AFT and IBM launch new tool for teachers

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Teachers will have access to Teacher Advisor with Watson, a first-of-its-kind, innovative professional development tool using IBM's Watson cognitive technology to help strengthen instructional skills and customize lessons, the AFT announced Sept. 28.

"This is the latest project in the AFT's long-term commitment to find innovative ways to provide professional development for teachers," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. Hundreds of third-grade teachers are piloting the tool now, and the plan is to broaden the content and add curriculum and other grade levels over time.

In this first phase, Teacher Advisor with Watson was trained by third-grade math teachers and designed to strengthen instructional skills, deepen teachers' knowledge of third-grade math concepts, and provide access to high-quality vetted math lessons and teaching strategies. It provides the unique ability to tailor lessons to meet individual classroom needs.

Weingarten says Teacher Advisor with Watson builds on the AFT's efforts to provide educators with user-friendly tools to improve teaching and learning, including the union's Share My Lesson, a free digital platform that nearly 1 million educators use to share and download hundreds of thousands of free lesson plans and other materials.

"Teacher Advisor provides educators with relevant, quality, authentic resources created by teachers themselves and other curricula experts. It fills a void that the education industry has left—a dearth of quality resources and assistance on which teachers can rely, rather than doing everything themselves," Weingarten says. "And it's great that the IBM Foundation is giving Watson, developed for medical diagnoses and other purposes, to teachers for free. That's really cool." She notes this is an important and unique partnership between a union and a major corporation.

Teachers can type in a particular topic or question and get personalized, nonjudgmental assistance and recommendations from Watson while planning a lesson, understanding a concept in depth and targeting successful teaching strategies. And Watson can ask the teacher additional questions to refine its response. The tool also has high-quality videos on teaching techniques.

[AFT press release]