President Barack Obama has named a computer scientist at UMass-Amherst a Presidential Innovation Fellow for her pioneering work designing intuitive tutoring software for students. The Presidential Innovation Fellow program was launched last year to recognize innovators in the private and non-profits sectors and IN academia. According to the White House website, the Fellows are developing projects with the potential to “save lives, save taxpayer money and fuel American job growth”. UMass Research Professor Beverly Park Woolf is being recognized for her advocacy in using technology in education. She, along with fellow UMass researcher Ivon Arroyo, helped create Wayang Outpost, a free, computer-based tutoring system that identifies and responds to a student’s emotions and pace to improve their learning. Woolf says she will spend the next year in Washington D-C working with top government innovators on ways to implement programs like hers in schools across Massachusetts and the nation which by and large, she adds, are currently failing their students.
“There are hundreds of projects similar to the Wayang Outpost. And the issue is how to bring all these systems or make them available in some repository in some way, or get them published by entrepreneurs and businesspeople, because these materials are not reaching the classroom. They are developed, they are evaluated, the results look really good, people can improve a whole letter grade. And then they lay fallow.”
Woolf is one of 43 Presidential Innovation Fellows who were named this year at a White House ceremony last week.