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Monday, July 23, 2018

Voice Assistants Not Ready for Classrooms

Representatives of Amazon and Google made it clear at the recent International Society for Technology in Education conference that voice-assistant devices should not be used in K-12 classrooms because of compliance and privacy issues. While privacy issues is still a concern, the devices are finding their way into campus dorms and classrooms.

Amazon donated 1,600 Echo Dots to engineering students at Arizona State University, Tempe, and is providing grants to institutions that create class curriculum using Alexa-enabled devices and mentorship. Additionally, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, will give some students the option to connect an Echo Dot device to their university accounts this fall.

Jason Hong, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, has studied the home use of Alexa and said the device isn’t quite ready for educational use. He noted they could be handy in specific college situations, such as a lab where students need hands-free interaction but added there are risks, such as demands to view the dialogue history stored in the device.

“These things are not geared for schools and for lots of people at the same time,” Hong said, adding that could change as the technology improves. “I think it could be really exciting, but also rather thorny.”