Help “ALEXA”

Technology allows us to have and use many different, highly sophisticated tools in our classrooms. Amazon’s Echo is just one such example that is being used in many classrooms. The Echo, which responds to the name “Alexa,” is Amazon’s digital assistant built into the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, which are wireless speakers with built-in microphones. Using nothing more than the sound of their voice, students can search the Web or ask and get answers to almost any question. Students simply say the wake-word “Alexa,” then ask a question. For example, the definition of a specific word. The beauty is that a student can also readily continue working on the task they are engaged in.

The Echo, and Alexa, is being used in the classroom of AIMS Facilitator, Chris Franklin. He is an intermediate grade science and technology teacher for Houston ISD in Houston, Texas. The school year there has started slowly because of Hurricane Harvey. So far, Houston ISD has only been open for just over a week’s worth of classes. Chris is slowly getting to know his students, and getting a better idea for what the best learning plan for his exceptional students is. In his morning class, he has a total of 24 students, of which nine are inclusion students with individual education plans (IEPs). Three of the nine students have minimal speaking abilities.

Chris shared that he wanted to use technology with them to help with their progress. He decided to introduce them to Alexa. He brought one from home into the classroom. Chris says that after a two-day tutorial, the inclusion students have “opened up.” They are more vocal and now participating in class. During small group work they are very eager “find” answers to science questions by interacting with Alexa. He also said that he will keep me posted on the progress of his inclusion students as the school year goes on. With the use of Alexa and the marked improvement of his inclusion students, Chris is anxious to see the extent of their progress over time.

I look forward to the updates from Chris and I will share them in later posts. I am most excited that technology has given these exceptional students a path to success in their science classroom. How are technological devices helping students succeed in your classroom?

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