Over the last few years, advancements in AI have reshaped the workings of fields as diverse as healthcare, finance, and customer service. Neural networks—which take in data and learn patterns from it—have simplified and automated tasks which once required huge expenditures of time and energy,
Curiously, to this point, these innovations have largely stopped at the classroom door. The full potential of AI to transform the learning process—to make life easier for students and teachers alike—has yet to be unlocked.
Symphony Classroom with Merlyn—an AI-powered, voice-activated digital assistant—was designed specifically to simplify the modern classroom environment. Its development and production were guided by a deep understanding of a teacher’s workflow—of the challenges inherent to the modern classroom, and of the places where AI can help.
Merlyn and the modern classroom workflow
So let’s talk about that workflow for a moment. As anyone in education knows, the classic image of the classroom—in which a teacher stands at the front of the room for the duration of the class period, lecturing or asking questions—bears little to no relation to contemporary reality. An influx of cutting-edge educational technology has ensured that the modern teacher is in constant motion. They’re setting timers, they’re clicking through slides, they’re switching HDMI inputs. Over and over again throughout the day, they are turning their attention from their students to deal with the technology at hand.
This is the workflow that Merlyn was designed to streamline. Instead of interrupting the flow of the class to pull up this or that video or document, teachers can simply ask Merlyn to pull it up. Accordingly, teachers can stay consistently engaged with their students, which further benefits the workflow—as they no longer have to worry about a technical interruption scattering the classroom’s attention.
Merlyn can do this because it’s been specifically trained to understand the classroom environment. Merlyn knows the key phrases used in a classroom context and how to separate these from general class noise. Essentially, it’s taking all the radical developments in the world of voice-enabled AI over the last few years and applying them to the classroom. Merlyn is leveraging and re-contextualizing advances in the consumer space, bringing the best of modern AI tech to the learning experience.
Merlyn and classroom privacy
Of course, when we say that the needs of the modern classroom guided every step of Merlyn’s development, we’re talking about security and privacy too.
Security and privacy weren’t secondary to Merlyn’s product engineering concerns—in fact, they were entirely bound up with them. The goal was to enrich the modern classroom with all the benefits of voice-powered deep learning technology, while ensuring that student and teacher data was thoroughly safeguarded at every step of the process.
That’s why—unlike most voice-enabled AI technology—Merlyn does not retain voice audio after processing: the voice audio is converted into text transcripts, which are used exclusively to execute commands and to provide technical support if needed. And even the retention of those text transcripts is limited: It is Merlyn’s policy to delete text transcripts within six months of creation (or within 90 days of termination of our customer contract).
Meanwhile, Merlyn doesn’t use voice audio to identify individuals—it doesn’t need to know who is giving a command—and, perhaps most importantly: it does not sell personal information. That information exists in a closed loop: the only function it serves, for Merlyn, is the improvement and support of its services. Merlyn’s only goal is to improve the classroom experience.
At this moment, AI is transforming every aspect of our lives. And yet the classroom has largely been left out of that equation. Merlyn changes all that. Without sacrificing student or teacher security, it unlocks the potential that educational technology has always held for the classroom—and gives teachers the freedom they need to really teach.