Frequently Asked Questions
How did Mia become a secret agent?
Mia escaped from Dr. Boredom’s Total Snooze Testing Center to join the Anti-Boredom Coalition as a secret agent thanks to some amazing books. Check out this video for the full story.
How is Mia Learning different from its competitors?
Many companies recommend and provide children access to books. Our personalized recommendations reflect the most sophisticated expert knowledge about reading growth, as well as the opportunity to own real print books. However, we’re different in a more fundamental way.
Most competing products focus on independent reading as a means to the end of boosting test scores or meeting state standards. In contrast, Mia is firmly focused on what kids themselves want to get out of reading. Mia is successful when children read more and use reading to advance their interests, broaden their horizons, and have a blast. (A happy peripheral benefit: Research shows that’s one of the best ways to improve reading proficiency.)
Using many literacy software products feels like doing yet more homework or looking up call numbers in a library catalog. In contrast, Mia engages kids in enjoyable conversations with a character they love. Using Mia feels altogether different from school, which is key for struggling readers who associate reading instruction with years of boredom and frustration.
Mia is also unique in her dual focus. She not only directly supports choices children make about reading through recommendations and suggestions. She also helps them learn to choose without her help through reflection on their past choices and reading experiences. Kids make more powerful choices with Mia’s help, but they will also become more autonomous as readers and learners. Mia wants kids to spend way more time with their noses in books than their eyes on screens.
Is Mia’s design supported by research?
Yes. Meta-analysis of randomized control trials, the gold standard of educational research, clearly demonstrates that supported book choice and book ownership both cause children become more motivated to read and to increase how much they read voluntarily. Increased motivation and increased volume of reading both powerfully boost reading proficiency. For more details about the research the informs Mia Learning’s work, see our report, Why Mia, Why Now: A Research-Based Path to Self-Motivated and Purposeful Reading.
What kinds of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning power Mia?
Agent Mia uses multiple types of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Educational technology researchers would classify her as a pedagogical agent. Her ability to talk with students employs several types of natural language understanding (NLU), including automated voice recognition (AVR), text to speech (TTS), dialog management, and intent and entity recognition using deep convolutional neural networks.
Mia recommends books using a proprietary hybrid knowledge-social recommender system developed using a domain model informed by educational research and a team of literacy experts, including teachers and researchers. Mia’s metadata about the characteristics of tens of thousands of books is drawn from a database coded by professional librarians. Also developed in collaborations with experts, our coaching system draws on open learner model research.
Throughout the system machine learning improves the accuracy of NLU and increase the effectiveness of recommendations and coaching. Mia gets better and better the more kids use her.
How does Mia know which books to recommend?
Mia makes her recommendations using three sources of information:
- What Mia learns about each child – Through conversation, Mia learns about what kids want to get out of reading (their purposes), what they enjoy reading about (their interests), and which characteristics of books they like (their preferences, such as author, genre, pace of the story, and personality of main characters). Over time, Mia learns from kids’ choices and experiences, developing an increasingly nuanced and accurate understanding of them as readers.
- What Mia knows about books – Mia draws on a database about tens of thousands of books. The metadata include not only basic bibliographic information but also a wide range of more nuanced characteristics literacy experts identify as key to making effective book selections, including difficulty, age-appropriateness, topic/theme, genre, writing style, tone, and characters. For example, if the books a student loves have strong female main characters and fast paced plots, Mia can find additional books with those characteristics to recommend.
- What parents and teachers tell Mia – Parents and teachers can share information about children’s reading proficiency level and the age-appropriateness range with which they are comfortable. They can also give Mia “nudges,” which Mia takes into account when making recommendations. For example, to encourage connections between students’ independent reading and an upcoming science unit a teacher might ask Mia to recommend books about rainforests.
For more on how Mia makes personalized recommendations and coaching children to make more powerful choices, read about Mia’s domain model.
From what set of books does Mia make her recommendations? Which books can kids with books subscriptions receive?
Mia draws her recommendations from the tens of thousands of titles from hundreds of publishers available from Mia Learning’s book distributor and/or accessible from nearby libraries. Children with book subscriptions receive new print copies of their chosen books, generally in paperback. Mia Learning does not receive incentives from any publisher to prioritize their offerings.
Why would I want Mia when my kids have a great librarian/teacher/me?
Agent Mia does not and will never replace human beings. She works alongside parents, teachers, librarians, and other adults who support children’s development as readers.
When will I be able to use Mia? Can I get Mia for my kids? Is it being used in schools?
Secret Agent Mia’s Book Club is launching on July 22, 2019. You can pre-order subscriptions on Indiegogo. Sign up on the campaign page, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for updates. Teachers and students piloted Mia in schools in 2018-2019, and it is now available to schools and districts.
Who is developing Mia?
In addition to the Mia Learning Team, a group of nationally recognized researchers, teachers, and librarians as well as parents and young readers are contributing to Mia’s development.
Is Mia Learning for-profit or non-profit?
Mia Learning is a for-profit business with a social mission. (See About page.) Founders chose a for-profit structure to get Mia to the largest number of children the most quickly and to enable access to new technological advances. To advance its social mission, Mia Learning partners with non-profit organizations such as Book Trust to serve low income communities.
How do you protect children’s privacy?
Mia Learning collects data from children only when essential to make its product work effectively. Information is stored only long enough to serve the children involved. No information from or about children is ever sold under any circumstance.
No individually-identifiable information is shared with anyone other than families and schools. Mia only shares such information with parents and teachers after asking the child for item-specific permission.