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Arizona schools using artificial intelligence software to track student progress, emotions

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Posted at 10:40 AM, Mar 08, 2021

Imagine being able to predict how your child will do in school, say, in the next week, month, or even three months down the road. Also, imagine knowing how your child is feeling every day by clicking on their school dashboard.

What may sound futuristic is already happening in one Valley school district. The Isaac Elementary school district is the first in the state to start utilizing new software called Gnosis IQ.

Developer Ben Smith called it a one-stop-shop for educators and parents and an ability to look at a child's progress holistically.

Smith said the last thing he wanted to do was create more work for teachers, so when developing the technology, he relied upon the information that teachers are already inputting into the system. Gnosis IQ takes it a step further by using all of the individual data tracking everything from a student's attendance, to class participation, to grades to come up with a special score indicating where they stood as a whole.

For Robert Miller, the principal at Alta E. Butler Elementary School, the tool was a good indicator showcasing how students in each grade were performing, as well as looking at a key feature that has impacted many students during the pandemic, called learning loss -- the child's inability to retain or learn information. The software gives educators a good idea of how much learning loss has taken place in a district.

The Isaac Elementary School District is getting ready to launch the mental well-being aspect of this technology, which will prompt students to "check in" their mood as soon as they sign on to their classroom.

Smith said he realized it was hard for young children to verbalize how they felt, and the likelihood of them getting up and going to a teacher or principal to discuss their emotions was slim. Now, all they had to do was pick a mood from a series of child-friendly emoticons on their screen. Whether happy, content, depressed, bored, anxious, sad, or confused, students had about 12 different moods to pick from.

"I get immediately notified as a teacher that one of my students is in distress," said Smith.

Principal Miller agreed that this could be a good indicator to help them flag down children who might be struggling, as emotional health ties into how a child performs in school, but Miller stressed what they were truly looking for here was a trend, showing a repeated pattern of sad, stressed, or depressed moods logged in by a child.

"I think people often dismiss, 'hey they're little, they're just kids,' but they have feelings," said Miller, adding that they were still learning how to cope with and manage these emotions at their young age.

With mental health among youth being a hot topic of concern right now, this could allow adults to intervene much faster if a child was silently crying out for help.

"The parents can log in anytime and look at their kids, they'll be able to see a calendar view and how their students responded," said Miller.

The emotional tracking would be optional, and parents could choose to opt out of it. In some rare cases, Miller said school officials could turn off the feature so parents cannot see it if they believed the child's negative feelings were stemming from actions at home. A pattern of negative moods could get a social worker or counselor involved in talking to the child, and if needed, visit with the child's parents.

The academic tracking would not be optional. Miller said they do that at school in a different form now anyway. The benefit for families would be to get real-time information on their child's performance, rather than having to wait nine weeks into the school year for a parent-teacher conference.

Smith is currently in talks with about a dozen school districts interested in looking at the technology. Several teachers and schools nationwide have also individually implemented the technology into their classrooms.

You can learn more about the technology at Gnosis IQ - Home

This story originally reported by Sonu Wasu on