Unraveling the Complexities of AI, Scaled Reading, and Accessible Learning | A conversation with Ethan Pierce, Founder of Adaptive Reader

Thursday, April 25th, 12 – 1p; Fayerweather 117 | RSVP here

As part of AILA’s Spring Learning & Discussion Series, AILA presents an engaging conversation between Jaya Kannan (Director of Technology for Curriculum and Research), Kristina Reardon (Director of the Intensive Writing Program and Lecturer in English), and Ethan Pierce (Founder of Adaptive Reader) on Artificial Intelligence (AI), scaled reading, and making literature accessible to all readers.

For this event, we welcome the Founder of Adaptive Reader, Ethan Pierce to share his own educational story–from finishing third grade without being able to read to earning a full scholarship to Harvard College–and how this experience motivated his desire to use advanced AI-technology in collaboration with real teachers, experienced in teaching novels in the classroom, to produce scaled texts of literary classics accessible at multiple reading levels and languages. 

Ethan will be joined by Jaya Kannan, whose research work includes AI and critical reading, as well as Kristina Reardon of Amherst’s Writing Intensive program. Together, this panel will engage in a critical conversation about AI, reading, and the new landscapes of learning accessibility. They will address questions relating to the rigor of scaled texts, how these learning tools are best used in the classroom, as well as how AI influences our engagement and absorption of learning materials. 

This conversation will focus on the realm of teaching and learning and be of most value to members of the Five Colleges community (faculty, staff, and advanced students) who work or aspire to work in an instructional capacity. RSVP here to let us know you’re coming and submit questions for our panelists!

About the panelists:

Ethan Pierce

Ethan Pierce, from Maine, turned childhood reading challenges into a drive for educational innovation. Since graduating from Harvard with a degree in the humanities, he’s spent a decade building new technology at early-stage startups and corporate innovation labs. He now leads Adaptive Reader, merging his passion for education with product development expertise.

Jaya Kannan

Jaya Kannan heads the Academic Technology Services (ATS) team within Amherst College’s IT department. With a background in international teaching, learning center administration, and digital pedagogy scholarship, her expertise centers on educational technology. Her PhD research concentrated on AI and critical reading, while her publication work in ESL and Foreign Language Acquisition has explored AI’s impact on learner autonomy. Her current work with faculty focuses on designing effective digital pedagogy practices. 

Her prior work in managing accessibility services and knowledge of assistive technologies have guided her to strive for inclusive approaches that cater to all users, including those with disabilities.

Kristina Reardon

As the Director of Amherst’s Intensive Writing Program, Kristina’s teaching philosophy is vital to her participation in this panel. She believes: “Reading and writing involve concrete action steps that can be adjusted. And deep revision—the kind I require—is not a game of shifting a few sentences to maximize points on an assignment or rereading quickly to adjust a key word. Revising in my classes often involves shifting writing to meet the needs of new audiences, or reworking prose in a different genre. Reseeing and redoing are acts of learning.

Using principles of universal design, I aim to create equitable classroom contexts that allow for multiple attempts at doing and redoing, normalizing the idea that getting it wrong often happens many times before we get it right. In my classes, I ask my students to explore (and challenge) what getting it right really means—and how structural injustices and cultural assumptions influence how we see strong academic writing.”