Educators stay ahead of the class with online tool

Educators stay ahead of the class with online tool

IBM’s Teacher Advisor helps a special education teacher make the leap to teaching 4th and 5th graders

Boston, MA

What we did

After teaching kindergartners with learning disabilities for four years, I’m now educating fourth and fifth graders from diverse backgrounds and with a range of learning styles.

This is the kind of challenge I live for. But it’s also pushing me to get up to speed quickly on grade-level subjects I’ll be teaching for the first time — especially elementary math.

Having to transition from teaching basic numbers to helping students understand things such as fractions can be difficult and overwhelming. Fortunately, a new free tool by the IBM Foundation called Teacher Advisor With Watson has helped me make this adjustment. It’s simple, easy to use and saves me a ton of time.

I first used the tool to understand fourth and fifth grade math standards. When students enter a grade level, some might be ahead, some might be behind, and some might be right in the middle. That’s the trickiest part of teaching — understanding where kids are coming from and helping them move forward.

Teacher Advisor generates plentiful activities, lessons and strategies to fit a range of student abilities and learning styles. I can type in what I’m looking for and it instantly brings up resources. And the quality of the content is strong. Typically, it takes a lot of research to make sure your lessons work for all students, but Teacher Advisor generates instruction guidelines and shows lots of activities and videos to make the lessons more interactive.

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a teacher is to adapt lessons to the students. The part that I like most about this online platform is that I can break apart the standard, the content or the lesson to make sure I’m serving the needs of each and every child in my classroom. I can find fun, engaging methods to help students who may initially have trouble comprehending a lesson. I can also search by concept and easily move across grade levels, making the tool useful for new and veteran teachers.

Before Teacher Advisor, I spent so much of my nights and weekends searching online for lesson plans, or checking sources across various websites. Now I just go to Teacher Advisor, type in the math concept I’m looking for, and I have complete, credible resources at my fingertips.

Now that I’m using this tool, I can’t imagine going back to teaching without it. It has streamlined a process for me that used to take hours down to minutes.

Teacher Advisor with Watson has made my transition to fourth and fifth grade enjoyable instead of intimidating. This school year, I am so excited to teach my students and learn alongside them.

Ulana Ainsworth is a special education teacher at Curtis Guild Elementary School in Boston, MA.