As classroom teachers, we need all the help we can get, amen? Wouldn’t an assistant be nice? Someone to remind you of things, tell you the weather before you run outside for recess, set the timer for you even when you are on the other side of the classroom? Well, there’s something for that, friend. You can now have your own classroom assistant–an Amazon Echo in the classroom!
What is an Amazon Echo?
Have you met Alexa yet? She’s a virtual intelligence assistant from Amazon. You can buy an Echo device here or an Echo Dot here. The Echo is larger and has a louder volume, but the Echo Dot will work great in a classroom, too. Alexa is the search engine assistant that comes with the Echo. After connecting it to Wifi, you start by saying “Alexa” and then ask a question or give a command. Speaking clearly is important, so sometimes students will have to rephrase what they say (great practice enunciating!). Some of these abilities do require you to setup and enable Alexa’s skills. More and more people have this device at home, but there are many fun and engaging ways to use Alexa in the classroom!
- Check the weather. During calendar time, ask Alexa for the weather in your city and she’ll give you the forecast and temperature.
- Set timers and reminders. If you are like me and forget to send last minute notes home, send students to the nurse, take attendance, or switch subjects, Alexa can help you! Give the command and a noise will alert you.
- Read out loud. That’s right, if you have books on Kindle (including borrowed books), Audible, or iTunes, Alexa will read them out loud. She can also read internet articles. If you have a gifted group or high-achieving group, this can be a great tool for them to use to do research if their reading levels aren’t quite high enough to read the research themselves.
- Hear a story. You can ask Alexa to tell a story. So far I’ve heard they’ve been appropriate, but this might be better done with supervision. If you ask Alexa to open Select a Story, the kids hear a children’s story where they get to choose what happens next in the story. This could be a fun twist to the Writing Center where students write and illustrate the story they hear and retell it to a friend.
- Play music. You can ask Alexa to play (and pause) music and ambient sounds. I play instrumental music during Writer’s Workshop, so this could be a handy feature! You could also use Alexa to play a fun song for a dance party reward. The Echo can not only play music from Amazon Prime Music, but it now integrates other music services like Pandora and Spotify.
- Math Skills. You can ask Alexa for sums and differences. For example, “Alexa, what is two plus four?” If students are in math stations, this could be a fun way to self-check. She can also flip a coin, roll dice, and pick a card. These are great skills for stations or games.
- Randomization. You can ask Alexa to choose a number between parameters. Instead of pulling a stick with a student’s number on it from a jar, you can say “Alexa, pick a number between 0 and 23” and she’ll choose for you.
- Spell words. Alexa will spell words for you. This could be useful for students to use in the Writing Center or during Writer’s Workshop. If students have searched the Word Wall and the classroom, but still can’t find their word, they could ask Alexa for help.
- Definitions and synonyms. Alexa will define words and find synonyms. If you’re teaching your students to edit, this could be a fun way for them to practice using new words. Maybe during science, students could ask Alexa for help understanding what a word means. This could also be done as a whole group to interactively write the definition. There are endless possibilities!
- Play games. Maybe you need a new fun indoor recess idea or finished up at the end of the day with a few minutes to spare. There are 405 results for Alexa skills for kids here on Amazon’s Alexa skills list! These range from educational games like See Say, Kids Trivia, and Speak Listen Learn to fun games and activities like Animal Workout, The Finder Game for Kids, or Kids Animal Sounds.
Learning to use Alexa can take a bit of time. There are commands you will need to know. Grab FREE this cheat sheet so that you can quickly get the ball rolling!
Just remember to set expectations for using Alexa in the classroom and practice, practice, practice. Alexa’s fun skills have limitless possibilities in the classroom, whether it’s to assist the students, remind you of tasks, provide self-checking opportunities, or just have some fun!