I love my Amazon Echo Dot (I have a review on it here). I use it easily thirty times a day as a talking clock, as a news source, for telling me the weather, and so much more. Recently, I have discovered how the device, named Alexa, is able to help users with homework. This is especially helpful for users who are auditory learners, as opposed to visual. Here are six of the Alexa skills that I use frequently.
Ask Alexa “how do you spell,” followed by the word you want spelled. I had it test several different random words of varying lengths, and all of them came back correct. Names were hit and miss, it managed to spell around half of my friends’ names correctly. However, this does not work well with homophones (words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently).
Ask Alexa “what is” followed by the math equation. This is incredibly helpful for me as a student with low vision, as I have difficulty reading traditional calculator displays. The device seems to respond well to long division problems, but sometimes it reads out over twenty decimal places for a number, much like a normal calculator would display. Just keep that in mind for particularly long numbers.
By enabling the translation skill, users can ask “Alexa, ask translated how to say,” followed by the word, followed by the desired language. The Alexa voice does not actually pronounce the word, the application has its own audio from native speakers. Alexa will also send the spelling for the word into the Alexa app. I tested this in Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and Russian with great results.
When a familiar word is found ask Alexa to define the word. This seems to work for any word in the dictionary and is forgiving of pronunciation errors. There are also other dictionary skills available for more specific terminologies, such as a medical or legal dictionary.
Tired of using the same words over and over again? Use Alexa as a thesaurus and ask for synonyms of a word. I asked for synonyms of the word “hurt” and received back three words. When I asked for synonyms of those other words, Alexa did not repeat any of the previous words given.
Wikipedia is frequently used to look up information. Ask “Alexa, Wikipedia” followed by whatever topic. It reads the first paragraph/summary of the Wikipedia entry for the given topic. If asked about a person, it also gives basic demographic information.
I can’t imagine living in a dorm room without my Amazon Echo Dot, which is why it appears in many of my product roundups including the ten “weird” things I packed for college, the items on my desk, and in my technology roundup. I can’t recommend it enough for college students or people with low vision. It’s safe to say this device has greatly changed how I access information, and for that I am extremely grateful.