Education technology company Knewton has announced a free online tool that offers personalized learning material to K-12 students, parents and teachers. Knewton identifies individual student preferences and capabilities to optimize the learning experience of each student.
The software features an algorithm to offer real-time lesson recommendations for students and allows teachers to submit their own learning material to share with the education community. Knewton Chief Executive Jose Ferreira said about the free tool made available online:
"It knows what you know and how you learn it best. It knows what you're struggling with down to the atomic level." Ferreira added that Knewton "plucks the perfect bits of content for you from the cloud and assembles them according to the ideal learning strategy for you."
For Ferreira, Knewton won't replace classroom learning, but is meant supplement it. Richard E. Clark, an educational psychology professor at the University of Southern California is suspicious of the program's actual personalized teaching capabilities:
"I'm totally supportive of data-mining and personalized instruction, but it seems to me they are making unsubstantiated claims.'' He added: "it's a terrific idea. I think it's possible, but I don't think they're doing it."
Apart from providing its existing content to teachers, parents and students for free, Knewton invites teachers to contribute their own content. Knewton's user-generated content will be assessed by educators and researchers before going live.
Knewton was founded in 2008, and 7 years and $100 million later the company has created what it deems a personalized tutor with free educational content for everyone.
The company licenses its technology to companies such as Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Through Knewton's technology, these ed publishing firms offer learning material to students through quizzes, video lectures and assignments to identify the content that works best for each student.
Knewton is not just for classroom-based learning, Knewton COO David Liu says:
"It really opens up the pool of folks who can learn on their own. It can be used by anyone in the world."
The personal tutor processes every single student input to determine how the student understands new knowledge and even how they process and think about the information presented to them.
Knewton assesses wrong and right answers, time to response and other parameters to offer insights such as what kind of content will be challenging for a student or what materials will help students improve a skill or address a knowledge gap.
Knewton's goal is to address a universal teacher pain point, according to Ferreira:
"You always hear stories of teachers staying up until 2 am either writing their own content or finding it," Ferreira says. "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."
Knewton constantly assesses student skill level to ensure they're learning with tailored, relevant material. The platform features math, history and science lessons, but more content on more topics will be added soon.