It’s a brisk and bright November morning in New England, and my students enter class, smiling and ready to learn. With their Chromebooks, they are ready to take off for the asteroid belt, for today we are piloting next generation cognitive AI recently developed by DMAI.
“Today we are meeting MAIA,” I tell them. There’s a buzz in the class. These ever-curious young people are always open to intellectual challenges. They are budding mathematicians and scientists, poets and writers, and love of learning drives all they do. And they were ready to meet MAIA and to learn from her.
“Our goal today is to help all students gain a high-quality education. And you are some of the first students, anywhere, to try this pilot.”
There’s a heightened energy in the room, and my students are excited. Learning is always an adventure, and they are looking forward to this new journey.
“You mean we can actually help you?” several of them ask, smiling, eyes bright.
“Absolutely,” I say.
Each student receives a code, and the pilot is under full sail. On Saturday, November 9, 2019 in suburban Connecticut, MAIA met twenty scholars who were up to the challenge of putting MAIA through her paces. In all, these scholars noted that MAIA “has good knowledge.” They had little doubt about the quality of the instruction. My scholars found the math and science curriculum engaging, and like all good students, they sought all the limits. As Tom Wolfe wrote of test pilots, “his instructor halfway expected him to challenge all the limits,” so proved to be the case with my scholars. They wanted to know what MAIA could do, as well as what she could not, and in the process we gained a bit of insight about the intersections of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. Each seeks to learn from the other. Ultimately, my students began to gain a better understanding of themselves as individual learners and members of a broader learning community.
The students were interested in testing the range of MAIA’s responses, which serve as a good reminder for all good learning partnerships. While all students value teachers who are expert, what matters most is connection. They were intrigued that MAIA wanted to learn about them, and in the process, they wanted to learn about MAIA, apart from the curriculum.
A significant portion of my class wanted to customize MAIA. “You should be able to change how Maia looks,” one student noted. “If you want Maia to look like you, she can look like you.” This comment was met with great approval for her peers. And in all of our conversations and reflections, MAIA was referred to as “her.”
Another curious incident occurred. As students worked with MAIA, they were quick in offering feedback, and they were collaborative, becoming teachers in their own right and transforming our classroom into an idea lab. Many of the questions that questions my students raised started with two of the most powerful words in innovation: “What if…”.
In all, this pilot with twenty talented scholars shows us a strong upside for MAIA (My AI Assistant). Students were engaged, and they wanted to learn more. They were drawn to academic rigor and the opportunity to learn more about themselves. As we continue to create curriculum, we see MAIA as an integral companion in a child’s learning. Through cognitive AI and personalized learning platforms, we are dedicated to empowering learners and future leaders.
Dr. Delano Copprue