This interview is part of our new AI in Education series, where we interview the world's top thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between AI and education.
In this interview, we speak with Eleni Miltsakaki, CEO and CTO of Choosito, to understand how her company is using AI to transform education, and what the future of the education industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Choosito? Why and how did you begin?
EM: As a machine learning and natural language processing scientist specializing in linguistics, text analysis, and readability, I understand how AI works. I also understand how people learn. When I taught educational technology at the University of Pennsylvania, I became both very excited with the promise of the web as a potential game-changing free resource for education and very disappointed with the frustration of teachers and learners trying to figure out what would be useful content and appropriate for the reading level of their students.
So, I committed to solving the problem of finding the right content at the right time for each student. By solving this problem, AI can bring what would otherwise be very expensive personalized learning opportunities to every learner in the world.
We were fortunate enough to start Choosito with the support of a $1 million small business innovation award from the National Science Foundation.
2. Please describe your use case and how Choosito uses artificial intelligence.
EM: Choosito uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze the reading level and theme of digitized text and other content freely available on the web in real time. Coupled with a solid search engine infrastructure and building on the insight that an individual’s level of reading fluency for material about a given topic depends, in part, of interest in the topic, our technology presents students with resources that have been filtered according to the to their reading fluency for that particular type of content. We launched a demo program supported by this technology, Choosito! search and learn, with over 100,000 users who can do real-time searches filtered by reading level and theme.
The AI, then, starts building individual learner models of basic reading fluency and fluency for a given topic and gradually develops a deeper understanding of the user’s mastery of a topic so that it can make personalized recommendations enabling the learner to build their own learning paths. Our technology analyzes and learns from unstructured data, text or video, and, critically — it does not rely on pre-leveled materials and tests to find the right materials for each learner.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
EM: In October 2018, we announced our partnership with Carnegie Learning. Via an API integration with EMC’s Passport platform, Choosito will reach thousands of teachers and students to help them curate the web. We help teachers personalize learning for their students and students can also make their own searches and engage with content that’s interesting and that they can understand. Did you know that intelligence comes from the Latin word “intelligere” which means ‘to understand”, “to comprehend”? You can only learn from what you can understand.
Building on Choosito’s core AI technology, this summer we have launched a second tool, a Virtual Librarian, sponsored by CapitalOne. Choosito’s Virtual Librarian is a tool designed for the 100 million children in the world that lack functional literacy. They can visit an online Children’s Library featuring a Virtual Librarian that speaks their language, knows their interests, their strengths, and their weaknesses, and is always there for them. And just like Children's librarians in well-funded schools in developed countries, the Virtual Librarian, knowing the child’s interests and experiences, will help select text and video content appropriate for that particular learner. We are, currently, testing the Virtual Librarian in pilots with refugee children around the world.