The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Watson Ready to Help K-5 Math Teachers

IBM’s Watson has shown it can win at the TV game show Jeopardy and provide assistance in everything from engineering and health care to basketball and wine. Now, the question-answering computer system has found a niche in education as well.

Teacher Advisor with Watson 1.0 is a tool designed to help K-5 teachers find open educational math resources. Starting with more than 1,000 open educational resources (OER) available in its database, the search engine uses natural language to make recommendations based on content the teacher requires.

“The consensus was: Start with math at the elementary level because those teachers are usually licensed as elementary teachers—they may not have strong subject-level expertise,” said Stan Litow, president emeritus of the IBM Foundation. “If you could focus in on math, that would be a moonshot.”

Teachers will be able to search particular concepts and Watson will provide targeted lessons and recommended activities. It can also adjust to grade levels, which should help teachers with students having differing math skills.

Watson’s continuously evolving artificial intelligence will also allow the tool to refine its databank through usage to provide even more applicable searches. The system can even search its content bank to pinpoint particular parts of videos that are relevant to a teacher’s search and go directly to those segments.

“When you go and research a specific area—for example, equivalent fractions—you can look at the different designs for each lesson,” said Christine Manna, a math coach for the Waterford Township School District in New Jersey. “You can look at the wording and see very quickly if it’s higher [difficulty] or more for students who struggle. That cuts down all the work for you. I think that is most appreciated.”

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