Amazon Echo and Echo Plus as a Teaching Assistant - To Teach Or Not To Teach

Go to content

The Teaching Assistant You Should Have: Amazon Alexa     by D OByrn
On those days when you could use a little extra help, wouldn’t it be nice to have a teaching assistant?  Now that the school year has started it is doubtful there will be an extra person assigned to your classroom.  And no matter how well-liked you are, you wouldn’t dare ask your principal to hire someone just for you.  But don’t despair. There are some relatively inexpensive, well tested, small and portable devices you can choose from that just might help with your teaching.  In fact you might have already heard them working in the homes of friends and family.  The devices come from Amazon but they respond best to the name “Alexa”.  As a busy teacher with a large classroom consider inviting the Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Plus into your room because of it has a louder voice, though some of its smaller cousins might work in smaller spaces.  Here are just a few things Alexa could help you with in your classroom every day.                                         
Because all Amazon Echo’s and their smaller siblings are noted for their vocal abilities, why not use them whenever sounds and music is appropriate.  During those times when students are busy writing or working on individual projects, the Echo can set the mood with ambient noise or soft instrumental music.  This would also be perfect for transition times between group work or meditative or mindfulness exercises.  Playing music could also be used as a behavior reward for the whole class.
When starting a new classroom unit, Amazon’s Echo could read aloud a relevant section from Wikipedia to get your students thinking about the subject.  When it comes to social studies or current events, Alexa could tap into today’s news or a report from NPR.  Depending on the subject area, you could call on Alexa for a number of things. In Language Arts ask the Echo to read a passage from a selected book, which might already be in your Amazon library or Audible collection.  If you teach Physical Education, you might want your class to hear some of the latest sports scores to motivate students.  Alexa will respond.
When it comes to aiding you with instruction, the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus really shines.  For Math Alexa can help illustrate probability by rolling the dice or start you off with a random number.  She can solve math problems and help students check their addition and subtraction problems.  In English Alexa can help spell words correctly along with providing synonyms and antonyms.  The Echo can also assist in translating common words and expressions.  In Science classes, Alexa can provide everything from the current weather to descriptions of various animals to definitions of important scientific terms.  Whenever you want to group your students, your Echo can easily assign students to groups, as well as assist with games like Bingo, Simon Says, or Jeopardy.  As holidays approach Alexa can even give you and students cooking lessons for some tasty treats and count the calories too.  Your classroom Echo Plus could even help with Halloween jokes!
A good assistant would also help with the various management tasks every teacher is expected to do on a daily basis.  Student profiles can be added to the Echo and Echo Plus.  Echo’s can be used to set timers and reminders whenever needed.  You know a teacher’s work is never done.  As you prepare for your next lesson they can be very helpful with research, even answering a question you might have saving you from stopping and looking it up yourself.  
Last but not least, your classroom assistant Echo is your personal aide.  Who wouldn’t like a fresh cup of coffee or tea in the morning?  Just tell Alexa to start brewing at the right time and it’ll turn on the coffee pot plugged in nearby.  And when you are exhausted at the end of the day Alexa can check your calendar for any important upcoming meetings and check the traffic for your way home.  Your Echo might even find your smartphone if it’s been one of those kind of days.

Back to content