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6 Ways Students Can Use Siri

Written by 22 February 2013

The following is a guest post by Avi Spector, a pedagogical consultant who works with teachers to find relevant ways of using technology to enhance student learning and develop competencies in the classroom.

6 Ways Students Can Use Siri

Siri is the name of Apple’s artificial intelligence assistant that is built into Apple’s newest iOS devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. While many people tend to think of Siri as a gimmick, Siri can actually be an incredibly useful tool for your students to use in the classroom.

To use Siri, simply hold down the home button on your iOS device and a voice prompt will appear. Ask a question by talking to your device. You can speak in your regular voice and ask all sorts of questions. Here are some things your students can do with Siri:

  1. Word definitions: Not only will Siri give you a definition of a word, but she’ll provide you with the spelling of the word too. This is a useful trick when you know how to pronounce something but aren't sure how to spell it! To try this out, say “define conjunctivitis” to Siri.
     
  2. Mathematical calculations and real world statistics: Siri uses the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine to perform calculations and/or work with statistical data. You can ask Siri questions like “what is 18% of 934?" or "plot 4x + 12". You can also ask things like “compare the GDP of Canada vs. Sweden” , “what is 4.2kg in pounds?” or “what is the boiling point of lithium?”
     
  3. Bring up an image or geometric shape: You can ask Siri to show you an isosceles triangle, a circle, or even a velociraptor. Siri will show you an image along with other pertinent information. Ask “what is an isosceles triangle” or “what does a velociraptor look like?”
     
  4. Transform your voice into written text: Transforming speech to text is what Siri does best! Students can dictate what they want to say and Siri will transform their spoken words into written ones. This works in any app that allows you to type. To use Siri within an app, simply bring up the keyboard wherever you'd enter text and click on the microphone key to the left of the spacebar. (If you don’t see the microphone key, you may need to enable it. You can do so by going into Settings -> General and look for the Siri category. Ensure that Siri is switched to the "on" position.)
     
  5. Translate individual words from English into any other language: Siri can act as your virtual translator. Ask her "what is breakfast in French?”, or “how do I say hello in Japanese?"
     
  6. Learn about historical dates and events: Ask Siri about dates in history such as “when was the battle of Hastings?”, or “when did the Beatles break up?”.

If you'd like to see a quick tutorial of how easy it is to use Siri in the classroom, you can watch my video at http://youtu.be/gM94XjEgcDg

Overall, I think Siri is a great way to incorporate students' personal mobile devices into your classroom as a problem solving tool. However, it is important for them to know that there is a time and place for everything. Just as you wouldn’t allow your students to talk to friends while you’re teaching, they should know when it's appropriate to “talk" to Siri too.

You should also keep in mind that Siri requires an active Internet connection to function and may not work well for students that have thick accents or speech impediments. Unfortunately, Siri is only supported on Apple iOS devices, but Android users may want to check out "Google Voice Search" as an alternative. Last but not least, it takes a little getting used talking to a machine. Whenever I talk to Siri, I often get more than a few stares!


About the Author:
Avi Spector is a pedagogical consultant with the RECIT FGA, based in Quebec. Avi works with teachers to find relevant ways of using technology to enhance student learning and develop competencies in the classroom. Follow his weekly blog at http://avispector.wordpress.com which features Web 2.0 tools and iPad apps for education.

P.S. Want to have your blog post featured by SimpleK12 like Avi? Click here to find out how you can be a SimpleK12 Guest Blogger too.

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6 Ways Students Can Use Siri

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