Over the years, voice-command technology has made its way into our homes and part of our daily routines. From asking mundane questions such as the weather for the day to late night philosophy pondering (“Alexa, are we in the Matrix?”), the instantaneous responses have no doubt made our lives easier and more efficient. Now, this type of technology is making its way into classrooms and districts.
At ISTE 2018, Frontline Education demoed its pilot program for educators, who need instant access to district data. As we all know well and clear by now, teachers are constantly bombarded with data, while they are often performing superhuman balancing acts. Partnering with AWS and utilizing Amazon Echo, Frontline Education wants to provide “on-demand access to critical data and actionable insights” in real-time to education leaders and ease the burden of daily operations.
This is only the beginning of what voice-command technology could do in edtech. In fact, Northeastern University plans on providing all 18,000 of their students with an Amazon Echo, after a successful pilot program. Students can instantly access valuable information, such as what events are happening on campus or access to their bursar accounts.
But instead of just having another trendy piece of tech in the classroom, where could these devices really elevate teaching and learning?
Students with learning disabilities can now be on the same page for learning and success.
With the influx of technology use in the classroom, it can be difficult with students with learning disabilities to keep up. However, with the use of voice-command technology, it may just level the playing field a bit more for students with learning disabilities. For example, a student with motor disabilities may use speech dictation within the classroom instead of typing or writing. Furthermore, a student with dyslexia may use voice enabled technology to assist them with reading aloud and quickly fix any grammar errors.
Speech dictation is not uncommon in special education -- in fact, its usage is regularly recommended by Dyslexia Association. Speech recognition technology is quickly becoming more advanced, especially with products such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, which can be integrated into existing classroom tools (i.e., Chromebooks, Google Docs) already used in the classroom.
An all-in-one package: Individual evaluation, real-time data, and student participation.
While there are a multitude of apps that promise language fluency, we all know the best way to learn a new language is with consistent practice and immersion within the native community. That can be difficult for students who don’t have the privilege to travel often or who don’t have access to a community of native speakers. While keeping up with regularly classroom time with a foreign language teacher, voice command technology and voice recognition in the future could be integrated into the curriculum so that the device can eventually evaluate the students’ pronunciation or grammar.
This doesn’t have to be foreign languages either -- students can also be individually evaluated in an array of subjects, where the teacher can collect real-time data and understand a student’s unique needs. Edtech educators, such as Kenneth Eastwood, have already started imagining a classroom 5 to 10 years from now, where students would wear individual headsets or microphones when verbal responses need to be recorded and evaluated during test-taking or for general classroom participation.
While this could be an exciting new development for edtech, many educators and edtech leaders alike are wary about what this could mean for students’ privacy.
After all, the privacy issues for voice command tech in the home are still up for debate, and there may be more than just a few bugs that need to be tweaked...
But as this type of technology progresses and becomes more refined, it may be inevitable for voice command technology to be integrated into the classroom setting. In fact, some teachers have already taken it into their own hands to pilot it within their own classrooms.
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