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!
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.
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!
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!
My district is having some concerns with these regarding student privacy. How did you deal with this?
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!
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.
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.
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.
Does it have a way to see what someone asks Echo in the Kid version?
That’s a great question! That I know of, no. But I could be wrong!! That would be a wonderful feature!!
Do you know how teachers have connected Alexa to the school WiFi?
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!
I connect Alexa to my phone personal hotspot
Great article and ideas. Have you ever tried the Spelling Teacher skill? This helps setting up a spelling lesson for the week, that students could even use at home. https://amzn.to/2EdrCNk
I have not! Sounds awesome!! Thanks for sharing!
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.
Would you happen to know how IT configured Alexa to the school network? My echo won’t connect to it. Thanks.
Hi Ruthie! I’m not sure because Alexa wasn’t around when I was still in the classroom. I’m sorry!!
I just went into my app and added it my devices. I was able to turn blue tooth on and connect it to the school wifi
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.
This article will not serve your purpose, but it should help to inform you of the very real concerns with this technology in the classroom. Once they fix a few of these issues, the device will pay huge dividends in the classroom…
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.