Siri – Play or productivity? Is there a place in the classroom for her?

In a class with Year 7 recently, we utilised the iPads to listen to songs and analyse the use of the concepts of music within the song.  Somehow towards the end of the lesson, the whole class (including myself) starting talking about things we could do with Siri and what kind of funny questions we could ask her.  This is something I had not given a great deal of thought to until now, how will Siri be made use of in the classroom to maximise the learning potential of such a tool?  My research and reading has led me to a few very interesting articles.

This article ’20 Ways Siri May Forever Change Education’ may seem to take it a bit to the extreme but is it going to be the reality one day?  The article, authored by onlinecollege.org claims that Siri can answer most factual questions and therefore may take the place of teacher/student questioning, inquiring with the teacher for new knowledge.  The fact that when Siri is asked a question she simply refers mostly to search engines, Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia which, means that Siri as a source of information is not at all like a teacher. Not only that, but as teachers, we are forever trying to discourage students’ reliance on Wikipedia for quality information.  I would be hesitant to recommend students use Siri to conduct searching for particular research instead of a search engine because students will then be less and less competent at good quality research and using good keywords to search for information.

[youtube http://youtu.be/rNsrl86inpo]

An article on onlinedegrees.org addresses the question, ‘Where’s Siri in the Classroom?’ and has some good suggestions for use of Siri by the teacher.  One of the great uses for Siri that is brought up in this article is for quick and easy teacher note taking.  Using an app such as the note app and pressing Siri, you can dictate and record down notes for later use in providing students comments on their work.  I would probably use this a lot when assessing student performances in Music.  However, again this article points out limitations of the use of Siri in the classroom because of factors that include possible privacy issues, and the ability to cheat.

[youtube http://youtu.be/gM94XjEgcDg]

So what place does Siri have in the classroom with students?  As a Leader of Learning Technologies, about to go 1-1 with iPads, this is a very important question for me.  Will there be a valuable use for Siri in the classroom or will it be a distraction and a hinderance on learning?  I’m not sure on the answer here yet but I will continue to experiment with it.

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