A blind graduate student at USU is able to easily and confidently manage her classroom thanks to Amazon’s Alexa and a stroke of innovation from AIS’ Teaching & Learning Technologies (TLT) department.
“It makes teaching much easier,” said Tina Haskin, who is blind and teaching English 1010 this fall semester. “I don’t have to stress about using a computer and can focus on teaching the material. I have more flexibility and confidence. I’m able to use all of the resources available to me, which gives the students a better learning experience.”
In June, USU’s Disability Resource Center contacted TLT to see if there was a way to help Haskin use a classroom’s technology. Using the Amazon Echo, TLT wrote a custom skill called Classroom Assistant, allowing an instructor to control all classroom technology by voice.
The process to use the Echo and custom built-in Classroom Assistant tool is simple. The instructor activates the technology by saying, “Alexa, open Classroom Assistant”. Then, through voice commands, the instructor is able to use all classroom technology, such as turning on a projector, switching the display between a doc cam, air media, or laptop, controlling volume, and more.
Tyler Clair, instructional tools administrator, and Jim Wellings, classroom technical professional, with the help of two USU students, teamed up to write the code. Faculty who wish to see how the technology works are invited to participate in demonstrations at the Classroom Innovation Lab in the basement of the Distance Education building. Contact Robby Sproul at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time.