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Alexa can make remote learning easier with these 5 tricks

Amazon's voice assistant has some good ideas for improving your kids' remote school experience.

David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
David Priest
3 min read
Chris Monroe/CNET

Remote learning is hard -- hard for students, hard for parents and hard for teachers -- and despite the pandemic beginning well over a year ago and schools slowly starting to reopen for in-person instruction, many of us are still remote. While some 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 that hasn't gotten much easier as we started a new school year in August. 

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, genuinely can help with some of the challenges of teaching and learning in this time. Here's five ways your Alexa devices can help with remote learning. 

Read more: Amazon announced the new Echo Show 15 smart display at its September 2021 fall product launch event, along with several other new Echo and Ring products

Chris Monroe/CNET

Search without more screen time

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.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Drop In on your kids during school

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.

Julie Snyder/CNET

Alexa can read with your kids

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 Plus is a great subscription service that includes loads of free audiobooks for kids to read along with.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Alexa can play music for your kids

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.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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

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.

Want more Alexa?

First published on Jan. 24, 2021 at 8 a.m. EST.