IBM’s Watson folds for Lima schools

Officials vetting other AI programs

By Sam Shriver -

LIMA — The Watson Classroom idea of using artificial intelligence to track students progress throughout a school year, giving teachers another tool to help students succeed, had promise.

But teachers at Lima schools found out this week that the much-touted A.I. program was being discontinued.

“IBM has made a decision to pull the Watson element classroom program off of their shelf,” said Jill Ackerman, Lima schools superintendent.

That leaves the district scrambling for an alternative.

“So what we have done is we’ve spent a significant amount of time looking, there’s a lot of programs out there now that, but we’ve got to find that right one that does everything that we knew that the Watson program would do,” she said.

The district has already ruled out two possible replacements.

“We’ve looked at two online programs that were not satisfactory for us and so we’ve got a third one on deck to look at but we’re going to continue to find something that’s going be compatible to the Watson element,” said Ackerman.

Dropping the Watson program came down to money.

“If they don’t see themselves profiting heavily from it, I guess they don’t feel it’s worth their time. Part of the problem becomes when third-party vendors hold your data. There’s a big struggle with them being able to get access to that data. We worked really hard with a lot of our third-party vendors to get those agreements but I feel like it wasn’t probably lucrative enough for them to go to the trouble to get the third-party data so they made a decision this summer to stop the Watson classroom program across the country,” she said.

Ackerman says they are disappointed Watson didn’t work out.

“We spent almost two years working on that project, but the good thing out of all of it is we now know what we want and what we want to see and we spent last year building our own spreadsheets. We have building spreadsheets with every individual child and every benchmark, score attendance — every child has a profile built, so we can quickly look and see if an individual child is making growth or not making growth throughout the year and then have those conversations. There was a lot of good that came out of that project,” she said.

Ackerman noted that any money that was put into the program, except for training, was reimbursed by IBM.
Officials vetting other AI programs

By Sam Shriver

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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