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My husband is a gadget guy, so it was no surprise that he bought us an Amazon Echo for Christmas.
At first, I rarely used it – mostly because I didn’t know how to incorporate it into our day. We had our routines and I had my way of doing things. Change is always an adjustment, right?
At first, we just used our Echo to ask Alexa silly questions. That’s fun, but not quite worth the purchase.
Figuring there were more useful tools, I set out to find a way for incorporate Echo into our education. Now, we use our Echo daily as part of our school day. We’ve found at least 24 ways to use Amazon Echo in our homeschool.
I’d love to share what we’ve learned with you!
Set boundaries for children.
At first, the kids were talking to Alexa allllll the time. It was new and they were excited! They were asking her random questions, having her tell jokes, and playing their favorite songs.
I quickly realized a few things.
First, the Echo doesn’t always understand children’s voices – especially young children. Alexa understands our 5-year old about half the time.
Sometimes, Alexa responds with, “I did not understand that,” but other times it responds with something completely random. Alexa’s verbal responses are not inappropriate, but it’s clear it didn’t understand what was being asked.
Or, if our youngest says, “Alexa, play the Star Spangled Banner,” she may start playing a song we’ve never heard that is NOT the national anthem — and we don’t know what’s in the lyrics.
Using Alexa as a speaker
We’ve used our Echo as a speaker more than any other use. We play a variety of things:
We have playlists specifically for starting our day. (Read more about how we start our day here). We have dance party play lists for when we need to reset our attitudes, and classical music playlists for when we’re doing independent work.
Our playlists are through Amazon Prime Music, but Spotify or iTunes would work by pairing Echo with your phone or iPad and using Echo as a bluetooth speaker.
Amazon Echo works great as a bluetooth speaker. It’s significantly louder than my phone, iPad or computer speakers. When we watch any videos, we pair the iPad to the Echo and we get a much fuller sound.
This works great when we use the Greatest Works Tour, which is our Music & Art Enrichment curriculum. It’s great to have a quality speaker when listening to some of the greatest composers & their masterpieces! Read here to learn more about the Greatest Works Tour.
We’re big fans of audiobooks and we borrow many from our local library. We typically use the app Overdrive to play our library loans on my phone. When we’re in the car, we can play it through the sound system. At home, we pair Echo with my phone using Bluetooth and we can listen at any time.
Read more about our our five favorite audiobook series in this post.
Useful Commands. “Alexa,…”
Timed tests? Quiet reading time? Exercising? Practicing piano? Baking something? Just say, “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes” or, “Alexa, set an alarm for 2:15 pm” and you’re all set.
A few months ago, my daughter was reading and asked, “Mom, what does ‘incorrigible’ mean?” I told her to look it up in the dictionary. Without a hesitation, she turned around and said, “Alexa, what does ‘incorrigible’ mean?”
Needless to say, I told Alexa to stop and handed my daughter the dictionary! She’s not going to always get away with it that easily!
If your children have difficulty reading or focusing when it’s quiet, or needs an extra level of ‘noise” to concentrate, Echo has several ambient sound options.
Amazon Skills. “Alexa, launch…”
Third-party developers are creating various Amazon Skills for use with the Echo. Skills range from topical information, games, and entertainment. Recently, Amazon hosted a contest for educational skills, and many creative new skills were discovered.
Most skills geared toward children require an additional step of approval before Alexa will open the skill. If you say, “Alexa, enable (insert skill here),” Alexa will notify you that a verification request was sent to your Alexa app. Open the app on your mobile device, accept the request, and Alexa will then open the app. This is a one-time verification. You can always disable permissions in the Manage Parental Consent page.
Find out about the historical events that happened on this day and every other day of the year. Curated by the History Channel
Learn about Mars and get the latest rover updates directly from NASA. Mission team members write the updates weekly.
Many news organizations have a Flash Briefing: NPR, CNN, USA Today, etc. Choose one that works best for you and get a synopsis of the news in under 5 minutes per day.
We love this skill and giggle every time! This fun skill is what happens when “Choose Your Own Adventure” meet math. Kids use early elementary math facts to solve word problems & stretch their imaginations with kid-friendly humor. With thousands of possible combinations, kids can play again and again without encountering the same game twice.
Challenge your elementary computing skills including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, comparison, etc. There are three modes easy, medium and hard with increasing levels of difficulty. Your challenge can be saved throughout the day, so it’s easy to stop and start the challenge whenever you have a few minutes in your day.
Have fun racing around the house to find the items Alexa suggest. It will keep kids of all ages entertained for hours as they look for things around the house.
Play Jeopardy at home! 12 free weekly clues are released every Friday, and you can buy addtional monthly packs of 50 clues if you’d like more Teen Jeopardy! at home.
24. Animal Workout
If you need a “brain break,” a way to get the wiggles out, or just a quick reset to your day, Animal Workout will do the trick! Kids are told to become different animals while getting exercise. Alexa will offer up encouraging words as they go along to also boost motivation and confidence.
Work in progress
Developers are creating new skills and interactions with Amazon Echo daily. It’s relatively new, and we are consistently learning new features and commands.
As with anything, we’re constantly working to find a balance between leveraging technology to advance learning, and keep kids from using it as a crutch with their education. If you have that figured out, please let me know!