IBM Watson will help educators improve teaching skills

The IBM Foundation has teamed with teachers and the American Federation of Teachers union to create an AI-based lesson plan tool called Teacher Advisor.

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A look at IBM's Teacher Advisor tool, powered by Watson.

For most parents of elementary school students, there's nary a dirtier phrase than "common core math." The new-age approach to mathematics is drastically different to what most parents were taught during their own early education experience, and as such it's created a major pain point in nightly homework routines across America.

But with a new initiative involving IBM's cognitive computing platform Watson, elementary math lessons could become easier for students, teachers, and even parents.

Over the last two years, the IBM Foundation has teamed with teachers and the American Federation of Teachers union to create an AI-based lesson plan tool called Teacher Advisor.

The program essentially uses Watson's cognitive smarts to answer questions from educators and help them build personalized lesson plans, understand concepts, and learn strategies to improve student comprehension. Watson may even ask the teacher additional questions to refine its response, honing in on what the teacher needs to address certain challenges, IBM said.

By the end of the year, Teacher Advisor will be available as a free service to third-grade math teachers across the country. Over time, IBM plans to add more subject areas and grade levels as Watson's expertise increases.

"Nothing is more critical to a student's academic success than an effective, skilled teacher. Yet, too often, teachers are left on their own to meet the demands of teaching with precious little help," said Stanley Litow, president of the IBM Foundation. "Teaming up with education leaders, we're excited to put Watson in the hands of teachers. Our hope is to one day equip all teachers with the support they need to do what they do best -- unlock a child's passion for learning and build up the next generation of leaders."

This isn't the first time IBM has used Watson as part of an early education initiative. In April, Big Blue teamed up with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, to design interactive educational tools for children that adapt to the learning preferences and aptitude levels of individual preschoolers.

The three-year R&D investment includes plans to assemble a team of engineers, teachers, gamers, and researchers to brainstorm how cognitive computing can be best applied to preschool education. IBM and Sesame wanted to focus on this particular age group based off of research suggesting that 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by the age of five.

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