Virtual assistant

Witham Academy is testing the virtual assistant in the classroom

Embracing New Technology: Teachers at New Rickstones Academy.

Submitted by Kelly Clark

Teachers at Witham in Essex are among the first in the UK to work alongside digital assistants in the classroom.

The new Rickstones Academy helps test and develop Merlyn Mind, an educational version of Amazon Alexa or Apple Homepod.

During class, students can ask the virtual assistant questions related to their work, freeing up their professors’ time to spend in class.

Students in grades 7-11 tested the technology in their courses in digital skills, computer science, retail, travel and tourism, and health and social care.

Ben Moore, Head of Technology Support and Head of Rentals, said: “We are one of the few schools in the UK to test this type of technology in the classroom.

“This technology is still under development, so New Rickstones Academy is helping to pave the way for other schools across the country to adopt this style of technology.

“We tested the use of virtual assistants in the classroom to facilitate teaching and learning to maximize the direct time teachers spend with students in class.”

The idea behind Merlyn Mind is to help teachers and students, not to replace teachers but to adjust the way they work on a daily basis.

Ben said: “Students enjoyed interacting with Merlyn and being able to ask questions independently without having to approach teachers directly, which means they can take ownership of their own learning.

“We hope to expand the rooms that have Merlyn over the next few years so that every student can interact with Merlyn and increase teacher-student time in the classroom.”

Students can communicate with the device by saying “Hey Merlyn” before asking a question.

With a growing bank of questions and phrases he can understand – and an ability to ignore pranks – teachers believe he is capable of providing students with meaningful answers.

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