Using technology to tailor lessons to each student – The Denver Post


Using technology to tailor lessons to each student – The Denver Post

By Janet Morrissey, The New York Times Co.

When 12-year-old Nina Mones was in sixth grade last year, she struggled to keep up with her math class, getting stuck on improper fractions. And as the teacher pushed ahead with new lessons, she fell further and further behind.

Then in the fall of 2019, her charter school, the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix, brought in a program called Teach to One 360, which uses computer algorithms and machine learning to offer daily math instruction tailored to each student. Nina, now in seventh grade, flourished.

“I’m in between seventh- and eighth-grade math now,” she said, proudly. “It gave me more confidence in myself.” And when the coronavirus shutdown occurred, she said, her studies continued uninterrupted, thanks to the program’s online portal.

“This is a model for personalized learning,” said Sheldon H. Jacobson, professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a risk assessment public policy consultant.

The move toward a tech-driven, personalized learning system, like Teach to One 360 from a nonprofit called New Classrooms, is long overdue, experts say. Other industries, such as health care and entertainment, have been shifting in this direction for years. Personalized medicine, for example, looks at DNA biomarkers and personal characteristics to map out a patient’s most effective treatment, Jacobson said.

And experts say the COVID-19 pandemic might be the spark that finally drives schools out of their comfort zones and into the world of innovation and personalized learning programs.

A number of firms, like New Classrooms, Eureka Math, iReady and Illustrative Mathematics, have been working aggressively to bring personalized learning to the forefront.

Joel Rose, a former teacher, and Chris Rush, a technology and design expert, are the brains behind Teach to One 360, which is based in New York. When Rose first started teaching fifth grade in Houston in the 1990s, he was stunned by the number of students whose math skills were two or even three grade levels behind. “Some students were as low as the second grade, and other students as high as the eighth grade, and others in between,” he said.

This one-size-fits-all system is broken, he said, adding, “It is wildly outdated.”

So, in 2009, while working for the New York City schools chancellor, Rose partnered with Rush to create School of One (later renamed Teach to One 360), a technology driven math program for students in grades five through 12.


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