‘Alexa doesn’t have that many feelings’: Children’s understanding of AI through interactions with smart speakers in their homes
Professor Judy Robertson and Dr Valentina Andries, Centre for Research in Digital Education
25th May, 1-2pm (UK time)
Event recording (coming soon)
In a time of rapid change, against a backdrop of remarkable media claims and warnings about the capabilities of new AI systems such as ChatGPT, members of the public could understandably be confused about what AI can and cannot do. While children may not themselves follow the media stories on this topic, the adults around them – parents, carers and teachers – may discuss them. But what do children already know about AI and how can they make sense of the advances which are likely to have a profound impact on their futures? In this talk, we will present findings from our recent investigations of children’s understanding and opinions of a form of AI which is already firmly embedded in their lives. We conducted a mixed-methods study (questionnaires and interviews) with primary-school children aged 5-12 in Scotland to establish children’s understanding of how voice-based Conversational Assistants (CAs) work, how they perceive their cognitive abilities, agency and human-like qualities, their awareness and trust of privacy aspects when using CAs and what they perceive as appropriate verbal interactions with CAs. The findings of the study demonstrate that children both overestimate and underestimate the capabilities of AI systems in the case of conversational assistants embedded in smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa.
Professor Judy Robertson is Chair in Digital Learning. She has been developing educational technology with children and teachers since 1997. She is a Senior Member of the ACM, and a Senior Fellow of the HEA. She is interested in computer science education, serious games for children and gender equality. Her work focuses on how technology can help to solve thorny real world problems. Current projects include Data Education in Schools, which aims to educate all children in the Edinburgh city region about data, and the development of an app to support play for young children in the Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children.