"Siri, may I have a pass to go to the bathroom?"
It's a pretty weird question to ask your iPhone at home, but some ed tech experts believe this is the future for your classroom. As technology becomes more advanced — and students become more comfortable with it — there's a real shot that AI programs could do everything from helping educators run their classrooms to finding commuters the right buses to get to their destination.
So who might your next TA be, or rather, who might program them? Here are a few of the more common predictions and possibilities.
Siri isn't just for quick sports updates, hands-free text messaging or sassy and oddly bitter insights on love and romance. Apple's popular intelligent personal assistant has many potential applications in the classroom, as well. Siri can help students double check their spelling and grammar, do arithmetic, schedule events and set up assignment reminders or even help students research. All of these are already features that could prove useful in a structured classroom setting, and as Apple continues to develop their software and make Siri work even better and more efficiently, they could potentially become more beneficial for educators and students alike.
Georgia Tech computer science professor Ashok Goel recently conducted an experiment in one of his online classrooms, documented by the Chronicle of Higher Education. His class relied on nine teaching assistants, which included "Jill Watson," to answer routine questions from his 300 students. Toward the end of the term, Goel revealed that Jill Watson had actually been a program powered by IBM's Watson query-answering technology. Few students had guessed.
You might remember Watson as the program developed to compete on Jeopardy in 2011, where it won the $1 million prize. After conquering game shows, Watson has made the move to education. The program even has its own twitter feed, where it has retweeted this popular post from United States Secretary of Education John King.
When it comes to software applications, few companies are as diverse as Google. When they aren't building cars that drive themselves, Google is also investing in AI such as DeepMind, an AI program that learns so well it's defeated world champions in ancient board games and bested many a player in retro video games. DeepMind's objective is to "learn" on its own as much as possible, so what's to say in a few years that it won't know enough to help your students learn as well?