Foundations in Educational Companionship

Beau Johnson
Oct 28, 2020 · 5 min read

Maslo AI in Schools

Maslo, the empathetic AI companion, learns by interaction with its partner — the student. The more interaction, the more personalized the experience for the user. This synthesis is the result of a structured scaffolded program that Maslo uses to build rapport with the student — gradually creating an on-going symbiosis of learning. Maslo takes in more information than just what is exchanged via the “discussion” or “journaling” process. In an educational environment, Maslo aggregates data from multiple streams of input and uses it to create not only a deeper understanding of the student but also a more holistic approach to becoming a genuine learning companion.

What follows is an example of how Maslo could be used in a classroom situation to foster a student’s individual socio-emotional awareness as well develop their social empathy, and parallel executive and academic skills. As the student matures, so too does their relationship with the AI Maslo companion, creating a consistent cycle of cooperative growth.

Table 1: The Student/Maslo Interaction Map

A Learning Companion

Maslo compiles information directly from the student but also the learning platform used by the student in school or any other educational interface. The deepening relationship between Maslo and the student-built by conversation and reactions to Maslo’s ever more personalized prompts are supplemented by a variety of factors such as work completion, assignment completion, due dates, assessments/grades. This growing relationship fosters three key areas of student development some of which are not addressed in most classrooms due to the one-on-one guidance that is often needed to foster individual growth:

  • Executive Functioning
  • Soft Skills
  • Academic Skills

Maslo can coordinate and create skill or need-based interventions to help the student with more abstract learning skills but also promote self-awareness and mindfulness due to its focused attention on a single student.

While the multiple streams of input and developmental skills that Maslo can nurture are detailed in Table 1: The Student/Maslo Interaction Map, it is vital to note the specific limitations that must be in place for Maslo to genuinely “assist” its co-learner in their development:

Maslo cannot be overtly autonomous. If Maslo can harness and interpret the amount of data and then create environments for the student, then the student loses agency and Maslo becomes not an companion on a journey but a third-party curator. Maslo must use the information and understanding of its partner to create opportunities to prompt the student user towards self-initiation.

For example — if, in a traditional classroom, Maslo would be able to access and use data from Google Classroom, Google Calendar, the grade reporting software used by the teacher/school, and- in this instance — Quizlet, an online tool where students can create and share multimedia academic content quizzes.

During a Monday homeroom period or guided reflection, Maslo could indicate that the calendar shows a test in Social Studies on Friday, and could direct the student (“Jerry”) towards multiple options to prepare.

Maslo would also be able to be programmed for students with learning needs. Students with ADHD or an Executive Function disorder would be able to give routine reminders and provide routine guidance for long term projects or preparation needs. The level of intervention (or even autonomy) that each student’s companion has can be adjusted based on the needs of the student from outside assessment or via Maslo’s own scaffolding abilities.

Table 2: Data Collection & Sharing

The success of Maslo as a digital entity relies on the data it collects, but education is a social phenomenon and there needs to be appropriate human interaction should the need arise. To create more productive learning communities, Maslo should be able to share information with the teacher and school. While the personal information students share with their Maslo is private, Maslo can provide keywords, subjects, or generalized statistics to the teacher, and school. In fact, teachers could push specific general questions, or polls to the students via Maslo. The goal is to keep teachers engaged with the ebb and flow of the class more effectively via their own Maslo. However, should certain phrases or behaviors be captured by Maslo, the Teacher, Parent, or School could be alerted especially in terms of mental health issues.

An Educator’s Companion

Maslo’s interactivity can be beneficial for teachers as well. The same concepts about familiarity and creating a bond with students is the same for how Maslo can become a personalized tool for teachers. Not only can Maslo be mapped to integrate with all of the software a teacher uses, but it can also serve as a tool for self-care, self-awareness, and behavioral health issues. Maslo is a classroom tool as well as a means for teachers and schools to prevent complacency, lack of support, or burn-out.

As previously noted, teachers could pull trends, and aggregate classroom data to more specifically target competency issues, confirm progression, or note class issues. Just as students are interacting and sharing data with Maslo, so too will teachers. School administrators will be able to map and identify anonymous trends and possible general issues with their teaching community. This could inform the direction of professional development but also allow teachers to target issues within Professional Learning Communities or various teacher cohort groups.

Maslo would also promote self-awareness and wellness providing immediate resources should the need arise. Schools, or even teachers themselves, could choose to connect their Maslo Companion to a behavioral health specialist who could be contacted with a prompt from Maslo or in emergency situations should the need arise.

Table 3: Teacher/Maslo Interaction Map

The future of technology is not standardized. The last two decades of technological growth and academic research have proven that the way we have continued to institutionalize education no longer is necessary nor successful. Maslo represents a step towards genuine personalization. A companion AI would allow a student to succeed academically but more importantly to be more self-aware and empathetic to the world around them.

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