Q&A with Itai Leibowitz

Q&A with Itai Leibowitz

Q&A with Itai Leibowitz

Itai Leibowitz is a product manager on the Messenger Platform team. Before joining Facebook, Itai was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, and founded a couple of startups in finance and travel. A graduate of the Talpiot program, Itai spent nine years in the Israel Defense Forces working as an engineer and product manager.


Are chatbots a good tool for educational purposes (school, college, university, self-learning, home schooling, etc.)?

Absolutely. Bots are a great way to augment traditional classroom learning, and advance self education. Bots can be used to gamify the learning experience, and are also a great delivery mechanism for small, bite-sized content like learning a new word or a fact a day. Bots can also be used to organize study sessions or connect students with teachers and subject matter experts. Teachers can use bots as a way to keep in touch with their students and set homework reminders, and in turn, students can use it as a way to keep in touch with their teachers and ask questions.


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What are the pros and cons of using chatbots for education?

Bots help people learn by making the experience conversational, fun and engaging. With people spending more and more of their time using only a handful of apps, it makes sense for educators to turn to the platforms where people are already spending their time. And with bots the barrier to adoption is much lower; instead of forcing people to download a new app, they can just begin chatting with your bot on an app they most likely already have on their phone. Furthermore, people are already messaging with their friends, family and increasingly businesses, so you are also tapping into a deeply ingrained behavior. However, as is often the case with ed-tech, there are limitations to what we can learn without the help and nuance of a human instructor. This is why we recommend that educators use Messenger to augment human interactions, be it via Messenger or through in-person study sessions.


What are some interesting, innovative, and creative ways in which companies and organizations have used chatbots for education and educational experiences? How do they utilize the bots’ capabilities?

There are many educators already using Messenger to connect with students across age groups around the world. Christopher Bot helps students do their homework. Set up your schedule once and Christopher Bot takes care of the rest, prompting you for any assigned homework at the end of each class.

LangBot is a gamified language learning service, where students earn points, badges, level up and compete to get on the leaderboard by learning. Subscribe to daily reminders, review words using a spaced repetition algorithm, translate sentences, and chat with a bot to practice any language. While LangBot currently teaches French, the chat extension can translate to and from 15 languages.

Wordsworth is another great example; the bot will send you one vocabulary word a day, which can be delivered whenever it is most convenient for you. The bot provides a definition, synonyms and use in a sentence. You can also go back at any time and take a quiz on the words you have learned.


Will bots eventually replace human teachers in key elements of the educational system? Or will they cooperate, and how?

I think bots have the ability to complement human teachers, and this is something we will continue to see become more prevalent as the adoption and sophistication of bots increases over time. Teachers are already using technology to augment the classroom, whether through games, video tutorials or even having children submit their homework through digital hubs, and we see bots as another powerful addition to the ed-tech stack.

A great example of the hybrid human/bot approach is MathHook. Using MathHook people can find solutions to single and sophisticated math problems and search for math courses from kindergarten to college levels via a database of 3000+ YouTube videos such as numberphile and Khan Academy, etc. MathHook also creates a community for teachers and students to chat 1:1 or in a group, and people can send images and videos of math problems to solve.


Are bots changing, or going to change, the way we learn?

It’s still early days, but bots are definitely having an impact on the way we learn. Messaging is on the rise. A recent Facebook commissioned study showed that 80 percent of adults and 91 percent of teens across the globe message every day, and messaging is now the most frequently used form of communication across regions. Educators that are able to tap into that common behavior and use it to distribute relevant and compelling information via the apps where people are already spending a lot of their time, will have a clear competitive advantage in the long run.


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