We’ve all heard it from teachers: “There aren’t enough hours in the day…”
Many of us who have been in the classroom can personally attest to the various items competing for a teacher’s time over the course of a given day, week, or month of instruction. Whether it’s figuring out what to teach the next day, refreshing your content knowledge for an upcoming unit you haven’t taught in a year, grading, making parent phone calls, or examining results from a recent mid-unit assessment, there’s no doubt that time is truly of the essence for any educator. And there isn’t enough of it. The majority of elementary teachers have the added challenge of teaching multiple subject areas, meaning more prep time required to plan lessons, and more challenges when trying to master the rigorous content demands of 21st century ELA and math standards across U.S. states.
The implications of all this are huge for the overall stability and success of the teaching profession: According to the National Center for Education Studies, between 20 and 30 percent of new teachers will leave the profession altogether within 5 years. So what can we do to better support educators as they seek to navigate the daily demands of the job, while also trying to improve their instructional practice?
One answer is finding new and cost-effective ways to leverage innovative technology specifically built with the needs of teachers in mind. Here at the IBM Foundation, we recently released Teacher Advisor With Watson, a free, philanthropic tool specially designed to support teachers in finding and implementing high-quality instructional resources for their elementary math classrooms. Built in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an advisory board of national education stakeholders, state commissioners of education, funding partners, and most importantly teachers themselves—Teacher Advisor is currently being used by over 8,000 teachers across all 50 states to help enhance their lesson planning efficiency, and make more informed instructional decisions to reach all students. As we work collaboratively with our non-profit partners and educators daily to improve the tool, our guiding principles are to better support teachers as they try to meet the needs of their students, and to decrease the amount of time it takes teachers to find quality, aligned, and coherent resources.
Early adopters share the takeaway that Teacher Advisor, which uses IBM’s artificial intelligence technology, is helping reduce some of the burden of quickly locating quality resources online. Teachers are able to type in a variety of elementary math concepts, and get targeted standards, lessons, student-facing activities, and strategy recommendations from a vetted repository of OER (Open Educational Resources). This time-saving process can have major implications for elementary teachers by giving them a go-to resource for their supplementary planning needs. Rather than spending time scouring the web, teachers can turn to Teacher Advisor and get directly to the best content aligned to their needs in that moment, whether it be a student-facing activity to help a group of students practice measuring area, or a sample video of a master teacher executing a lesson on decimals. As one Math Curriculum Supervisor in North Carolina said, “Our teachers feel like everything is there for them on Teacher Advisor, and that its really easy to use.”
While Teacher Advisor is admittedly just one tool in a larger suite of solutions that are needed to more effectively support teachers, it is one that is free and readily available for teachers to use anytime, anywhere an internet connection is available. Solutions meant to support teacher professional development at absolutely no cost to districts or teachers need to be scaled if we collectively want to reduce the burdens facing teachers across the U.S. A number of these solutions will be on display at the NCCE conference, and we hope to meet with interested parties at the IBM Foundation exhibitor booth during the week. With more philanthropic partnerships like this one, teachers will feel more supported and more effective at meeting the varied needs of their students, regardless of where they might teach.
Interested in learning more about Teacher Advisor and how it can help teachers in your district? Come to the Teacher Advisor Breakout Session at NCCE 2018 on Friday, February 16th from 11-11:50am in Tahoma 2. And, visit teacheradvisor.org in the meantime to check out what the site has to offer!