Last summer I took the plunge and dived in the world of AI, Python and Java-based app developers to see what potential AI and coding might have for teaching and learning foreign languages and, well, learn something new. This resulted in a few apps (simple but, I hope, helpful) and a whole lot of ideas of what’s possible when you bring AI-powered technology into the classroom.
To be ahead of the curve, I’ve made a compilation of some useful features of apps/tools that use artificial intelligence and will try to share them in a series of posts. My particular interest is artificial intelligence for speech-recognition, i.e. using a cognitive robot to interact with a human.
Speech recognition is still far from being perfect. Sometimes, accents or speech impediments aren’t comprehensible by word recognition apps or platforms (Voice recognition technology in a lift? In Scotland?). However, it’s improving close to the speed of light, and I believe it has a great potential for teaching and learning.
Today I’d like to share my top 5 activities with Google Assistant that might work a treat for learners of English.
“Meet your Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help whenever you need it.”
Okay Google or Hey Google will activate your Google Assistant (it will respond to Noodle as well, it’s still not perfect)
1. Show me…
Anything your learners are studying at the moment. This activity works exceptionally well with homophones, immediately demonstrating the importance of long and short vowels.
Okay Google, show me a ship.
Nothing will convince your students better that pronunciation is indeed important than a picture of Shaun the Sheep instead of the expected Titanic.
2. Okay Google, what’s your hobby?
Google Assistant might be a great partner to ask all those questions you’d like your students to practise in (out of) class. There are three advantages: a) it’s modest and extremely nice to those it talks to (something which is quite tough to instill in teenagers),
b) students can see the transcript of their conversation and reread it, or ask the Assistant to explain some words (Hey Google, define _________________), and
c) students can ask the same question again and again until they’re satisfied or have tired themselves out (with no fear of being called an idiot).
These may be just some fun, personal questions (e.g. Hey Google, what’s your hobby? Do you have a family? How do I look?), random questions – with Crystal Ball command, you can ask any yes/no question (the crystal ball shall reveal the truth), or ask some particular questions from different fields of knowledge (invaluable for CLIL classes). Unlike usual Google search, Google Assistant will read out the information, i.e. learners will be able to listen to and read the information at the same time: This function may be used for a range of activities for learners of different age and level groups. I’m sure your young learners will be more than excited to ask Google Assistant questions like “what does the cow say?”, while older learners could explore the weather or currency rates.
3. Okay Google, let’s play a game
“Okay Google, let’s play a game” is a great way to keep your students engaged with a fun task (NB. When I say “fun”, I mean any task that keeps my students interested in language learning. See more in Teaching Fundamentals). They will be offered a range of games, or they may choose to play a particular game – “Hey Google, I’m feeling lucky” will start a trivia quiz. My personal favourites are Word Chain and Mad Libs.
One good thing about Google Assistant is that it will never accept any word that your students have coined to win the game (What, there’s no such word? Really? I think I heard it somewhere on YouTube) or any mispronounced word.
4. Okay Google, make a list
Google Assistant can make a list, add new items to the list, show the items and provide particular information (e.g. the amount of sugar in bananas).
Ask your students to make a shopping list (they will need to name it), and add particular items to the list. Then pair them up and have them read out their lists – a) focus on spelling: their task will be to write down the items on their partner’s list. After they have finished, ask them to compare their lists and check spelling; b) focus on listening and memory: their task will be to listen to the partner’s list, then ask their Google Assistant to make a new list and add the items they remember to the list. After they have finished, ask them to compare their lists and check how many items they’ve managed to remember.
See a great activity here – Ultimate Listening Game by Daniel Martin.
5. Okay Google, tell me a story
You can ask Google Assistant to tell you a story or read a poem. It can be a joke (If you have a teenage class, their verdict is likely to be ‘its humour is NOT humorous!’ Well, it’s still getting the hang of it, and, unlike in the case of many humans, there is some hope it will improve).
If you say, “OK Google, read me the news,” Google Assistant will play news snippets from the news outlets you choose*.
(*Tap “Settings”, then choose “Services” and “News” and pick the news outlets you would like to hear played).
This feature may be used to design various listening assignments.
Dictogloss: Ask students to pick a particular news story (something they find interesting), listen to it, take notes and then retell it – either to the rest of the group or record themselves (ask the Assistant to open the Voice Recorder or Google Keep).
If you are not happy about talking to Google Assistant, you can always ask it to self-destruct or Talk to Books instead.
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Have you tried any interesting activities with Google Assistant?