Special Talk

“Every Teacher Has Their Own VoiceBot: Is It Worth The Costs?”

By Cathie Norris, Associate Dean for Research & Development, University of North Texas, USA,

Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan, USA


Anne Tapp, Professor, Dept. of Teacher Education, College of Education, Saginaw Valley State University, USA


In the evolving landscape of educational technology, tools that enhance personalized learning experiences are pivotal. Current technologies adeptly address individual student needs within lessons, yet there is a notable gap in personalizing pedagogical practices. We are beta testing a pioneering tool designed to bridge this gap: a personalized VoiceBot for each teacher. The goal is to use AI to amplify the classroom teacher’s role rather than to diminish it.

The VoiceBot generates feedback and instructional content in the teacher’s own voice, enhancing the connection and continuity between a teacher and their students. This tool supports diverse applications:

  • Essay Feedback: The VoiceBot provides written feedback on student essays, maintaining the distinctive voice, style, and tone of the teacher’s feedback.
  • Reading Assistance: For students facing reading challenges, the VoiceBot articulates task instructions (verbal) aloud in the teacher’s voice, making instructions more accessible and, it appears, personally relevant.
  • Individual Tutoring: In complex problem-solving scenarios (e.g., math), the VoiceBot offers step-by-step tutoring in the teacher’s (verbal, written, or both) voice, fostering a personalized learning and personalized teaching environment.

Once the VoiceBot is created for an individual teacher, it is deployed automatically by our next-generation teaching and learning environment, the Roadmap Platform. For example, rather than a teacher spending considerable time recording the instructions and the content in a typical, K-5 PDF document, the Roadmap Platform uses the teacher’s VoiceBot to automatically record all the text! Our VoiceBot leverages "few-shot learning" to effectively learn and replicate a teacher's “voice” from minimal samples—requiring only 3-4 instances of written feedback for essay grading, and approximately 90 seconds of verbal recording. Preliminary results indicate a strong preference among students for feedback that uses their teacher’s authentic voice – written or verbal, as opposed to a generic or alternate instructor’s voice.

However, there are real costs to using the VoiceBot. For example, we estimate that deploying the VoiceBot for a typical “Roadmap curricular lesson” in social studies, English, math, or science may cost approximately $.02 (U.S.) per lesson. That cost won’t scale! And, while there is some evidence that “personalized teaching” does lead to increased achievement, there is virtually no data on using a VoiceBot to produce such “personalized teaching.” Another question for which research is needed: what happens if (when?) students come to realize that the voice they are reading/hearing isn’t really their teacher’s voice, but an AI-version? Will students still find such “AI-based, personalized teaching” an enhancement?

While still in the preliminary stages, the VoiceBot has demonstrated significant potential to revolutionize teacher-student interactions and instruction delivery. As we continue to refine these technologies, further research will explore its broader impacts on teaching efficacy and student engagement – and cost. We welcome your collaboration – please, join us!


Cathleen Norris , Associate Dean for Research, College of Information, the University of North Texas, Denton, TX. From 1995-2001, Norris was President of the National Educational Computing Association, and led its merger with ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, creating the largest, international organization for technology-minded educators in the world. Norris was Co-President of ISTE from 2001- 2004. Norris’ 14 years in K-12 classrooms – receiving a Golden Apple Award from Dallas ISD along the way – has shaped her university R&D agenda: developing resources to support K-12 teachers as they move into 21 st century classrooms. Norris is the co-founder and Co-Director of the UMich. Center for Digital Curricula.

Anne Tapp, Professor of Teacher Education, College of Education, at Saginaw Valley State University, serves as the director of PD for the University of Michigan Center for Digital Curricula. She was named teacher of the year when teaching P-12 and was awarded the Landee Award for Excellence in Teaching at the university level. She serves as the director of PD for the University of Michigan Center for Digital Curricula. She was elected to the Executive Committee of the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) Board of Directors and is past chair of the AACTE Advisory Council of State Representatives (ACSR) Executive Committee.

Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, CSE Division, College of Engineering, School of Education, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2001, undergraduates selected him to receive the “Golden Apple Award” as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at UMich. In 2019 Soloway co-founded the Center for Digital Curricula, whose mission is to provide deeply-digital, OER curricula to K-12 teachers. 10,000+ K-5, children have used the Center’s curricula – and demonstrated increased scores on standardized tests.