Lima schools considers AI program

By Bryan Reynolds -

LIMA — Representatives of a partnership between IBM and Office Depot gave a presentation on Watson Classroom to the Lima school board Thursday at South Science Technology Magnet.

Watson Classroom is an artificially intelligent augmented learning program, said Penny Reinart and Bryan Bown from Office Depot. The program would take the data and information input by teachers — grades, observations about each child’s performance, personal data — and it would learn from it, he said.

“Watson will work with the teachers,” Bown said. “I don’t want you to think when we’ll get in the room, Watson will say, ‘okay, based upon your data this student has to do this.’ It’s a recommendation. Teachers are in control of their classroom. Teachers make decision based upon their kids because they know them best.”

If a recommendation Watson makes isn’t right for the teacher and something else is chosen, it learns for those choices, Bown said.

“Watson will continue to learn,” Bown said. “In three years it will be smarter then year one. It will continue to grow and learn with us.”

Watson Classroom approaches each student as an individual, making specialized recommendations for their education when it has enough data, Reinart said.

The program not only learns on its own but can also understand puns, she said. They have a tutor program in a few universities that can recognize emotions but reading changes in voice tone, Reinart said.

Bown and Reinart said there are safety measures in place to protect against invasion of privacy. The information on students would only be accessible by authorized individuals, Bown said. There will be multiple layers of firewalls and programs to prevent hacking, Reinart said.

“The augmented intelligence, the artificial intelligence is not the next big thing,” Reinart said. “It is the big thing.”

“Can it do exactly what they’re saying? Yes,” Pete Badertscher, director of technology for Lima schools, said. “Given data that is clean and makes sense, their product is good. What we’re going to put into it is kind of the gray area. We’ll get with them and figure out a plan for all that.”

If the Lima school board decided to implement Watson Classroom and partner with IBM and Office Depot, they will be the first school district to do so in Ohio, Bown and Reinart said.

By Bryan Reynolds

Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362

Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362

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