Five ways Alexa can help make remote learning easier this semester

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Remote learning is hard — hard for students, hard for parents and hard for teachers. While many people have struggled with isolation during the pandemic, many of us with children have struggled to balance the demands of life as a professional, as a parent and increasingly, as a teacher, too (or at least a teaching assistant).

And all these challenges can be exacerbated by any number of variables, from how many kids you have to their ages and even the space you have in your house or apartment.

While technology isn’t going to solve the problem of remote learning altogether, voice assistants like Alexa, which works on Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays, can genuinely help with some of the challenges of teaching and learning in this time.

Search without more screen time

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Depending on the age of your kids, they may be spending upward of eight hours per school day planted squarely in front of a computer screen, and evidence suggests that this learning environment has a number of negative repercussions.

Luckily, Alexa will answer simple questions without extra screen time. Need to check the answers on your math homework? Ask Alexa. Need to check historical or scientific facts? Ask Alexa.

Sure, Alexa’s not going to do deep research for you, but as a simple tool, the voice assistant can be great to keep around during screen-free learning time.

Drop In on your kids during school

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Even if your kid is “at school” in their room for much of the day, it can be hard to fight the urge to check in on them periodically, to make sure they’re awake, attending to their lessons and nothing else is going wrong. But you don’t want to disrupt school, either.

Alexa devices let you Drop In on your family members (once you change your privacy settings to allow it), and this can be an easy, fairly nondisruptive way to listen in on class for a few minutes — if only to put your mind at ease that learning is in fact happening.

Alexa can read with your kids

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Reading is a huge part of education, but if your kids are just learning to read, have some learning disabilities or are simply tired from long days staring at text on screens, Alexa can read to your children. If you have an Audible account, Alexa can read any books connected to the account.

If your children are younger, Amazon Kids+ is a great subscription service that includes loads of free audiobooks for kids to read along with.

Alexa can play music for your kids

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This might seem like an obvious one, but as learning has shifted online, many noncentral subjects like art and music have fallen by the wayside (or look dramatically different from before). Alexa can play music for your kids using streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal and more.

If you’re learning about music history, Alexa can play various classical songs with a simple request. If you’re hoping to help your young kids become more passionate about singing, they can request songs like “Bingo” and “Old MacDonald.”

Alexa can help your young children learn how to speak more clearly

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This is for early-development children, but as the parent of a child who had a minor speech delay, I found that having a smart speaker around with Alexa was actually helpful for practicing question/answer conversational structures, and for practicing clear speech.

While Alexa obviously won’t stand in for in-person conversations, the voice assistant really can help with some verbal development in a way screens simply won’t.

Have you found other ways Alexa can help with remote learning? Let me know in the comments.

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