In this unplugged activity, students learn about voice assistant technology, and participate in part of the Design Thinking cycle by problem framing and ideating an Alexa Skill that solves a specific problem.
Created in partnership with Amazon.
Amazon Alexa Moments: Sweet Sneak (Amazon Echo Commercial) https://youtu.be/C9A_BGzRQ6A
Ask: What is “voice assistant” technology?
A: Technology that ‘assists’ or helps us, which we can interact with using our voice.
Voice assistants like Alexa use voice recognition, speech synthesis, and natural language processing (NLP) to understand what we are saying. The more time Alexa spends talking to people, the more information she can collect and learn from. (This is called machine learning!)
Voice assistants can help us with things like checking the weather, reading us recipes, and ordering pizza. When connected to smart-home devices, they can even change the temperature, turn off the lights, or make a cup of coffee!
Voice assistant technology is innovative because it uses technology in a new way to help solve problems. It can help with productivity, accessibility, organization, and more.
Why learn about Voice Assistants?
This is a growing technology with so many possibilities! We can use voice assistants as a tool to solve problems and make our world a better place for everyone. For example, using Alexa to support those impacted by Hurricane Florence.
How does Alexa work?
Alexa uses boolean logic: true or false. We can teach Alexa to do something IF a condition is true, or something else IF the condition is false. All of Alexa’s decisions are framed using these IF statements (or conditional statements).
Ask Alexa some questions to get a better idea of how she works:
*Note: If the Echo Sim is not working, try restarting your computer and trying again, or skip to the main activity and try again later.
Alexa Skills are programs that teach Alexa how to do something. We are going to use creativity and innovative thinking to ideate an Alexa Skill that solves a specific problem.
We first need to understand who is affected by a problem, and which challenges they are facing before trying to solve the problem.
Use the example Problem Framing worksheet (attached) to go through an example exercise together.
Split learners into groups of 3-4. Each group will choose a new problem and work to complete a 4 C’s worksheet together. Write a few more examples on the board before groups begin.
How might we…
Have groups share an overview of their worksheet with the class, including their proposed solution, how it solves their identified challenges, and any additional constraints or considerations.
I can use technology as a problem-solving tool
I can use problem framing to try to understand the context of a problem
I can work with others to find creative solutions to problems
I can communicate with computers using tools like the Echo simulator
Provide time for learners to explore the “Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge: Tech for Good” submissions as inspiration for their own Alexa Skill idea: alexatechforgood.devpost.com/submissions
This is only part of the Design Thinking cycle. Continue using this awesome Design Thinking resource: bit.ly/DTOpen
Use the Echo Sim in an “Ask three, then me” model, where learners are encouraged to ask other students - or Alexa! - before asking the teacher a question.
Echo Sim (Alexa Skill Testing Tool):
MIT Technology Review article by George Anders
Design Thinking for Open Research and Education, created by Lorraine Chuen (October, 2017) with contributions from Joe McArthur
Problem Framing example created by Lorraine Chuen
Photo by Fabian Hurnaus from Pexels