Tips for getting started with Alexa in the Classroom
Table of Contents
1. First steps
Decide how you want the device used in your class. Here are some questions to consider:
Do you want to be the only one to talk to the device?
Do you want the students to use the device in small groups or on their own? (In the K-2 grades this is generally not recommended)
What expectations will you have for your students? Many of your students might have an Alexa device in their home. Our suggestion is that you talk to the students about how the use of Alexa at school will be different from the use at home. You might create a venn diagram of how it is alike and different. Come up with a class expectation anchor chart with the students.
2. Decide on your Class Setting and Use
When interacting with Alexa, only one person can talk to and respond at a time. Here’s how you might want to use Alexa in either whole group, small group and individual settings.
Designate a “caller” - the speaker who will ask and answer to the Alexa device. In a K-2 classroom, it works best for the teacher to be the caller. One way to facilitate this is to have students use whiteboards to answer the question given. They hold up the board and the caller looks for the most common answer in order to respond. Students can also use thumbs up and down. The caller could be a chosen student if you feel that will work in your class.
Another way to facilitate whole group use is to have a line up. Students line up and the first in line answers and asks. When they are done they sit down or go to the back of the line. The next student then becomes the caller.
*Some suggested times to use whole group
Transitions, math fact practice, spelling practice, trivia, discussion questions, reading reflections, writing prompts, community building games, reminders, music.
For small group facilitation, one way to use the device is to have students sitting at a table or around the device and rotate in a circle to designate the caller. You can also use the whiteboard system. Again in a K-2 classroom, it works best to have the teacher as the caller.
*Some suggested times to use small group: Intervention group warm up for math problems, spelling practice or assessments, research questions, games, definitions, math exercises.
If you’re using an Alexa speaker with a battery, students can move the speaker to where they are working for individual use. Otherwise, students can stand by the device. In a K-2 classroom this is not recommended unless your students are well trained.
*Some suggested times for individual use: Research questions, spelling, practice with individual needed skills for example math or spelling.
3. Print the commands and keep them handy in the classroom
Remembering what to say to Alexa can be a struggle at first. Here are printable cards and a poster to keep those commands handy.
4. Start slowly with these helpful teacher tools
Start with general tools that will help make your day as a teacher a bit easier. For example, setting reminders or using a timer can help you with tasks you might otherwise forget.
Try setting a reminder when it is a couple minutes before recess, lunch, a special or pack-up time. The reminders can be set for one time, daily or certain days.
“Alexa, set a reminder” or “Alexa, remind me to…”
Try using it for clean-up time, transition, independent work or quiet time.
“Alexa, set a timer for __ minutes.”
Check the weather when starting the day or before going to recess. Weather is a practical skill and can be used for conversation, learning, questions, predictions or even what to wear for recess. You may want to check the zip code is accurate in the settings of your Alexa app.
“Alexa, what’s the weather?”
Connect to a personal music account
Link to Apple music, Pandora, Spotify in your Alexa app.
E.g. Alexa, open (music station) on Pandora (note: the free version has ads)
It may also be helpful if students know that you can read and hear what they’ve asked Alexa (we’ll explain more below).
Check the Location
Keep Alexa away from corners or too close to a wall to prevent bouncing sound waves being picked up by the microphone.
Voice Train your Alexa device (for teachers, not for students)
In your Alexa app > Menu (top right) > Settings > Alexa Account > Recognizable Voices > Your Voice > Begin
Get an Alexa Remote
Eliminates background noise
Can mute the Echo speaker, and still use Alexa with the remote
You can choose Alexa, Echo, Amazon, or Computer as your wake word.
By voice: Say, "Change the wake word."
In the Alexa app: Menu > Device Settings > Select your device > Wake Word > Select wake word
This is handy if a student has a name that sounds similar to “Alexa”.
Follow-up Mode allows you to ask Alexa follow-up questions without repeating the wake word. The blue light ring remains on for a few seconds, letting you know that Alexa is active and ready for your next request.
To turn on Follow-up Mode, open your Alexa app: Menu > Device Settings > Select your device > scroll to Follow-up Mode > toggle to turn it on.
Warning: it could be convenient, but it could also lead to confusion with background noise. And recording continues a little while after the response.
Yes! We have printables that we update regularly. Print and keep them handy in the classroom.
There might be times when you want to stop Alexa early.
Say...“Alexa, stop” or “Alexa, cancel”
Appropriately, there is debate around privacy with voice technology. We believe that there is a way to enjoy the benefits and protect privacy with knowledge and simple measures.
Red ring = Mute button on = can’t activate Alexa by talking to the speaker.
An Alexa remote allows you to activate the speaker, even in mute.
The above two points allow you to access voice technology without recording student voices, if that is a concern.
No blue ring = No recording = Alexa in “listening” mode, waiting for the wake word.
Blue ring = Recording and storing of the recording on Amazon servers.
You, as the Amazon account holder, have the control to delete all recordings in the Alexa app, anytime.
In the settings of your Alexa app, you can set a tone to be played when the blue light ring goes on and off, to know if it’s been accidentally activated.
Doesn't collect any personally identifiable data for children.
We don't get access to the voice recordings, only to the transcripts.
We don't have student accounts.
The majority of our activities are intended for teachers to invoke, so our product can easily be a teacher tool only.
We encourage use of the mute button (and remote) when Alexa is not in use.
Questions or comments? Please email us at team@goaskMyClass.com.