Homeschooling your kids? Your smart speaker may be able to help

Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition. (Image credit: Amazon)

With schools closed across the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have taken to homeschooling their children in the meantime – but teaching your kids at home isn't exactly a walk in the park. 

One helpful tool parents may have overlooked in their quest to maintain a semblance of order is their smart speaker

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have some particularly useful teaching tools that could make the difference between a boring lesson and one that's interactive and fun for both you and your child.

A virtual classroom assistant

One of the easiest ways to use your smart speaker in your homeschool classroom is to ask it questions. 

Got an Amazon Echo speaker at home? You can ask Alexa things like, 'how do I spell necessary?', or 'how big is the Amazon rainforest?' – and the same applies to Google Nest speakers that use Google Assistant. 

You can encourage your kids to do the same. After all, a study by Oxford Home Schooling (via Evening Standard) found that one third of parents reported "feeling embarrassed about failing to answer their children's questions", so having the smarts of an AI assistant on hand could be a great way to overcome a lack of confidence in the classroom.

If you have a Google smart display like the Google Nest Hub Max, Google's Knowledge Graph is a great way to encourage kids to research a topic for themselves.  

When you search for a topic – for example, 'famous jazz composers' – Google will generate an interactive carousel at the top of the search results page, which your child can simply click through to learn more. Check out the video below for more information:

If you're looking for educational activities for your kids, there are a few dedicated Alexa skills that could help. 

For example, Math Mania provides games centered around key areas like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and algebra. To start, simply say, “Alexa, ask Math Mania to play.”

This Day In History is another great tool that can spark discussions and learning topics – just say "Alexa launch this day in history", and you'll get a run down of the key historical events that took place.

Of course, a voice assistant is no substitute for a real teacher, but they could provide some useful tools – and a bit of much-needed respite – for parents who are new to homeschooling. 

If you don't have a smart speaker at home, you can access Alexa and Google Assistant via your smartphone – otherwise, be sure to check out the smart speaker deals we've found below:

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.