Connecting the Echo Dots: An Exploratory Ethnographic Study of ‘Alexa’ in the Classroom

Cook, Richard (2021) Connecting the Echo Dots: An Exploratory Ethnographic Study of ‘Alexa’ in the Classroom. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/AX58RE21

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Educational research literature regarding epistemic curiosity and voice technology could not be found to answer a burning question of, ‘Why aren’t my students curious?’. The aim of the study was therefore to critically analyse teachers pedagogical approaches and how voice technology was used by students as a more knowledgeable other and the extent to which it affected students’ epistemic curiosity. Using an exploratory ethnographic approach, Amazon’s Echo Dot voice technology was studied in lessons at Hillview School. Data was collected through participant observation, informal interviews and recordings of students’ interactions with ‘Alexa’. Students asked questions to Alexa in large numbers. Alexa was asked 87 questions during two lessons suggesting that Alexa was a digital more knowledgeable other. Types of questions asked to Alexa, such as ‘Can fish see water?’, were epistemic questions and suggestive of epistemic curiosity. Teachers used the Echo Dots infrequently and in a limited number of ways. Teachers relied upon a pedagogical approach and talk oriented around performance which overlooked students’ learning talk. The answer to why students might not be curious was not found. However, evidence to understand how and why they might appear not curious was revealed. The study makes contributions to knowledge through the novel use of the Echo Dots to collect data and through a new data visualisation technique called ‘heatmaps’. The study contributes to knowledge by proposing three tentative notions that emerged inductively from the research: ‘performance-oriented talk’, ‘metricalisation’ and ‘regulativity’. The study aims to make a further contribution to knowledge by suggesting evidence of a ‘pedagogy of performance’. The study recommends ‘learning-oriented talk’ and development of Alexa ‘Skills’ as a way to disrupt the pedagogy of performance and as an area for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Voice technology; School education; Amazon Echo Dot; Epistemic curiosity
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2022 10:47
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:43

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