Smart Personal Assistants (SPAs; such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant) let users interact with computers in a more natural and sophisticated way that was not possible before. Although there exists an increasing amount of research of SPA technology in education, empirical evidence of its ability to offer dynamic scaffolding to enhance students problem-solving skills is still scarce. To fill this gap, the aim of this paper is to find out whether interactions with scaffolding-based SPA technology enable students to internalize and apply problem-solving steps on their own in a 10th grade high school and a vocational business school class. Students in the experiment classes completed their assignments using Smart Personal Assistants, whereas students in the control classes completed the same assignments using traditional methods. This study used a mixed-method approach consisting of two field quasi-experiments and one post-experiment focus group discussion. The empirical results revealed that students in the experiment classes acquired significantly more problem-solving skills than those in the control classes (Study 1: p = 0.0396, study 2: p < 0.001), and also uncovered several changes in students’ learning processes. The findings provide first empirical evidence for the value of using SPA technology on skill development in general, and on problem-solving skill development in particular.
Rainer Winkler, Matthias Söllner, Jan Marco Leimeister
1 May 2021