Curriculum platforms to get an AI boost from IBM's Watson

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In the past, a child who was falling behind in school may have been sent to a tutor. Now, technology companies are banking on the idea that artificial intelligence (AI) will help struggling students — and their teachers — catch up.

During the ISTE 2018 conference Tuesday in Chicago, IBM announced partnerships with K-12 publishing company Scholastic Inc. and education social network Edmodo that will infuse the tech giant’s AI engine, Watson, into their respective platforms.

With the AI’s support, Scholastic and Edmodo will be able to create custom curricula for individual students based on their needs and abilities.

IBM’s Watson Education Platform, the education arm of Watson, will be used in two Scholastic products, Scholastic Go and Science Flix, to help teachers customize content for their students based on “individual learning progression,” or the student’s academic performance.

With Edmodo, IBM is developing a personalized content recommendation engine for students that will use Watson Classroom’s Cognitive Library service and Edmodo’s AskMo search engine. The program will use teacher-inputed student data, such as grade level, age and interests, to recommend topic-specific learning content.

“At IBM, we’re working with augmented intelligence, rather than just AI,” Chalapathy Neti, IBM’S vice president of Watson Education, told EdScoop. “That means the products we put out are augmenting humans’ ability to perform various tasks, rather than doing the tasks for us. They are also helping the learner perform at the top of their ability.”

This is not the first time IBM has partnered with giants in education. Back in October 2016, IBM announced a partnership with Pearson, the world’s largest education company, to bring Watson AI to many of Pearson’s higher education offerings. That same year, IBM Watson began working with with Blackboard and created a Watson-enabled app for Apple.

In July 2017, IBM developed a Watson-powered application in collaboration with Sesame Workshop to introduce kindergarteners to difficult vocabulary words using Sesame Street characters in videos and games.

IBM’s focus on partnerships with established education and edtech companies has allowed it to further its reach. “We’re realizing that we can use this core AI platform that we’ve specialized for education to help infuse AI into partner offerings that are distributed to much larger student populations across the globe,” Neti said.

And, in the context of IBM’s goals in education, that makes sense. Neti said the company hopes the to use AI to drive the personalization of learning in as many classrooms as possible worldwide.

“To that goal, we will be partnering with many more education companies to infuse AI into their offerings,” Neti said.

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