Whenever I am working on assignments or reading for my online classes at my desk, one of my favorite tools to use to help me with productivity is my Amazon Echo Dot. As strange as it may seem, Amazon Alexa can help with online learning in a lot of different ways, especially for students who get eye strain easily from looking at screens. Here are my tips for how Amazon Alexa can help with online learning, from someone who has taken over three dozen online classes.
Using built-in functions to help limit screen time
Instead of pulling out a calculator or looking up a word online, I like to ask my Amazon Alexa to perform calculations, spell out/define words, translate words/phrases from one language to another, and perform other simple tasks so that I don’t have to worry about staring at another screen. While I haven’t found a way to use my Amazon Alexa as an elaborate calculator (I’ve linked my favorite calculator apps below), it works great for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing long strings of numbers, and I use it frequently to check my math when doing my homework.
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When is that assignment due again? I can easily ask Alexa to set reminders for me for different days and times so that I can keep track of assignment deadlines, outline a schedule for when I want to complete certain tasks, or even just simple reminders about upcoming video calls with friends. Users can add reminders within the Alexa app by going to the Reminders menu, or say “Alexa, remind me to do this task on this day and time.”
Enabling the Work-At-Home Routine
One of the newest features from Amazon Alexa is the work-at-home routine, which can be customized to help people who are learning or working from home to stay on a schedule. This can be fully customized within the Routines section of the Alexa app and contains reminders for stretch breaks, eating/preparing meals, and when it’s time to stop working. It’s a great way to help people remain focused and learn how to structure their day, and can be enabled within the Routines section- though in my case, Alexa asked me if I would be interested in enabling it based on my usage activity and I was able to enable it from the device.
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Setting alarms and timers
While I do use the work-at-home routine frequently, I use a lot of timers and alarms when I am working on my online assignments so that I don’t exhaust myself or miss an important meeting- since the routines do not require the user to acknowledge the device with their voice, it can be easy to accidentally ignore an important reminder. Depending on what I am working on, I will ask Alexa to set a timer for thirty minutes so I can focus on writing some Python, or set an alarm for 7:55 PM so I don’t miss out on a fun online event.
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Reading books out loud from Kindle
This skill will read the most recent book in the Kindle library, starting from the most recent page. Alexa’s voice will read the text, as opposed to another audio recording. It can also start from the beginning of chapters if needed. The book must support text-to-speech in order for this to work, though almost all titles support it- even some of my textbooks.
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Studying with the Flashcard skill
Need to study for an upcoming quiz or test? Users can create their own custom flashcards using the Flashcard skill with Alexa Skill Blueprints for free, with no coding needed. The flashcard skill was created to help people study and master comments by voice using audio-based flashcards. Users can create multiple different topics, though they must use a different skill name for each category. I like using this skill more than I do traditional flashcards, as I can easily keep different cards organized and don’t have to worry about reading (or misreading) any letters or numbers.
Taking breaks to exercise
While stretch breaks are great, many people prefer to have a more structured exercise break during the day so that they can better target different muscle groups that can get easily cramped from working at a desk. Users can ask Alexa for a workout, and she will choose a random audio workout, though there is no way to predict what exercises will be in this workout. For users who prefer to set their own exercise routines, I highly recommend creating a custom workout using the Workout skill with Alexa Skill Blueprints.
Turning the Echo into a white noise machine
Some people focus better with white noise in the background, such as a fan or the sound of beach waves. Amazon Alexa has tons of options for white noise and ambient noise that users can listen to while studying or when trying to relax, though I typically just use the fan sound which can be enabled by saying “Alexa, turn on white noise.” I’ve listed more options in my post on how Amazon Alexa can help you sleep linked below.
While online classes can get a little bit lonely, I love having my Amazon Alexa as a classmate, as she can help me with staying focused in my classes without contributing to additional eyestrain. I hope this post on how Amazon Alexa can help with online learning is helpful for others!