Today’s teachers face a number of huge challenges. One of the most prevalent is that of personalized education.
For overworked educators with overcrowded classrooms, creating assignments that work for each individual student’s skill level and learning style is next to impossible. But one-size-fits-all curriculum rarely works out for the majority of students in a classroom either.
That’s the conundrum that entrepreneur Jose Ferreira is trying to solve with his education technology company, Knewton. The company just launched a free tool for teachers that Ferreira and his team have been working on for the last seven years.
The tool essentially automates the process of choosing assignments or lessons for each individual student based on their past experience and current skill level. To accomplish this, the Knewton team has spent the last several years gathering and licensing various quizzes, reading assignments, videos and other educational content. They added all of that content to the company’s system.
The system is then able to rank all of that content in terms of subject, difficulty and similar factors based on how students interact with it.
But it’s not trying to replace teachers or do their work for them. The tool is just meant to help them with the whole personalization part. Ferreira told Wired:
“You always hear stories of teachers staying up until 2 a.m. either writing their own content or finding it. Teachers don’t pay for it in dollars. They pay in time and labor and quality assurance. We’re taking that part and making it free.”
So, teachers can still create their own curriculum and just use Knewton’s tool to find assignments that might work better for some of their students. They can even invite their students to join Knewton and assign specific topics to them within the system. The tool will perform an initial assessment and then find the assignments that work best for each student based on that.
Teachers can also upload their own content to the system so that they can share it not only with their students but also with other classrooms around the world. The more content is added, the more helpful Knewton becomes.
It’s an attractive idea to teachers, students and parents alike. Especially for schools that are short on funding and other resources, a free tool that can make teachers’ jobs a bit easier and help students learn at their own pace could have a huge impact.
It’s another in a long line of innovations where technology has allowed people all over the world to basically share resources for the good of all. And if it works as Ferreiro hopes, it could be a game changer. He said:
“A good tutor can crack jokes and make you want to learn, but this robot tutor can essentially read your mind.”
I am all for individualized education. Working for an educational institution, it is always more comfortable to generalize education. But it discards the fact that every person is different and needs a different approach.
That’s very true. Generalized learning is certainly easier to create, but makes it more difficult for different people to learn. Hopefully tools like this one can make the whole process a little easier.