Many of you likely know about the Amazon Echo device, it’s a sort of home assistant that goes by the name “Alexa.” It’s a pretty cool little device as it can use IFTTT to interact with hundreds of apps and even in home devices like your light bulbs to your home security system. It’s really pretty amazing, and Alexa can control all of it with just your voice. It’s been on my intent to buy list for a while now but I recently read several ideas for using the echo that were a bit different that what most envision it for, using Alexa in the classroom.
My first reaction was not positive, I thought it was a dumb idea but as I kept reading about how this elementary school teacher utilized echo I was amazed. The idea was to have an echo set up at a table where students are working. These students are then able to ask Alexa questions just like they would ask their teacher. “Alexa how do you spell ____?” or “Alexa whats 547+205?” This doesn’t make Alex a substitute for the teacher but it allows students to get help when their teacher may be helping another group or student. A sort of “budget teaching assistant.”
Now there’s dozens of reasons why this isn’t the best idea such as students being able to order a pizza through Alexa and asking inappropriate questions. Additionally the Echo is currently priced at $179.99, which isn’t the most expensive item but certainly isn’t something I would pick up on a whim. Recently though Amazon made realizing this concept a lot easier with their new Amazon Echo Dot. The Dot works almost exactly like the original echo but is lacking the much larger speaker for playing music. However eliminating this feature brings the dot down in price to a much more affordable $89.99.
It’s an interesting idea to use Alexa in the classroom and I think one day I might try it in a classroom of my own. Being able to answer simple questions for students is all the functionality it needs to be viable in a classroom and Alexa does so wonderfully.