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The Smart Classroom?

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Posted in:  
May 1, 2018

"Ok, Google! Turn on the living room lights."

"Alexa, turn off the sprinkler."

Image from Consequence of Sound

"Ok, Google! Set the air conditioner to 71."

"Alexa, who’s at the front door?"

I don't know if you're as obsessed with gadgets and technology as I am, but sometimes I stop and think I'm living in the future. Give me a flying car, and I could be George Jetson himself!

Some of my favorite toys to play with are smart speakers. I have both a Google Home and an Amazon Alexa, and I love them both. The main thing I use them for is to play podcasts and to listen to music, but I must confess they have settled more than one family argument about who was right. Newsflash: I was wrong!

The more I use them, the more I think about how much fun a smart classroom can be. So let's talk about a few fun ways you can use intelligent home assistants.

1. Help your kids with the facts

It's so much fun to ask Google or Alexa to give me information or background on something. It can also be fun in the classroom for students to ask questions of the smart speaker and instantaneously get facts, which can sure make learning fun. It also helps kids understand how the technology works and how to ask the right question to get the answer you need. Smart speakers can be a great addition when you're in a classroom or school with limited access to devices. It's an excellent way for kids to research without having a device of their own.

2. It's Gametime!

You can play fun and educational quizzes with the smart speaker, and it turns your classroom into its very own game show. Whether you use Google or Amazon Alexa, there are all kinds of fun games for your students to play. There's a CK-12 EDU trivia game, Space Trivia, Math Showdown and Animal Trivia. There are also fun games like Freeze Dance, Musical Chairs and my personal favorite, Star Wars Trivia Challenge. Smart assistants provide a fantastic way for your students to learn or to have a little fun.

3. Customize Your Classroom Experience

Google Home has a new feature called Recipe's that let the assistant work for you. Essentially, you decide on a phrase, and when you say it, you can tell Google what you want to happen next. This mean's you can come back from being on the playground and say "Ok, Google! I'm home!" And you can set Google Home up so that when you utter that phrase, you want it to play the news, a specific song, or to start a game. Or, you can use one of Google's other phrases and adopt it at study time. Just speak it. And then Google will play a specific playlist from Spotify. That way if you're setting up routines and procedures it helps focus your class and get the ball rolling without you having to do much work! Amazon can do this with the help of the IFTTT app, but it's not a functionality that is baked in.

Ok, so what is the downside?

Well, for one, there aren't a lot of controls on the devices, and that means that it's possible for people on the same network to play music on your speaker from another room. There are workarounds, but it's something to keep in mind, and you want to work with your IT staff to make sure you set it up correctly Also, smart assistants record your voice when you talk to it. That means when your students ask questions, you have it recorded and it's saved to a server. You want to talk to your district admin about what school policy is regarding that data.

Overall, I think smart assistants can bring a lot of fun and information to your classroom and make your life easier. I would love to help if you have any questions, so please don't hesitate to ask!

About the Author

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Ben Parker

Director, Technology

Ben serves as Director of Technology for the OPSRC. In this role, he will provide support to schools on technical issues and training on pressing technology topics. Ben will assist partner schools with trainings, comprehensive technology plans, e-Rate applications, technology purchasing consultation, and other school and district technology decisions.

Prior to working with OPSRC, Ben was the Director of Technology for the Locust Grove Public School District. Ben implemented a 1:1 tablet program in Locust Grove that saw 6th-12th graders go paperless in the classroom.

In his free time, Ben likes to read and play the drums.

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