We have an Alexa at home and it's fun. But are there and applications in learning - and do I have to worried about how my children are using it?

AUDIO - GETTING STARTEDDo you speak to an Amazon Alexa device? Do you regularly say Hey Siri to your Apple Watch? How do you feel about using your voice to control technology?


Audio apps are used widely in education to record sound or voice.

Apps like Spotify, iTunes and podcasting platforms like Anchor allow students to consume or create media. Audio is also a feature of platforms like Discord, or messaging apps like Snapchat where students can create voice calls between two or groups of users.

These apps and services are well known and understood.

But a new class of audio apps are emerging that use voice as an interface - partly because there has been a recognition that screen fatigue may be an issue.

These ‘conversational interfaces’ or 'voice interfaces' allow people to use voice to search. Companies like Amazon, Google and Apple offer interfaces that allow people to speak rather than type or point. It is estimated that as many as 50% of searches will be done by voice alone in the future.

These voice interfaces are usually attached to a specific device: an Apple device (a watch, phone or computer), an Amazon Alexa or a Google smart device.

These devices reply on connections to the internet to process voice commands and to perform actions like retrieving information or playing media.

Siri has over 375 million active users

Google has conversational interfaces to over 1 Billion devices worldwide

Amazon has over 100 million smart speakers

Grocery shopping accounts for more than 20% of voice-based orders

60% of smartphone users have tried voice search at least once in the past 12 months

55% of teenagers are using voice search daily basis

Top 3 common keywords in voice search phrases are how, what and best.


Lots of children are now using the voice assistants in their homes. 6 out of 10 parents say their children interact with a voice-activated assistant such as Siri or Alexa.

This makes it hard to set age limitations for the use of audio devices. 


Easy to use: because no keyboard, screen or mouse is needed, they are easy to interact with (and sometimes lots of fun). 

They provide immediate feedback so its like having a conversation.

Applications for students: there are lots of voice-based applications for students


Privacy. There are concerns about about privacy when using smart devices, including the question of when an Amazon Alexa device is listening to you, what it records, who can access that information and what will it be used for.

There have been many reports that devices store recordings when they say they don't. 


Audio interfaces are now doing more than just retrieving simple information.

More complex tasks can be done using voice through skills or voice skills.

Each platform has a different name for their voice skills.  Amazon calls them ‘skills’, Google calls them ‘Actions’, and Samsung calls them ‘capsules’.

And each platform has its own skills - such as asking the time or for weather information.

There are tens of thousands of Alexa skills and Google actions available. You can read about some of them at

Some of the terms you will see used are:


A voice application, which can respond to an 'intent' which is...


...what you want the skill to do in response to what you say


The sentence you say

Wake Word

The word or phrase used to get start a voice assistant listening such as ‘Hey google’, ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Siri’


Extra information that helps inter[ret what someone says such as ‘today’, ‘now’ or ‘when I get home’



How Alexa skills work.

Take a look at this example of voice skiils in an Amazon Alexa game that allows fans to navigate Westworld, based on the TV show, using only their voice.

Here are some great examples of Amazon skills that you can take a look at:

Amazon Storytime
a collection of short stories for children aged 5 and above

The Magic Door
an interactive storytelling game that allows students to make choices during an adventure

The Queen’s Mathematician
a maths game for kids aged 6-8

a general knowledge learning app

translates English sentences into 37 different languages

This Day in History
voice skills for historical events

Word of the Day
a voice app to build vocabulary


As with any technology, there are concerns about about privacy when using smart devices, including when, for example, an Amazon Alexa device is listening, what it records, who can access that information and what will it be used for.

There have been many reports that devices violate privacy by storing recordings for example. See:

Amazon say that they created Freetime which is aimed at kids using Amazon devices and that:

“FreeTime provides kids a safe place to enjoy age-appropriate books, movies, games, and more. Since then, parents of over 10 million kids have trusted FreeTime to give them the control they need to provide a safe place for their children to enjoy technology, and to rigorously protect the privacy of family members using Amazon products. We worked tirelessly to earn our customers’ trust, and have worked even harder to maintain it over the last seven years.

When we expanded FreeTime last year to include Alexa, we applied these same rigorous standards. We introduced an all-new version of Alexa, built from the ground up for kids, and a brand-new product, Echo Dot Kids Edition, to give parents more peace of mind. But we didn’t do this alone: we also worked closely with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and other leading industry groups, and followed industry best practices for securing verifiable parental consent.

Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserve the trust of our customers and their families, we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy, and we adhere to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).”

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