Smart Speaker 101: Does This Tech Belong on College Campuses?

tech in college classrooms

As smart speakers and digital assistants become just a normal part of everyday life – like the smartphones before them – we have started to have interesting debates and questions about where these speakers belong, and where these speakers don’t belong.

Among the most debated places are the workplace, transportation, and in educational facilities. While I have opinions on all of these, this article will focus on educational facilities; more specifically, college campuses. There are several different applications to be explored under the umbrella of this questions, and I couldn’t possibly cover them all; this article will just scratch the surface of some of the main questions.

Should smart speakers be a tool for engineering students only?

Colleges have started experimented with immersive education that uses smart technology speakers and digital assistants as part of the curriculum. Voice technology is definitely an emerging field, so it’s not just a toy for engineering students; it is actually a tool that can help them gain valuable skills that they can use after they graduate. Does that mean they should be the only ones that have access to smart speakers in an official campus capacity, though? Well, keep reading for more thoughts on that, but my general stance is that starting with the engineering students isn’t a bad idea.

Will smart speakers in the classroom hinder the college learning experience, or enhance post-college life by helping students learn more about the world they will encounter?

The future will be spoken, not typed. That’s the basic idea behind the argument that smart speakers in college classrooms will help teach students how to engage with the “real world” that they will be in soon. The world is slowly, but surely, moving away using a combination of screens, browsers, and keyboards to find information. Natural language, spoken voice, and digital assistants are the future; there is a learning curve for using these device. Where better to learn than in a college classroom? The other side of the argument is that use of these devices in the classroom is more of a gimmick than a substantial learning experience. While students could use the devices to learn, professors could also use the devices to control resources, like lights, audio, projectors and screens. The useful of this is definitely still up for debate though – is it laziness or innovation?

Should smart speakers be reserved for personal student use only?

In the extreme view, should college institutions wipe their hands of having anything to do with this technology? There are some good arguments for this – the loudest being the looming privacy issue. There are plenty of practical uses for students, including apps that can help them with reminders, alarms, and transportation. The problem with using them in classrooms or in official institution offices is that they are “always on.” Students have privacy rights, and might not be aware that the speaker might be listening.

This issue is far from resolved. Feel free to continue the debate in the comments! And let us know your thoughts on speakers in school in general!