At the time of its release with the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, 2011, the personal assistant software known as Siri was touted as AI without compare in consumer electronics.
It was going to revolutionize computing just as the Mac had done. Though not specifically an educational program, many in the academic field believed Siri could soon come to play a big part in the classroom … but that hasn’t happened. We’re looking into where Siri has made some inroads and why the smooth-talking lady has had a rough go.
7 Pros And Cons Of Using Siri For Learning
This seems to be the most common way Siri is being employed in classroom settings. Today’s teachers have to maintain copious amounts of documentation on their kids, and many have streamlined the process of note-taking and documenting conferences with students and parents by using Siri.
- Calling and emailing
These are among the top uses of Siri in the general population, and teachers are no exception. With her they don’t have to lose their place in gradebooks and exams when they come across the need to call or email a parent or a colleague about a troubled student or an upcoming meeting.
- Problem solving:
Kansas teacher Marsha Ratzel’s students used their iDevices to gather info for an estimation problem involving diapers in a large shipping package. While it couldn’t give them the exact answer, it did help them discover info on the different sizes of diapers that helped them reach a solution.
- Setting reminders
The reminder function of Siri is one of its biggest draws for adult users. With it, school kids are able to keep track of homework, projects, and tests with just a word to their animatronic friend.
Although better options exist (see below), older students in high school and college can and are putting Siri to work taking notes and transcribing lectures.
- Opening apps
If anyone has their hands full on a typical work day, it’s teachers. Siri now has the ability to open apps by voice command and teachers, who are always looking for ways to save time, are taking them up on it.
Oh dear. As the student in this video discovered, Siri makes cheating a cinch for the right classes. And if it’s that easy, we have to assume other unscrupulous kids are using the software dishonestly.
Why Siri Hasn’t Caught On
- Lack of function
Reason numero uno for why Siri is unpopular: a lot of people think it doesn’t work very well. And these people aren’t just Google fanboys; everyone from TechCrunch to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak have voiced their displeasure with her abilities. Either she’s having trouble connecting, or she’s turning your dictation into gibberish, or she’s bringing you web results you didn’t ask for. Apple has even been sued for overstating its claims of Siri’s abilities.
- She doesn’t play well with children
Today’s kids are not an audience that is going to be patient with technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. They’re too used to products that deliver what they want, quickly and accurately. As The Digital Shift pointed out just a month after Siri’s release, when the software malfunctions in kids’ hands, learning moments are lost and curiosity wanes. In such a case, no tech is better than high tech.
- Apple doesn’t really stand by her
To date, Apple’s website continues to refer to Siri as “beta only” (in fine print at the bottom, of course). As in, beta testing, a stage usually reserved for unfinished, unshipped products. It’s like they’re leaving the designation in place as a way of writing off complaints. Their answer to the functionality lawsuit? If you hated Siri so much, you should have brought the phone back. It’s easy to see why teachers have little motivation to introduce the software into their classes, as Apple’s push to get Siri into classrooms has been nonexistent compared to their efforts to sell iPads as an educational tool.
- Siri has privacy issues
What goes on in a classroom should obviously be above-board and open to inspection by anyone. Still, Siri’s data collecting is vague and advanced enough to reasonably give parents and teachers pause before allowing it to be used in school. Siri gets her amazing ability to learn by collecting info on what is being searched for, where she’s being used, patterns of usage like what time of day and for how long, even the tone of voice of the speaker, all things people have been uncomfortable turning over to Apple.
- She hasn’t been very available
iPads are taking education by storm. One-to-one iPad initiatives, where every student is given a device, are all the rage. However, Siri has not been a part of the equation because neither theoriginal iPad nor the iPad 2 came with Siri compatibility. The iPad 3, released Sept. 19, 2012, was the first to have Siri functionality, meaning Siri’s only appearance in the classroom until very recently has been on the iPhone. To get iPads with Siri now would require schools to replace their current iPads, which are at most barely two years old.
- There are other simpler and/or better options out there
Google Voice Search is Siri’s main competition in the “personal digital assistant” niche and many claim it’s more popular than Siri even with iPhone users. But for dictation, there’s market leaderDragon (for both Android and Apple), plus a new app called Evi by the same company. For other functions like web searching and reminder setting, there are dozens of apps and programs that work just as well as Siri, only they require button-pressing, which it seems has not been burdensome enough for teachers or students to make the switch to voice.
- Teachers may be wary Siri could inhibit learning
Granted, it would be difficult for a student to use voice recognition software to cheat on a test in a small, quiet classroom. But educators have to think beyond the classroom walls, and they probably aren’t wild about the notion of Siri replacing learning. Teachers could hardly be blamed for keeping Siri at arm’s length, seeing as it is specifically designed to take the work out of daily life, and a student’s daily life revolves around learning. The teachers that are using Siri are having to get creative with the software, restricting questions to only ones Siri can’t answer. In other words, Siri seems almost more trouble than it’s worth.
This is a cross-post from onlinedegrees.org