by Tara Wohltman
Assistive Technology Specialist
Many schools are using the Amazon Echo, also known as Alexa, in the classroom. Mike Smith, a teacher at Kingsway’s Elementary Program, tried it during the last school year. Here are some uses he found helpful.
- As a timer. “Alexa, set a five minute timer,” which will alert the students and Mr. Smith that it is time for snack, or gym, or to change stations within the room.
- As a sound box. “Alexa, make an elephant sound,” which will allow immediate access to an appropriate noise being discussed during the
- For daily information. “Alexa, what’s the date?” or “Alexa what’s the weather?” which will allow immediate access to this information.
- As a speaker. “Alexa, play ‘The Wheels on the Bus,’” which allows songs for morning routine, dance time, or quiet time to be quickly accessed.
- As a reminder. “Alexa, set a reminder that there’s no gym today at 1:00.” An auditory reminder in a busy classroom helps keep things organized.
Alexa works with speech generating devices so a non-verbal student can use their AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) device to give a command to Alexa. Many of our students are visually impaired, so the auditory commands and feedback from Alexa encourage their independence.
What else can Alexa do in the classroom?
Alexa can tell stories, and, if you have an Amazon Audible account, it works directly with Alexa. When the teacher is reading in class, the audiobook can be paired with novel reading to help auditory learners. Alexa can also spell most words and can provide definitions and synonyms. Alexa includes tools like Science Buddy and Science News Headlines. You can ask Alexa “What is the capital of Georgia?” or play the U.S. Capitals game. Other trivia games, such as Jeopardy can be played as well.
The Amazon Echo has many great tools or “skills” as the app refers to them. It is a great tool to help make the school day easier and more fulfilling for teachers and students.