IBM to Partner With Scholastic, Edmodo on Artificial Intelligence

Associate Editor

IBM’s Watson Education, an artificial intelligence platform that uses data trends to provide insights to teachers and students, is partnering with Edmodo and Scholastic in an effort meant to personalize learning.

With Edmodo, a K-12 network for students, teachers, administrators and parents, IBM is collaborating to develop a personalized content recommendation engine that can be integrated within Edmodo’s existing social education platform.

For Scholastic, a children’s publishing, education and media company, the plan is to use the Watson platform to recommend nonfiction content that aligns with curriculum standards and has multiple articles and media for students’ skill and interest levels.

“Our goal is to use AI to improve learning outcomes,” and to personalize content for learners, said Chalapathy Neti, vice president of IBM Watson Education, in an interview.

He explained that he refers to AI as “augmented intelligence” rather than the more typical “artificial intelligence,” because the way people are thinking about the abbreviated “AI” has produced “a little bit of angst in terms of machines replacing humans.”

In education, the goal of AI is to help humans—teachers, students, administrators— “perform better at whatever they’re doing,” Neti said.

IBM’s involvement with developing AI for schools began with a project in 2014 in the Gwinnett County, Ga., schools, Neti said. Gwinnett awarded IBM a $27.9 million contract to develop the eCLASS system, and the work IBM Education did in Gwinnett became the basis for its Watson Classroom offering.

The partnership with Edmodo means that teachers and students who use Edmodo will receive personalized recommendations for learning resources by combining Watson Classroom’s Cognitive Library service and the millions of resources that have been shared by educators on Edmodo, according to Neti.  The announcement comes a few months after Edmodo’s sale earlier this year to NetDragon, a Chinese gaming company that is expanding its presence in K-12 education.

For Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, the goal is to bring users of the Watson Education Platform a vast variety of nonfiction content that aligns with curriculum standards and has multiple, leveled articles and media for students at every skill and interest level.

By adding the AI capabilities to improve tagging content from the Scholastic GO! and ScienceFlix products, Neti said teachers will get an assist in understanding “the learning progression and mastery of each student, while creating recommendations catered to individual needs and abilities.”

Meanwhile, classes that have integrated Edmodo will be able to see recommended multimedia content that aligns to the grade level, age and subject matter interests of students, according to Neti. With Watson’s Tutor technology, Edmodo will be able to offer a new service allowing teachers on its network to select a package of topic-specific questions to assign to a student as either a learning activity or an assessment.

IBM Watson Tutor, originally developed for Pearson’s use with college students, is a “chatbot” that allows questions to be posed in text, with responses delivered in various formats, including media or video, said Neti. For Sesame Workshop, IBM Watson Education is building a kindergarten vocabulary tutor, which is being piloted by Gwinnett as well, Neti said.

The company is “actively developing a set of foundation customers” among the districts it has already been working with to test how well its hypotheses with these AI tools produce learning outcomes, Neti said.

He explained more about the company’s efforts in a blog post.

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