Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo Dot was a popular gift over the holidays. If you have one, you know it can make your life easier in any number of ways, letting you do everything from playing a song to turning off the kitchen lights using only your voice. While most people know that the Echo Dot does a nice job handling basic tasks, the device is capable of doing so much more.
I like learning new things. So, I set out to learn how I could use my Echo Dot to, well, keep learning. I found six ways to use the Echo Dot to learn something new every day:
1. Ask your Dot to teach you a new language
One of the nice things about the Echo Dot and its Alexa platform is that it’s compatible with many different apps, including Spotify. To play a specific playlist on Spotify, all you need to say is, “Alexa, play (playlist) on Spotify.” This means you can also easily get Spotify to play one of the many language-learning playlists it has available. There are a good number of languages available on the streaming platform, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Irish, and Arabic. Next time you’re lying in bed or sitting on the couch without much to do, have Alexa pull up one of Spotify’s language-learning playlists and spend 10 or 15 minutes expanding your language capabilities.
2. Learn about anything by asking your Dot to read an audiobook
If you haven’t jumped on the audiobook craze, now would be the time. It’s an easy way to keep up with the latest releases or check out older titles you may have missed. It’s easy — all you have to do is sit back, relax, and listen. There are many Alexa commands that can assist you while you’re listening to audiobooks from Kindle Unlimited or Audible. To get started you can say, “Read (title),” “Play the book (title),” “Play the audiobook (title),” or “Play (title) from Audible.”
If you want or need to skip around, you can say things like, “Go forward/back,” “Next/previous chapter,” or “Go to chapter two.” Also, if you’re listening to a book while winding down for the night, you might say something like, “Set a sleep timer for 30 minutes” or “Stop reading the book in 30 minutes.” Now you can keep learning right before you go to sleep, without having your eyes get tired mid-chapter.
3. Have your Dot give you a Flash Briefing
With the Echo Dot and Alexa, there are a few easy ways to get the daily news. Amazon’s Flash Briefing features prerecorded updates from outlets such as NPR, BBC News, and The Economist, along with news headlines from The Associated Press and weather info from AccuWeather.
The first thing you need to do is set up your Flash Briefing in the Alexa app through Settings. From here you can customize which news headlines and content providers are included, as well as what order they play in. Once you’re set up, all you need to do to get it going is say either “What’s my Flash Briefing?” or “What’s new?” While your Flash Briefing is playing you can navigate by saying “Next,” “Previous,” or “Cancel.” Also, once you request your Flash Briefing, a card appears in the Alexa app that allows you to click on links to stories you’d like to investigate further.
4. Ask your Dot to beef up your spelling and vocabulary
You’ve already learned that Alexa can use Spotify to help you master another language. You can also use the device to brush up on English. If you come across a word you’re not familiar with, simply ask “What is the definition of (word)?” The device will then deliver the meaning of said word. You can also ask Alexa, “How do you spell (word)?,” which can come in handy if you’re writing.
Alternatively, if you just want to test your spelling skills, say to Alexa, “Give me a Spelling Bee word.” In addition to spelling and definitions, Alexa can help with a number of other basic educational tasks. It can give you unit conversions, whether you’re inquiring about a form of measurement or a currency. It can make mathematical calculations. It can also help you with geography.
5. Ask your Dot to read straight from Wikipedia
Of the many commands available for the Alexa platform, here’s yet another that can help you expand your general knowledge.
Simply say, “Alexa, Wikipedia: (subject),” and the device will bring you to the Wikipedia page for whatever it is you’re looking for.
The one caveat is Wikipedia itself. It’s important to know that most of the information found on the site is credible and correct, but there are times when people alter entries for various reasons. Just be aware of that going in, as you would be when using Wikipedia on a computer.
You could literally spend hours scouring Wikipedia with Alexa and learning about various topics. For example, perhaps you’re watching the news and see a report on the latest in North Korea. That gets you thinking, “How did the situation in North Korea come to be?” Simply search North Korea on Wikipedia using Alexa, and pay particular attention to the History section.
If a particular subject raises your interest, you can say, “Alexa, tell me more,” and it will continue to read the Wikipedia entry you’re on. If knowledge is power, it’s tough to get much more powerful than this. Think about it — you now have access to an online encyclopedia, all with the command of your voice.
6. Ask your Dot general questions throughout the day
There’s really nothing to stop you from asking Alexa just about anything, which can be part of the fun. In fact, there are complete lists of fun things to ask the device. These include things like “Is there a Santa?” “Where do babies come from?” or “Is your refrigerator running?”
You could also ask all sorts of things dealing with pop culture. Some examples: “What’s the first rule of Fight Club?” “What was the Lorax?” “Who let the dogs out?” “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” You can ask Alexa anything, but of course that doesn’t always mean there will be a sensible answer available. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try.
In the end, the Echo Dot and its Alexa platform are likely more powerful than you realize. The most casual users ask it to play songs, get the outside temperature, and maybe adjust the lights or thermostat. But with these tips, you can become an Alexa super user and improve yourself in the process.