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20 Ways Siri May Forever Change Education


While many were disappointed with the lack of new features that came standard on Apple's new iPhone 4S, there was one that many are hailing as a breakthrough in technology. That feature was Siri, the phone's built-in personal assistant. While Siri might be employed more often to help users find a latte than do anything life-changing, the technology itself is pretty amazing. Siri can listen, interpret, and respond to user voices, making it a huge leap forward in voice recognition technology.

Siri is still in relative infancy as a program, but as the technology develops, it will be interesting to see how it's applied in other situations outside of finding basic information, locating a Starbucks, or updating a calendar. One area where Siri's capabilities could be extraordinarily useful is in education, and many are already theorizing about the myriad different ways that Siri could be used to change how we teach, learn, and view it. Here we've collected a few of these ideas about how Siri could make the leap from a simple search tool to a powerful learning and education assistant. While they may not all come to pass, it's certainly fun to think about a world where interaction with technology for education could be so seamless, accessible, and maybe even fun.

  1. Mobile devices could replace reference books. Who needs an encyclopedia or a dictionary when you can simply ask a mobile device to provide you with an instant answer? Siri could make it a snap for students to get answers to simple reference questions, without ever having to lift a finger to type or look in a book. Of course, while it might save time, many wonder what effect such immediate access to information could have on our brains.
  2. Memorization may be emphasized less. With information only a few simple utterances away, tools like Siri may make it less necessary to memorize dates and other facts and figures in the classroom. Schools may move toward applying knowledge rather than memorization, though some worry that this makes students far too reliant on technology.
  3. Improved voice control could make learning more accessible for all. For students who find it difficult to type, struggle with written language, have visual impairments, or just need a little more help, the voice recognition technology employed by Siri could be a godsend. It could allow these students (or adults) to more easily learn, find information, and interact with others. While there are currently other technologies that help students like these, Siri could make almost any task faster and easier.
  4. Teachers may take on a different role. Even as basic as Siri is at present, she is still able to answer the majority of factual questions related to math, history, science, and other major school subjects. With knowledge like this only a question away, the way classrooms, teachers, students, and tutors interact and function may be due for a change. Students may get more of their basic information from technologies like Siri, with teachers shifting focus to helping students apply and understand that knowledge.
  5. AI may play a bigger part in education. Siri is not technically artificial intelligence. She is, however, one of the first commercially available technologies that interacts and learns from those interactions, giving her the appearance of having a certain kind of intelligence. As technology evolves, these kinds of interactive and responsive tools may play a large role in education, serving as our tutors, homework helpers, and even teachers inside and outside of the classroom.
  6. Siri could be a valuable tool for language learners. What better way to learn new vocabulary and test your knowledge of a language than with a mobile, voice responsive system like Siri? Language learners could use the technology to easily look up foreign words, find out if they're phrasing things right, and practice their language skills. Eventually, Siri may even be able to translate on demand, making it easy to communicate with those in any language.
  7. It may further change how our brains work. Studies have shown that easy access to loads of information through search engines and the web has actually changed how our brains work. Making access to information even easier (users wouldn't even have to lift a finger) could further exacerbate these changes, facilitating a real shift in how education is structured and applied in the classroom to meet the needs of these digitally altered brains.
  8. Siri's functions could be integrated with photo technology for mobile learning. One of the coolest ways Siri could be adapted in the future is through photo integration. Learners (or just curious sightseers) could take a photo of something and ask Siri to tell them information about it. From great monuments, to historical sites, to famous paintings, the possibilities are endless for mobile learning in this manner.
  9. It will be harder than ever to stop students from cheating. Mobile phones are small and easy to conceal, and with technology that makes it super simple to find an answer to a math problem or the meaning of a word, it may be harder to keep students from cheating.
  10. Voice recognition may spread to other devices. Who says Siri and other voice recognition technologies will only be on mobile phones? We could eventually see them in laptops, tablets, and other technologies we use every day. This could make voice recognition not only an essential part of education, but an important facet of how we get through nearly every part of our day.
  11. Siri could impact professional education as well. Voice recognition technology isn't only an asset in schools. They could also play a role in professional training programs. Employees learning a new system could easily direct questions to a Siri-like program, helping them get instant feedback on how to proceed and navigate through a new and unfamiliar process at work.
  12. Finding research information could get more efficient. Say you've just gotten assigned a research paper. How to begin? Asking a search engine-connected tool, like Siri, for some books on the topic, especially ones your college library has on hand, could help you start off your research with very little effort.
  13. Voice recognition is a huge asset in boosting reading skills. For kids who are learning to read, voice recognition technology could be a pretty awesome tool. They can get immediate feedback on their progress, hints and help to make them more confident, and additional lessons tailored to where they may need the most help.
  14. Oral exams could be given through Siri. As anyone who has ever taken a language class knows, oral exams can be nerve-wracking. A voice responsive system like Siri could help make them less scary, however. Students may feel much more comfortable talking with the machine in private than feeling judged by a teacher, and the results could still be monitored and transmitted so that professors can evaluate them later.
  15. Siri could revolutionize online learning. While Siri and other voice recognition tools could be an asset in traditional classrooms, these kinds of programs could also do wonders for online learners. Online learning generally requires more independence and self-motivation, but a helpful assistant could be there to help keep you on task, answer questions, and could even facilitate with sending an email to your professor.
  16. Siri makes it simple to communicate and collaborate. With Siri, users can easily email, text, or call without having to lift a finger. Easy access to these kinds of communication could make it easier than ever for students to work together, get help from teachers, or just keep in touch.
  17. Students could get help with math homework from Siri. There are few things computers are better at than math, being based entirely on algorithms themselves. This makes them an incredibly useful tool for helping students learn about everything from basic addition to calculus. With a voice-activated program, students could use their mobile device as a calculator and also as a reference tool for finding help with a particularly troublesome question.
  18. Siri makes it easy to get reminders and reinforce learning. Trying to learn some new vocab for class or a standardized test? Learners could use a program like Siri to remind them to think about certain words or define them throughout the day. If students forget, they can easily ask for a definition from Siri.
  19. There won't be excuses for late homework or forgotten projects. A mobile device like Siri won't let you forget the important events in your life. With multiple reminders for upcoming tests, projects, and homework assignments, the tried and true excuse of not realizing the test was today simply won't fly.
  20. Problems with homework won't stop students in their tracks. With a personal assistant like Siri, students won't have to stop to get help with homework. Instead, they can simply ask Siri how to help them work through an especially puzzling problem. Of course, parents would have to watch to make sure the technology wasn't being used to just search for the answers.

November 27th, 2011 written by Staff Writers

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