Does Cortana Have A Place in Education - Now or in the Future?

Mar 9, 2016
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"Cortana Bell" - Think outside the (virtual) bun?

Anyway, the debate whether Cortana should have a place in the education market is not entirely new. You might remember the strange, but quiet announcement from one year ago barring Cortana from the Education version of the Anniversary edition of Windows 10. Microsoft apparently received pressure from K-12 institutions regarding the restriction of Cortana use in classrooms. I tried to point out at the time that this decision left college students like myself (who use Windows 10 Education on home computers) in the dust. The response I got was that in any educational classroom, Cortana would be a feature that would be very disruptive. Subsequently, I was forced to downgrade to Windows 10 Pro. With the future release of the Creators Update, Cortana was re-added into the OS. I still haven't re-upgraded to my Education license, since I am unsure of Microsoft's current or future position on the matter.

Okay, why am I telling you this? The moral to the story is that Microsoft believed, albeit temporarily, that Cortana could do more harm than good in the educational setting. Microsoft did not aknowledge Cortana's flexibility as a digital assistant or its combined potential with the full power of Windows Ink (ironically, first implemented in the Anniversary Update). These two technologies can lead to the creation of student assistance tools for all ages; enhanced note taking, assisted organization and planning, connected classrooms, etc. These tools take what institutions originally saw as limitations and flips them. In this context, they become beneficial to all students.

With the future release of the Windows 10 Timeline feature and the innovation of new smart devices, there is no reason why institutions should see Cortana as a deal-breaking flaw. They just need to think outside the (virtual) bun/box.

What is your opinion about Cortana in the education environment? Do you have a fresh opinion to this old debate?
 

Scienceguy Labs

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Jun 13, 2012
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I think it would be really cool if digital assistants made their way into the classroom, however I don't think they will anytime soon without some serious tweaking. Parents would have a field day with privacy concerns. The always listening/always recording/always storing info about someone else's child would probably frighten quite a few people. I have a Google mini in my science classroom. We use it all the time for getting info about certain topics and experiments. It's become a very handy tool. I always have the microphone off until we need to use it though.
 

xandros9

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Ignoring privacy concerns, I’m not convinced an assistant like Cortana really brings much to the classroom. As for fancier topics she may be little more than a fancier, perhaps less reliable (because voice recognition) front-end for Bing or Wolfram Alpha. Her capabilities are helpful for people in the workforce, but not really people in school.
 

sporosarcina

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Mar 15, 2011
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As an educator, at the college level, I can say that one concern is the thought that digital assistants make information retrieval trivial, hence many assessment rubrics that have been used for ages become useless. You have the conflicting demands of funding groups (e.g. Governments) wanting easy to "bright line" assessments and educators wanting to use more holistic (but less quantitative) measures of growth.

For example, in a chemistry class, Cortana can easily tell you unit conversions, molecular mass, formulas, etc. but she is not smart enough to utilize the information in a novel scenario. Those types of assessments are harder to develop and grade, so many teachers would rather ban the assistant than rework their style.
 

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