Siri signals the time for voice recognition in the classroom

Education & Technology

Being the oldest child in a house filled with 5 kids is complicated. While it has its advantages, it also has some major disadvantages. I had to wait until I was 15 in order to stay up until nine at night. My 9-year-old brother has a bedtime of ten. I wasn’t allowed on Facebook until I was 16.  My brothers got to join when they were 14. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 16 either. And to top that off, it was a Tracfone. The same younger brother I mentioned earlier? He has a Droid Incredible. Now at 19 years old, I finally have an iPhone 4. But I’m not complaining, the majority of college students have the same phone.

My discovery of SIRI

Actually, most college kids probably have an iPhone 4S by this time. Back before I got my new phone, I had almost convinced myself to wait until Apple released their new phone. When the 4S model was released, I was glad I didn’t. That is, until I saw Siri. According to Apple’s website, this software “lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more…Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back.” Everything about the software seems incredibly convenient.

Unfortunately, it still wouldn’t be helpful when I’m trying to secretly text in class…

My university is trying to keep up with technology. Most classrooms have smart boards, projectors, and anything else that you might find in a modern day college setting. We even use these hand-held devices called ResponseCards to participate in class discussion and quizzes. Since most people now have a smart phone, I’m left to wonder, why don’t more schools just create a universal app that can be used for everything that a ResponseCard does and more? Why doesn’t Siri have this capability? A classroom enveloped with the use of voice recognition technology sounds perfect.

Just Imagine…

You’re taking a course and at the moment, your professor is lecturing on a certain subject. During his lecture, he asks a question and pauses for you to answer it. At this point, everyone takes out his or her phones. On the screen will be the question that the professor just asked and then all you have to do is speak into your phone to answer the question. This allows everyone to participate, even the shy students. Because of this, it would let the professor to see who is truly grasping the material and who still needs work.  Sure, we can do this with our interactive response systems and some professors are even using things like Twitter or polls in virtual classrooms like WizIQ, but when we can just use the phones we all carry and just naturally speak answers to the questions that our phones recognize from a lecture, we’ll lose what feels so contrived about questions embedded in PowerPoints.

WHAT???  The software is trained gradually like a child!!

As voice recognition technology (VRT) advances, it will obviously become more widespread. It has far outgrown just the “discrete” speech style it used to be. “The older technology…operates by requiring that the user speak one – word – at – a – time.”

VRT continues to become more intelligent as you “train” it. Much like a young child, “the software ‘learns’ when you correct its mistakes.” Now going back to our university example, imagine if there were an app that all universities used specifically just for the sake of education: its technology would end up being one of the smartest around. Voice recognition can be used anywhere, not just in a higher education setting. In fact, there is new software called “Watch Me! Read.” The software listens to a kid using voice recognition, all the while giving help with pronunciation and comprehension.

It probably won’t be Siri that ends up being the voice recognition software of choice for education. All smart phones do have the ability to recognize voices, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if competing apps started to be released. Whether young or old, whether in a formal classroom or learning online, voice recognition on phones and just voice recognition in general will be a key part of the future of learning. Siri has set the bar so high for ease of use and natural language processing, especially on devices where lots of typing doesn’t make sense, that it’s only a matter of time.

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