California Educator

February / March 2019

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Your Classroom Assistant Amazon's Alexa is here to help By Terry Ng N E E D A L I T T L E H E L P in your classroom? Someone to keep track of your classroom schedule, remind you to give a quiz, or read a book to students? Help is here — and her name is Alexa. Alexa is Amazon's virtual assistant that works with their line of Echo voice-activated, Internet-connected smart speakers. Named after the ancient library of Alexandria, Alexa allows you to ask questions and make requests using just your voice. It's like having a Star Trek computer inside your classroom. Here are just a few examples of what you can ask Alexa to do. "Alexa, how do you spell ?" "Alexa, remind me to ." "Alexa, what is the definition of ?" "Alexa, what is a synonym for ?" "Alexa, what is the weather today?" "Alexa, what is my schedule today?" "Alexa, set a timer for ." "Alexa, read book." " Alexa, what is plus ?" (Or minus, times, etc.) "Alexa, pick a number between and ." "Alexa, play music." Along with impressive out-of-the-box commands you can ask, there are 70,000 more skills you can add to extend Alexa's capabilities. Just go to and search Alexa Skills to link to your account. On the following page are a few popular ones for the classroom. Echo Chamber Get started by purchasing an Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo speaker: Echo Dot ($29.99) Amazon's most popular smart speaker, with new fabric design, and improved speaker for richer and louder sound. Echo ($89.99) Powerful speakers with Dolby technology play 360-degree audio with clear vocals and dynamic bass response. Echo Dot Kids Edition ($69.99) Just ask and Alexa will play music, answer questions, read stories, tell jokes, and more — all with younger ears in mind. The Kids Edition, pic- tured above, filters out explicit lyrics on Amazon Music and disables voice purchasing, news, and adult-themed ques- tion-and-answer scenarios. It's more durable and comes with a year of FreeTime Unlim- ited, which gives you access to thousands of books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games. 50 Teaching & Learning T E C H T I P S

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