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"OK Google, Help Me Learn"-- Voice Assistant AI in the Classroom

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Monday, November 30, 11:15 am–12:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 2 of 2
Other presentations:
Effectiveness of Two Keyboarding Instructional Approaches

Laura Butler  
This session explores research in which two senior-primary (ages 8-11) classrooms in New Zealand had a Google Home device placed. Findings include uses for the device in learning activities, things to consider and an understanding of how students interact with AI vs humans.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Google Home App (optional)
Amazon Alexa App (optional)
*Accounts not required, 'dummy data' logins will be given at the time of the session so that users can experience devices for themselves and see data collection from a teacher's perspective*
Topic: Artificial Intelligence
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Special education, ESL
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand, Graduate student
Related exhibitors:
Girls Who Code
, ITsavvy
, GeniRobot Co.,Ltd

Proposal summary


This study takes a socio-material approach, as this focuses on the intersection between people (in this case the students and their teacher) and the technology (in this case voice assistant devices). In particular, it is a good theory through which to study how language (being that the devices are voice-activated), the social situation of the classroom, and the individual students all influence the way the technology is used (Orlikowski,2007).


Following a narrative literature review, original research was conducted involving 100 students in two schools. A Google Home Mini device was placed in each of two classrooms and for 6 weeks student interactions with the device were transcribed and coded to identify trends. Following this 6 week period, the classroom teachers were interviewed for their perspective and to clarify aspects of the transcript.

Two senior-primary age classroom teachers were self-nominated to participate in the study, where student and parental consent had to be 100% (convenience sampling).

Identified trends - such as accuracy, subject, day/time usage, and use cases for students who did/did not engage in the device were discussed.


Preliminary results (final findings pending)

The two classrooms used the devices to varying degrees - with just under 4000 inquiries made to the two devices over the 6 weeks - about 2/3s of which came from one classroom.

The devices were heavily used for spelling, maths facts and curiosities (student wonderings with no clear link to set tasks). It is clear that the devices relieved the number of questions students asked of teachers, and that they potentially encouraged students to refine questioning if not satisfied with the first response.


Through advances in voice assistants, devices such as Google Home use speech to return information from websites including reference materials (eg. dictionaries, encyclopedias), complete simple tasks (eg. setting a timer) and return geo-specific answers (“what’s the weather today?”). The popularity of these devices in classrooms is beginning to grow, but there is little research to indicate their usefulness or patterns of use. There is also the wider implication that much of the literature on 'Smart Classrooms' refers to the underlying technology, natural language processing, as the student's gateway to accessing tools, but little is known about how students interact with such technology.

This research is designed both to inform classroom teachers using voice assistant devices in their classroom today, and the wider 'Smart Classroom' discussion.


Christensen, L. B. & Johnson, B., & (2017). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.
Dousay, T.A. & Hall, C. (2018). “Alexa, tell me about using a virtual assistant in the classroom”. In T. Bastiaens, J. Van Braak, M. Brown, L. Cantoni et al (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 1413-1419). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved August 19, 2018 from
Faculty of Law (2018). Te Kauhanganui Tātai Ture. Retrieved March 05, 2019, from

Jackson, G. T., Castellano, K. E., Brockway, D., & Lehman, B. (2018). Improving the Measurement of Cognitive Skills Through Automated Conversations. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 50(3), 226-240.
Goksel Canbek, N., & Mutlu, M. (2016). On the track of Artificial Intelligence: Learning with Intelligent Personal Assistants. Journal of Human Sciences, 13(1), 592-601.
Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M. & Forcier, L. B. (2016). Intelligence Unleashed. An argument for AI in Education. London: Pearson
Mattar, J. (2018). Constructivism and connectivism in education technology: Active, situated, authentic, experiential, and anchored learning. RIED. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación a Distancia, 21(2), 201-217.
Mckinley, J. (2015). Critical Argument and Writer Identity: Social Constructivism as a Theoretical Framework for EFL Academic Writing. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 12(3), 184-207.

Nordum, A. (2017). The Year of Voice Recognition: There’s game-changing technology in our midst, and it’s probably not connected cat bowls. CES Conference 2017. Retrieved from
Ogan, A., & Johnson, W. L. (2015). Preface for the Special Issue on Culturally Aware Educational Technologies. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 25(2), 173-176.
Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work. Organization Studies (28)9, pp. 1435-1448.
Prestridge, S. (2012). The beliefs behind the teacher that influences their ICT practices. Computers & Education, 58(1).
Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2016). Creative schools. UK: Penguin Books.
Roll, I. & Wylie, R., (2016). Evolution and Revolution in Artificial Intelligence in Education. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 26( 2), 582–599.
Starkey, L. (2012). Chapter 3: Knowledge and Connectivism, Teaching and learning in the digital age. New (pp York: Routledge. 20-–29). New York: Routledge.
Tanner, G., Castellano, K.E., Brockway, D., & Lehman, B. (2018). Improving the Measurement of Cognitive Skills Through Automated Conversations. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 50(3), 226-240.
Underwood, J. (2017). Exploring AI Language Assistants with Primary EFL Students, EUROCALL 2017 Conference (Southampton, United Kingdom).

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Laura Butler, Laura Robyn Butler

Laura is a teacher and tech coach from New Zealand, with over 7 years of experience in the classroom. In 2019, as her Master's thesis, she completed the second-biggest study of voice assistant devices in the classroom. Laura has presented and participated in panels on AI in education and works with teachers 1-1 to get them started with Smart Tech in their classrooms. She is a Seesaw Ambassador, Apple Teacher and Google Innovator (#SYD19). You can find her on Twitter @ElleButlerEDU

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