Making the Grade: Could HomePod and Siri have a place in the classroom?

Making The Grade is a weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

When I was at the annual ISTE conference in Chicago a few weeks ago, I saw a few booths built around selling Alexa skills for your school. It got me thinking about what Siri in the classroom might look like (specifically with HomePod). Having pondering it for a bit, I came up with a handful of scenarios.

If Siri could have access to your school’s student information system, tasks like attendance could be done with a simple command. Instead of having to launch a website or an app, you could simply say “Hey Siri, everyone but Sam is here” or “Hey Siri, everyone is here”.

When teachers need my assistance, they usually call, email or iMessage. This method works fine for me since I am the only person who manages IT at my school. iMessage certainly doesn’t scale up for larger districts. I’d love the ability for Siri to interact with an IT ticketing system. A teacher could say something like “Hey Siri, log IT ticket”. Siri could respond with “What’s the issue”. The teacher could then say their issue. A ticket would then be filed. IT could then address the issue.

Schools often have PA systems where a principal can make school-wide announcements. At my school, we use the announcement system on our desk phones. HomePod could have an “announcement function” where one HomePod could broadcast to all of the other ones on the network. There are a lot of UX concerns with this in its basic form (how do you allow only certain HomePods to do this), but it could certainly be done. Instead of having to wire in a PA system, it would leverage the school’s Wi-Fi network in order to broadcast.

If Apple opened up Siri to curriculum companies, HomePod could become a teacher assistant in a sense. It could work alongside the teacher to reinforce what they are already teaching. It could have content ready to go. Perhaps a teacher is working through the JFK presidency, and they could trigger a new broadcast of his assassination report. Instead of having to search YouTube for clips (and watch ads), HomePod could have the clip ready to go.

There is a lot to think through here with how it could work, but I believe HomePod (and Siri) could eventually be something that we consider for classrooms.

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