10 Ways to Use Alexa in the Classroom {+ FREE Cheat Sheet} - Mrs. Richardson's Class

Literacy

Professional Development

January 27, 2018

10 Ways to Use Alexa in the Classroom {+ FREE Cheat Sheet}

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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’s Alexa in the classroom!

Using an Amazon Echo and having Alexa as your assistant is a great tool in the classroom! Read more to see these 10 ways you can use Alexa in the classroom. Don't forget to grab teh free Amazon Alexa cheat sheet!
**Amazon affiliate links are used below at no cost to you. I receive a small commission when you use the links.

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.

10 Ways to Use Alexa in the Classroom

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 an alert will be set.

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. for students working

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.

Ask for help with 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.

Get help with 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.

Get 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!

Using an amazon echo in the classroom is a life saver! Use this cheat sheet to get a quick start in your classroom!

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!

Using an Amazon Echo and having Alexa as your assistant is a great tool in the classroom! Read more to see these 10 ways you can use Alexa in the classroom. Don't forget to grab teh free Amazon Alexa cheat sheet!

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Happy Teaching,

Amanda

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Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!

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21 Responses

    1. Hi Natasha! Unfortunately, since I am not currently in the classroom, I haven’t had this come up. I have asked other teacher friends who use them and they said they haven’t either. I’m sorry!

    2. I realize this is an old question, but the district seems confused as to what Alexa really is. These devices are in essence, just a computer without peripherals like a mouse, screen, and keyboard. Any question you ask it, is “typed” into a search engine, and found. Instead of you reading the answer, it reads it for you. As far as the trivia and games that can be played, it’s no different than going to a website to play games online. It is a device that makes life easier for the user, and that’s why we buy them. I’ve been using Alexa in my classroom, and the kids love it. Unless the school bans kids from using computers, then there shouldn’t be any issue.

      1. Ryan,
        This actually is not exactly true. The voice searches are captured and relayed to the Amazon server farm. There they are interpreted and the request fulfilled. The capturing of these voice commands alone can run afoul of FERPA, and the fulfillment of requests outside of the district’s filtering solutions can cause compliance issues with CIPA.

    3. My district has recently become more aware of the use of these devices and has asked that we simply send a letter home to let the parents know we are using one in our room and speak with the parents if they have any concerns. We were also asked to save the letter as documentation that we took this step. I tried to explain to my parents how it benefits us and made sure to note that the style we have has no video or visual abilities.

    1. Hi Juday! Great question! I am not sure. I know some have been able to use Alexa and others are just not even allowed. I’m sorry! I wish I could be more helpful!

  1. Our school has the IT department install them so they can use school network.
    That being said In order to use an Amazon account it is hooked to a personal account.

    1. Our IT has to add our devices. That being said originally the district said if they district paid for it we could have it added to the network. Now they are bringing up the privacy issue. I’m on here looking for info to use for our meeting to allow us to use Alexa in the classroom! Wish us luck. We are “opening a can of worms” says our IT director.

  2. Greetings:

    It’s important teachers/students are aware of the harm being done when using a human name for a voice assistant. Many people don’t realize the repercussions until it’s brought to their attention. Even our group didn’t realize the damage that was being done until we started researching this issue. https://alexaisahuman.com/

    There is absolutely no blame here, rather an opportunity to increase awareness and positive educational impact. We, as teachers, can do better by modeling an appropriate path when using voice assistants. Amazon simply doesn’t understand child development. Amazon is currently ignoring multiple requests to examine the outcomes but they’re fully aware it’s a problem. Amazon is currently disregarding how this has affected Alexas and their families worldwide. That speaks volumes about their business ethics.

    Many technologists/experts in the field are also aware of what’s happening, including former members of the original “Alexa” team. The problem is evident. How to solve it on a large scale remains to be seen. Teachers, on the other hand, do understand child development, thus, modeling appropriate usage is imperative in order to change the trajectory for Alexas & the future in voice education. Educators have the power to influence change in the education sector while it remains an ethical mess in the technology sector.

    Here’s a simple but important request: Instead of using “Alexa” consider using Amazon or Computer moving forward. No child’s name should be highlighted in a subservient manner. Why, you ask?

    Consider perusing the content of what’s happening worldwide as a result of Amazon choosing a person’s name, in this case, Alexa. This is just a snippet. https://alexaisahuman.com/

    Approx. 80,000 Alexas under the age of 18 are at risk. Our group has **numerous anecdotal data points of Alexas experiencing harassment, name changes, continuous jokes, restrictions, bullying, teachers laughing at them, job impact, name bombardment, etc. This is not your typical “kids will be kids” teasing simply because of the ubiquity of this product. “Alexa” is everywhere. Cars, homes, ear buds, toilets, glasses, talk sockets, etc.

    What stories, you ask?
    ?There are parents of young Alexas & adult Alexas worldwide who have or will be going through legal name changes. Yes, legal name changes.
    ?There is a 13-year-old former Alexa in Europe who was bullied so badly that her parents changed her name and school this past summer. She also expressed suicidal thoughts. She’s finally experiencing relief because she’s no longer Alexa.
    ?There are Alexas experiencing an increase in anxiety due to continuous harassment in multiple settings.
    ?There’s a 5-year-old Alexa who told her Mom she doesn’t want to go to anyone’s house that has the device because people will laugh at her. 5 years old. She was 1 when Amazon released the product. Imagine if Amazon had chosen your daughter’s name. What names are next? Google vs. Alexa; vastly different outcomes. Why?
    ?There are Alexas who have been asked to use a nickname to avoid setting off the device. (i.e. by teachers/professors)
    ?Alexas are now experiencing continuous interruptions and jokes in Zoom meetings.
    ?There are teachers who have had a student named Alexa and made fun of the situation.
    ?There are Alexas who are now using their middle name or a different name on name tags to avoid scrutiny/jokes at work.
    ?There are young Alexas in counseling due to relentless bullying b/c of their name. One is 12 years old.
    ?There is a former Alexa who now goes by Aria because of the continuous scrutiny by both children and adults. She had to learn how to write her new name.
    ?These are just a very small snippet of the stories we’re encountering as we push for change.

    Our recommendation to UNESCO and other education agencies is to eliminate the use of human names for voice assistants in the education sector. The data/outcomes drives this recommendation.

    Collectively, educators have the power to support Alexas worldwide and demonstrate that tolerance for these outcomes is unacceptable. Amazon may choose to not listen, but that doesn’t mean teachers have to follow suit. Best practices in education means doing better when you become aware of a problem.

    How can you become a part of the solution you ask? Use Amazon or Computer instead as the wake word in your classroom & explain why you’re making that change. If kids knew the outcomes, no doubt, they would want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. It’s really THAT simple.

    Consider having your class sign a pledge for change & sharing the link. “I Pledge to Change the Wake Word From Alexa to Amazon or Computer.” https://alexaisahuman.com/i-pledge

    Consider also signing the petition for change. Show Alexas they matter too.

    https://www.change.org/p/amazon-alexa-is-a-human-using-her-name-in-a-subservient-manner-is-not-okay-replace-it-with-a-non-human-name-partnering-companies-keep-the-amazing-technology-demand-a-non-human-wake-name-it-s-offensive-and-degrading-changethewakename

    If you’re still reading and digesting this, thank you. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at humanalexas@yahoo.com and I’m happy to answer them.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Jennifer

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I can tell you have done a great amount of research and as parents, we have asked this same question. I am approving your comment so that others who are interested may also read everything you have to say.

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