“HEY GOOGLE, HELP ME LEARN” Voice Assistant Devices in the New Zealand Primary School
Artificial intelligence is being embedded into home devices and these have the potential to be useful tools in the classroom. Voice assistant devices such as Google Home or Alexa can respond to verbal instructions and answer questions using the Internet of Things, web-scraping or native programming. This research explores student use of voice assistant devices in the context of two senior primary school classrooms in New Zealand. A socio-material approach is taken, examining the devices in existing classroom environments and how the children use these devices without teacher prompting. The research is framed within the Technology Acceptance Model 2 (Venkatesh et al., 2003). Student’s perception of the device’s usefulness, ease of use, and the subjective norm and social impact of using the device in each classroom environment is discussed. The research questions examined were what and how do students ask the devices, and how accurate the devices are in answering their enquiries. Data were gathered for two case studies from device transcripts over six weeks and teacher interviews. Findings suggest that the students found the devices usable, useful and interesting to challenge and explore. Reliable responses for basic literacy, numeracy, and social studies enquiries were recorded, however, the ability of the device to understand student enquiries was variable and the device was limited by a lack of pedagogical techniques and knowledge of learner needs. Evident in the data were students’ social use, perseverance and anthropomorphism of the devices. The implications of this research are that voice-activated artificial intelligence devices can support learners in classroom environments by promoting perseverance, independence, and social learning.