning’s Executive Director Andrew Goldin, in a statement. "We built Along to provide educators with an easier, flexible, and more meaningful way to connect with students, so teachers can spend less time scheduling meetings and more time supporting each student."

Dr. Priscilla Chan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s technology initiative partnered with Gradient Learning, an education nonprofit, to create a new communication tool for teachers and students. (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative)

Students who use Along will be provided a reflection question whenever they log in to use the tool, which is selected from a predetermined library by the teacher. 

The questions go beyond simple yes or no answers and are designed to elicit more detailed responses, including what each student values and why, how they are feeling and so on.

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"We are committed to partnering with educators and researchers to advance a different vision of the school system – one that can holistically serve all students, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous students," said Chan, who is a co-founder and co-CEO of CZI. "We are excited to launch a research-informed tool to support teacher-student relationships, helping teachers make each student feel seen, understood and valued -- which is foundational to learning and wellbeing."

Along is a free, digital reflection tool that is designed to help teachers connect with their students. (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative)

In a Monday interview with CBS This Morning, Chan elaborated that Along underwent a six-month pilot program before it became available to the public. The tool is designed to support student wellbeing and academic development by fostering student-mentor relationships. 

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"We know that with a mentor, at-risk kids are 55% more likely to go to college. And it’s meant to make sure that a kid feels seen, and so it’s meant to actually probe at building a very supportive," Chan told CBS This Morning’s Gayle King and Anthony Mason. "Right now honestly, it’s meant to build in with a busy school day because it’s asynchronous. You don’t have to carve out time out of what’s already a packed school day for a lot of kids who are returning to school."

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The launch of Along comes at a time when several reports and studies have shown that teachers and students have felt disconnected while online schooling has become the norm in the last 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic.