This Startup is Using AI to Transform How Kids Learn

Alef Education is building engaged learning experiences for the 21st century

Mar 27, 2019

This classroom has no whiteboards, no textbooks, and no pens or pencils. Instead of these conventional educational tools, happy and fully engaged students are using computers to learn at their own pace with a personalized education system.

This is the new reality for school classrooms in which a new startup is using artificial intelligence to create a unique learning experience for students.

Alef Education, an educational technology company, based in the United Arab Emirates, was founded in 2015 with the vision to transform schools with technology-enabled learning experiences that will engage and empower students and prepare them for the 21st-century workforce.

The company launched its futuristic micro-school with a custom-made learning platform and successfully introduced it to a 1,000-student private school in Abu Dhabi in 2017. By the following year, the system was in use in 10 public and two private schools in the UAE, as well as two private schools in New York. Now, in 2019, it is already being used by 57 public schools in the Emirates.

"This program will be the future of education, and we are lucky to start the future at Al Asayel School," the school's principal Aishah Alyammahi said on the startup's website.

The education platform focuses on the core subjects of math, science, and English. It uses AI to tailor the curriculum for each student's individual needs. There are hands-on experiments that allow students to test what they have learned. If needed, a concept can be repeated in a more personalized way so that the student can grasp it. Screen time is limited to three-and-a-half hours daily.

"We capture millions of data points on a daily basis, a human could not process that many data points," Alef Education CEO Geoffrey Alphonso told CNN. "What we do with that data is we look at machine-learning algorithms that can actually identify struggling concepts, mastery of different lessons," he said.

The individualized curriculum helps teachers by giving them real-time immediate student feedback; no waiting for exams to see what the student has learned. All the lessons are built into the curriculum, so teachers no longer have to lesson plan or grade exams. This gives teachers more time to actually teach and do practical learning sessions where the students interact and do hands-on work.

Parents also get notified immediately about their child's progress in school and if there are any learning gaps that need extra attention. There is no need to wait for report cards or parent-teacher meetings.

Learning this way can also provide data on what education or career choice would be right for each child. "If a student is doing really well at science, why not pique their interest in what it's like to be a scientist or an astronaut," Alphonso told CNN. "That's our future aspiration, to use really all of that data and AI to create the individual learning path."

Alef Education plans to expand into more countries and will adapt the program for each market. The content goes through several reviews to ensure it meets the highest standards for cultural sensitivity, content accuracy, and appropriate language usage. The startup's content writers have over 100 years of combined global teaching experience. They also train teachers on how to use the new technology in their classrooms.

According to Alphonso, the company hopes to bring its education platform to 300 more schools this year. That's a lofty ambition, but the startup has already shown tremendous growth in the last three years.

The Alef model appears to be working, and students who are engaged learn better than with traditional methods of education. This may be the best method for technology savvy 21st-century kids.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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