Levi Belnap wants to make this clear from the beginning—artificial intelligence will never replace human teachers, at least not in our lifetime. What he and his colleagues at Merlyn Mind believe is that AI can enhance teachers’ work. On this episode of EdTech Today, Levi introduces us to his nascent company’s offering and provides some insights on how they believe the classroom experience can be better for all involved.
The company launched out of stealth mode last month to unveil the first digital assistant built specifically for education that empowers teachers to more naturally use the technology in their classrooms and simplify their work. The company also announces it has closed $29 million in funding to date, led by Learn Capital.
The Merlyn Mind team spent the last three and a half years working in tandem with educators to create Merlyn, the first digital assistant built specifically for education. In 2021 alone, Merlyn Mind has piloted Merlyn in over 50 classrooms across more than 20 different schools as the company accelerates the release of Merlyn to help educators take back their classrooms from the complexities of technology. Merlyn gives teachers more natural command of the devices and digital services in their classrooms and untethers them from the front of the room. Responding to both voice and remote control, Merlyn empowers teachers with choices that simplify how they use classroom technology.
“We’ve been investing in education technology companies for more than a decade at Learn Capital, and Merlyn Mind has brought together what is quite simply the dream team,” said Rob Hutter, Founder & Managing Partner at Learn Capital and board member of Merlyn Mind. “Incredible professionals from IBM Watson Labs, HP Education, Amazon Alexa, Google, Facebook, Broadcom, and Roku have come together to work on a unified product experience for an extremely urgent mission–that of reclaiming the classroom for teaching from the complexity of technology itself.”
“I’ve worked closely with the Merlyn Mind team to understand what educators really need from their technology, and what we know is teachers don’t just need more technology, they need the right technology,” said Emily Schindler, Associate Director at Creativity Labs, University of California-Irvine. “Merlyn Mind wants to give teachers what they need most, more time and freedom to think about student learning and the ability to better leverage their greatest asset, themselves.”
Before COVID-19, teachers already spent half of their time focused on administrative tasks (McKinsey & Co., 2020), managing more than 900 different applications in the classroom according to LearnPlatform. After COVID-19, teachers’ jobs have become even more difficult, with more than 97% of K-12 educators reporting learning loss in students over the past year when compared with children in previous years, according to Horace Mann Educators Corporation. Merlyn helps teachers manage the complexity of teaching with technology in the classroom and frees teachers to focus more of their time on the individual needs of their students.
The Merlyn assistant is accessed through Symphony Classroom, an AI hub custom-built for the unique needs of education. With Symphony Classroom, teachers can control classroom devices like the front-of-room displays, teacher laptops, the internet browser, and the applications teachers use daily. Merlyn integrates with the apps and devices teachers already use and love, including Google Slides, Google Drive, Classcraft, Nearpod, Newsela, and more to meet teachers where they already are.