Hey Cortana

I finally got the time during the Christmas holidays to play around with some of the new features of Windows 10 after having upgraded from Windows 7 earlier in the year. One of the features of Windows 10 that I was keen to use was Cortana.
Cortana is a digital assistant similar in some respects to Siri on Apple’s iOS for iPhones, iPads and recently updated Macs. Once enabled, Microsoft’s Cortana soon becomes a very valuable tool. My own experience is that Cortana isn’t enabled by default; this could very well change as Microsoft roll out Window’s 10 updates. Also, at the time of writing this blog, Cortana’s features are region/ language specific and Ireland isn’t an enabled region at the moment so I used UK English as my language when enabling Cortana!
Getting Cortana up and running was very straight forward!
1: Click on the Start Menu button – the icon in the lower left corner of the screen.


2: Click the All apps icon

3: Scroll to locate Cortana

4: Click Use Cortana.

During the enabling process I was asked about the discrepancy between my current region and my choice of UK English for Cortana; I simply clicked “Yes”!





There’s a microphone constantly plugged into my desktop PC so I was able to jump right in to setting up Cortana and then to begin teaching Cortana to recognise my voice.
Setting up Cortana:
Click on the Cortana icon (the Circle Icon to the left of the Start Menu icon).

Click on the word Notebook then click on the Settings gear-wheel icon on the lower portion of the screen.









From here you an change the various settings for Cortana; the first setting you should view is “Microphone” – make sure that Cortana can hear you!
Next setting should be to toggle the on-off switch for “Hey Cortana”; turning this on enables Cortana to respond to a “Hey Cortana” voice command.
There are several operational features that you can enable such as Cortana tips, Cortana access to calendar, email and messages and Cortana notifications between Cortana enabled devices that you own.
When you turn on the “Hey Cortana” feature a number of new features are enabled. One of these is “Learn how I say “Hey Cortana”. (If using Cortana in the classroom then you can make sure that Cortana will only respond to your own voice).
Once “Hey Cortana” has been enabled your voice is all that you need to work with Cortana.
Sometimes you might just want to type queries into Cortana and you can simply click on the Cortana icon in the Task Bar. If you can’t see the Cortana icon then simply right click on the Task Bar; click on Cortana and then select “Show Cortana Icon.



In the next two screenshot graphics you will see the results from some search requests I asked Cortana. Search results are presented using Microsoft Edge browser and the Bing search page. My spoken search query appears accurately in the Search box.






I also setup the Sports feature in Cortana to present me with the latest news from the NFL in America, highlighting the New England Patriots!

There are lots of practical ways that a teacher can use the Cortana feature in a classroom. Apart from Web searches, Cortana will also react to voice commands to launch programs or access web pages. I think Cortana could also be used by Special Needs pupils who have difficulty using a keyboard or mouse.
Some examples:
1: “Hey Cortana Launch Notepad” opens the Notepad application
2: “Hey Cortana open TeachNet.ie” opens the TeachNet web site
3: “Hey Cortana Take a Note” takes a note in OneNote
4: Ask Cortana about something from your calendar
5:  Set an alarm or reminder
6: Find a document, or image from your PC
7: Ask a basic question “Hey Cortana, What height is Mount Blanc
8: Cortana can also be asked to tell a joke or totally random questions can be asked! (Ask Cortana what she thinks about Google and one of her replies refers to a certain Clint Eastwood quote “Are you feeling lucky!!!“)
I think Cortana is a very useful feature and it is well worth taking the time to enable it on your Windows devices.


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