One of my friends inspired me to update this post when they asked me if I had any nonvisual study resources for blind students and if I had ever used my Amazon Echo to study for exams or other college classes. I love my Amazon Echo Dot for studying and searching for information without having to look at a screen, so today I will be sharing my favorite tips for how Amazon Alexa can help you study for exams, perfect for auditory learners.
Create an outline for a paper with the Lists function
The list feature in Amazon Alexa isn’t just for creating shopping lists or to-do lists- they are a great tool for outlining papers and making notes to save for later. Users can ask Alexa to create a list and add items by saying “Alexa, add (list item) to (list name).” If I am brainstorming for a blog post or for a research paper, I will create a list with the post name or paper name, and add details to the list like section headers, interesting facts or ideas, or information I want to include- this is sometimes easier than writing something down on a piece of paper or on a phone. I don’t copy and paste text from these lists, rather I listen to them as I am writing and type them manually in the document I’m working on.
For visual learners looking for another high-tech option for outlining papers, I’ve linked my post on how I outline papers with Microsoft OneNote below, as well as a few other posts from my Writing Success series.
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Write
- How I Outline Research Papers With OneNote
- How To Run Effective Web Searches
- How I Write Research Papers On Accessibility Topics
- How I Read Research Sources With Assistive Technology
- How I Create Citations For Research Papers
Perform basic calculations with your voice using Alexa’s calculator
When I am working on projects related to my data science classes, I often need to perform basic calculations to make sure everything is working or displaying as I expect it. Instead of opening a calculator application, I can ask Alexa to perform calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, exponentiation, fractions, and more. I don’t use this calculator for my advanced math classes, but it’s great for when I need to quickly calculate something and don’t want to be distracted from what I’m working on. The calculator function is built into the Amazon Echo/Amazon Alexa and does not require additional downloads.
- Five Accessible Calculator Apps For Low Vision
- How I’m Using MyMathLab With Low Vision
- Math Test Accommodations For Low Vision
Create custom flashcards with Alexa Skill Blueprints
Users can create audio flashcards for the topic of their choice with Alexa Skill Blueprints, which will create a custom skill for organizing and reading out flashcards. Users don’t need to write code or know anything about coding to create their own custom flashcard skill, though they will need to add and edit flashcards on the Alexa Skill Blueprints website- as of publishing time, new flashcards cannot be added within the flashcards skill itself. I have an entire post on creating custom flashcards with Amazon Alexa linked below.
Read books out loud from Audible, Kindle, and Bookshare
The majority of my textbooks offer text-to-speech and read aloud support with Amazon Kindle, so I can listen to textbook content on my Amazon Echo Dot by enabling the Kindle Assistive Reader. This can be done by going to the Settings menu in the Alexa app, then selecting Accessibility and turning on the Kindle Assistive Reader.
Besides Kindle books, users can also listen to purchased Audible content on the Amazon Echo Dot, as well as downloaded titles from Bookshare. I’ve linked my post on reading with Amazon Alexa below for more in-depth reading.
Set reminders and custom study routines
When studying for midterms and finals, it can be easy to accidentally skip meals or forget to do other things while being deeply focused on other things. There are a few built-in Amazon Echo features that can help mitigate this, including setting up custom reminders and routines.
Reminders play as announcements and can be scheduled or played on demand. To create a new reminder, users can say “Alexa, create a new reminder” or provide all of the information at once- for example, I might say “Alexa, remind me to eat lunch in an hour” or “Alexa, remind me to leave for class at noon.” Users can set reminders to repeat as well, so I can ask Alexa to remind me to eat lunch every day at noon.
Routines are more structured and announce information at custom intervals, and can either be enabled manually by asking Alexa to activate a routine, or scheduled to turn on automatically. There are a few different options for creating study routines- a lot of my friends use the Pomodoro method and use the Routines function to announce start and end times for study times and breaks. Users can search for routines in the Alexa app or create their own custom schedules.
Listen to music and ambient audio to promote focus
I love listening to instrumental music and ambient audio to help me focus while writing or studying. I prefer to use my Amazon Echo over opening a new tab in my web browser when possible, because I am less likely to accidentally close the tab and can control the audio playback with my voice, which helps limit the possibility of getting distracted when opening another program.
Some of my favorite music/ambient audio options for studying include:
- White noise machine/”Alexa, enable white noise”
- Instrumental and lo-fi playlists on Amazon Music and Spotify
- Tabletop Audio ambient audio tracks
- The Jazz Groove skill for ad-free music
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Listen To History
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Sleep
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: MP3 Players
Search for course-specific/topic-specific skills and resources
There are hundreds of Amazon Alexa Skills available that are specifically for studying various topics and subjects. Users can also ask Alexa to search the web for answers to various questions- this was especially helpful when I was writing a paper for an industrial/organizational psychology class and needed to look up several definitions. Another time, I used Alexa to get information about various elements on the Periodic Table of Elements for a general science class.
Even though this isn’t specifically related to exams, one of my friends is a huge fan of the Science Bowl skill and use it to study for Science Bowl competitions, and I included it below since it is a great study resource.
- Amazon.com: Science Bowl : Alexa Skills
- Accessible Periodic Tables For Low Vision
- How To Choose General Education Courses In College
- Five Apps I Use In The Science Classroom As A Low Vision Student
- SAT Accommodations for Low Vision
- ACT Accommodations For Low Vision
- SOL Test Accommodations And Low Vision
- Mainstream Educational Technology Certifications For Teachers of the Visually Impaired
More ways how Amazon Alexa can help you study for exams
- Need to translate a word or phrase? Alexa has a built-in translation function that supports several different languages, though I recommend double checking translations for accuracy
- One of the ways I practiced studying for an exam was to answer questions related to exam topics on Alexa Answers- learn more at Alexa Answers (amazon.com)
- Amazon Echo also has several built-in reference features including a dictionary, thesaurus, rhyming dictionary, and Wikipedia. Users can also ask Alexa how to spell various words
- Sometimes I need to make a phone call while writing or studying but don’t want to get distracted by looking at my phone. I added a few contacts to the Amazon Alexa app so I can call them using my Echo Dot by saying “Alexa, call mom mobile” or similar. At the end of the call, I say “Alexa, hang up.”