Sizzle AI today announces the release of “Sizzle,” a free smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to help learners work through any problem, including word problems. Serving as a guide rather than an oracle, Sizzle helps students navigate their way step-by-step to a solution, rather than just telling them if they were right or not and then giving them the answer. By harnessing AI as a coach or teaching assistant, Sizzle provides a fine example of how AI can increase engagement and improve student learning.
The Importance of Guided Practice
Everyone agrees that practice is essential for learning. For practice to be beneficial, however, one needs feedback. Take the example of practicing basketball free throws. Knowing whether or not the ball is going into the basket is important in practicing such throws so that if one misses, one can make adjustments and try again. The recipe for improvement is to practice, observe results, and make adjustments.
Better than practicing by oneself is to have a good coach. The coach can watch the process as well as the outcome, and if the coach sees you doing something wrong, they can step in and make adjustments.
For its problem domain, which currently includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and economics, Sizzle assumes the coach’s role, prodding the student towards a solution but allowing the student to do the work each step, thereby setting the condition for optimal learning.
In the basketball metaphor, traditional homework is akin to someone taking 30 shots at the basket but only being told which shots went in once the teacher goes over the homework the next day in class. This type of practice has limited utility because when students know the results, they are in a different headspace than when they did the problem. Consequently, the feedback will likely have little benefit. Worse yet, by not receiving feedback when making the mistakes, the student has effectively been reinforcing the confusion that led to the errors, making it even harder to master the underlying skill.
Optimal coaching requires observation - not just of the results but of the process leading to the results and intervention. The student needs to make an effort and experience failure but also needs to know when failure happens. Sometimes, this can result in self-correction, but many times, the student will need to be guided toward the path to success, and most times, students will benefit from being given some guidance.
Enter Sizzle. Rather than just telling the student they were wrong and providing the correct answer or showing a canned step-by-step solution, Sizzle interactively guides the student through the problem, letting them do the work along the way. Students do the work, make the errors, and the intervention comes at the moment when learning is maximally possible. In this way, Sizzle has the potential actually to make homework useful as a learning tool.