Technology is helping to completely transform the classroom for the digital era. Recognised as one of the country’s fastest growing sectors 1 , education technology or “edtech” can provide a more immersive classroom experience and encourage collaborative learning, while also preparing students for the digital workplace of the future.
“From helping students to learn spelling and practising multiplication tables to choosing their own path in an interactive adventure story, voice assistants can help to boost engagement and create a multi-layered learning experience”
Edtech includes everything from interactive whiteboards to virtual reality, and one innovation that is increasingly making its way into the classroom is voice technology. Voice assistants like Alexa*, Google Assistant* and Siri* which are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and often are integrated into smart speakers, are slowly making their way into classrooms around the globe.
Using voice technology is something that pupils are increasingly familiar with, whether at home or at school. In fact, 70 percent of 8-17-year-olds reported using voice assistant technology in the last year 2, according to online safety charity Childnet*. In addition, 92 percent of those had used voice-assisted technology primarily to find out information.
In the classroom, voice technology can enhance teaching and learning in a number of ways. From helping students to learn spelling and practising multiplication tables to choosing their own path in an interactive adventure story, voice assistants can help to boost engagement and create a multi-layered learning experience. The technology could also be useful for pupils with special learning needs who find it difficult to communicate with the class or the teacher.
As well as enhancing learning, voice technology can help teachers with classroom management, including setting reminders and timers and issuing instructions. In addition, the use of voice assistants can help to teach students more about AI and how it can be used in the wider world. And for older students, using voice technology in the classroom gives them the opportunity to code app for smart speakers. Taking this idea one step further, the Amazon Alexa Fellowship* supports students studying conversational AI at selected universities. Providing funding and mentorship, the initiative aims to enable the next generation to design the future of voice technology.
When using any kind of voice assistant in the classroom, privacy is one of the key issues, with concerns regularly raised over what data smart speakers are gathering and how it might be used. In order to ensure security for students and comply with local privacy laws, educators should gain parental consent if considering using voice technology with younger students. It's also important for educators to be familiar with the device's privacy settings and ensure that students are not sharing personal information. There is also an opportunity to teach older students about privacy issues and data collection.
So far, most smart speakers with AI-powered voice control have been developed for use in the home. And while these can be used in the classroom, with the relevant safeguards in place, it's possible that new devices will be developed in future specifically for the classroom. Already, a growing range of apps, or in the case of Alexa, 'skills', are already being developed for education use.
Technology is already playing a key role in the classroom and will continue to be essential for enhancing education in the future. That's why Intel sponsors the Edtech 50* schools initiative, which is a celebration of the work going on in schools that use education technology to support great teaching and learning across the UK and Northern Ireland. The aim is to shine a light on this work to help share, develop and grow successful edtech strategies and innovations across the entire schools community.
With digital innovations increasingly featuring in schools and universities, voice technology could be the next big classroom trend. Not only can it enhance learning, it also helps to teach students about voice-powered devices and AI, and how they might be used in the workplace in future.
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