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Artificial Intelligence: The Next Lesson Plan Revolution?
posted by: Melissa | September 14, 2017, 06:15 PM   

I always relied heavily on online lesson plan banks when I was still in the classroom. I was among the first generation of teachers that was comfortable online, and looking up ideas and inspiration online only seemed natural. Plus, since I worked at a small school, I had five preps each day meaning I had less than 10 minutes planning for each 45 minutes of content with some subjects out of my area of expertise. Turning as much planning over to someone else was a necessity just to keep my head above water.


I loved these lesson plan banks, but I also hated using them. For every pedagogically sound, engaging lesson I found, there were 20 that seemed to be written by someone who had never stepped foot in a classroom. I found numerous lessons that thought teaching was just a matter of having students read something and then asking them questions. Searching was horrible. Sure, I could search for “Revolutionary War lessons,” but what came up may or may not actually match what I wanted to teach, and it may or may not connect with the level of my students. Plus, there was the sheer number of lesson banks to search. I had about 5-10 sites that I’d regularly visit looking for lessons, with results of dubious quality.


All of this is why the latest entry into the online lesson plan bank is actually interesting. Teacher Advisor isn’t just an online lesson repository. It uses IBM’s artificial intelligence computer, Watson, to help teachers connect with lessons, strategies, and techniques that are high quality, pedagogically sound, and personalized to the needs of the students in your class.


Yes, it’s that Watson. Most people are most familiar with Watson from its early days playing Jeopardy. What makes Watson different from most computers is that instead of working off of a program, Watson will teach itself how to adapt to the needs of its users, and in that way mimics the way that people think. It also moves beyond keyword searches to interpret the context of words in a way that has been previously impossible. It uses this ability to ingest and interpret the research in a field.


This brings up images of a day in the future where a teacher can open up his or her computer, enter in a desired standard and have a personalized list of strategies and lessons there for the teacher’s choosing, all of which are research based and personalized to the needs in that classroom. There may be a long time to go before this is reality, however. Recent forays by Watson into TV editing and health care have been promising, but still show plenty of room for improvement.


Currently, Teacher Advisor has launched nationwide with lesson plans and support for elementary math. It plans to add more grade levels and subjects as the technology continues to improve.


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