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Thursday, August 27, 2015

A personal tutor, available at the click of a mouse

Follow on Twitter as @LyndseyLayton
Lyndsey Layton, Reporter - Washington, D.C. writes, "Knewton, a digital tool that can figure out how you think and learn, now offers free, tailor-made K-12 lessons." 

Photo: Knewton

Imagine if your teacher knew that you learned math best between 8:40 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Or that after 38 minutes of studying history, you lose focus. Or that you learn science best through a mix of video and text.

Knewton, the education technology company, says it has created software to identify such preferences for K-12 subjects, and it made the software available for free to the public Wednesday in an ambitious plan to drive personalized learning to new heights.

The company has spent seven years and more than $100 million developing a sophisticated learning tool that relies on an algorithm that draws on millions of data points to tailor supplemental lessons for any student, in real time, said Knewton chief executive Jose Ferreira. 

“It knows what you know and how you learn it best. It knows what you’re struggling with down to the atomic level,” said Ferreira, who was born in South Africa but grew up in Chevy Chase, Md. He studied philosophy and mathematics at Carleton College before receiving an MBA from Harvard.

The Smartest Tutor - Personalized learning from Knewton

Calling Knewton a “giant robot tutor in the cloud,” Ferreira said the software “plucks the perfect bits of content for you from the cloud and assembles them according to the ideal learning strategy for you.” He envisions it used by students as a supplement to classroom learning.

But some are skeptical that Knewton can deliver on its promises.
“I’m totally supportive of data-mining and personalized instruction, but it seems to me they are making unsubstantiated claims,” said Richard E. Clark, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Southern California and an expert on computers and teaching. “It’s a terrific idea. I think it’s possible, but I don’t think they’re doing it.”

Knewton has an open platform, which means any user will be able to upload lessons, content and tests. Clark said he was concerned that means Knewton has not validated the effectiveness of the lessons. “People get distracted by big data, and they don’t focus on how you go about teaching people,” he said.

About Knewton

No two students come from the same background or learn the same way. With Knewton adaptive learning, every student is supported and challenged.

Anyone can log in to to create free adaptive learning lessons that help students meet learning goals. Learning companies can use Knewton Enterprise to build or enhance powerful adaptive learning products across grade levels and subject areas.

The Team 

Source: Washington Post and Knewton Knerd Channel (YouTube)