How an award-winning AI-powered software is helping students with remote learning

Amira has received four new awards for effectiveness and innovation with helping students become better readers from afar.

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Amira software in action

Image: Amira

Amira, the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software remotely helping students become more proficient readers, has received four new awards for effectiveness and innovation, according to a press release on Wednesday. 

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Amira is a Codie nominee for the Best Use of Emerging Technology for Learning in Education, the winner of the Best Online tutor in the 2020 Edtech Breakthrough Awards, recipient of the 2020 Award of Excellence from Tech & Learning, and a 2020 Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Finalist. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced many schools to close their doors, resulting in students and teachers transitioning to online learning using video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and WebEx. 

However, this remote mode of learning hasn't proven to be very effective, as many students fail to log in to classes or complete assignments.The number of students logging into classes has  declined by 43% since the start of this switch, and the amount of students completing at least one virtual lesson has dropped by 44%, an Achieve3000 report found.

The transition to e-learning has been particularly difficult to struggling readers, who need more time and individual assistance with lessons, the report found. 

However, AI-powered tools like Amira might be able to help. 

What is Amira? 

Using the Amira software, students read appropriately challenging stories aloud and are given interactive tutoring as they stumble or mispronounce words, according to the release. 

"Amira is the first intelligent reading assistant. Designed from decades of research on the science of reading (University of Texas) and artificial intelligence in support of reading development (Carnegie Mellon University), Amira listens, delivers in-the-moment error-specific feedback, and reports progress for every reading session," said Sara Erickson, vice president of customer success at Amira.

"Amira gives teachers valuable time back for instruction, intervention, and connection," Erickson said. "Amira is changing how teachers focus their reading instruction with the help of machine learning to accelerate student reading growth."

As the student reads, Amira uses AI to decipher what obstacles the young reader is facing, delivering micro-interventions that help to bridge the reading skills gaps. The software helps assess reading fluency, pinpoint errors, and help improve those weaknesses. 

Amira can help struggling learners both in and out of the classroom, but can prove especially useful during this time of remote learning. 

"Even though the pandemic has created a reality where teachers have limited interaction with their students, with Amira, teachers and school leaders receive data in reports to help them hone in on what students need next," Erickson said. 

"For example, Amira will be able to notice patterns in a student's articulation of a particular sound, and flag those sounds for the teacher to focus on in small-group instruction," Erickson noted. "Amira multiplies the teacher's power, an essential capability in a time of distance learning."

While Amira is especially helpful during the pandemic, its capabilities will also prove useful after the COVID-19 crisis has passed, Erickson said. 

"Amira serves teachers in a post-pandemic world in her ability to both eliminate the time teachers spend manually administering 1:1 reading assessments, and her ability to deliver responsive, personalized guided reading practice to students," Erickson said.

"Teachers will never be replaced by software, but they can be supported by it. Amira frees up a teacher to do what they do best while maximizing students' time actually reading," Erickson added.

Approximately 125 school districts are currently using Amira, with the K-3 student population in those districts totaling more than 600,000, said Mark Angel, CEO of Amira.

For more, check out Eighth grader builds IBM Watson-powered AI chatbot for students making college plans on TechRepublic.  

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