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In Amazon’s latest push into education, the tech giant is encouraging colleges to experiment with its Echo smart speakers and add the devices to their curricula.


The company is working with Arizona State University, for instance, where it gave 1,600 Echo Dots to engineering students living in a new dorm called Tooker House.


“ASU’s main motivation was to develop an opportunity for its engineering students to gain skills in voice technology, an emerging field,” says John German, an ASU spokesperson. The engineering school at ASU has added "a little bit" of voice technology to the curriculum of three existing courses this semester, German said. However, the students who received the Echo Dots will "not at all" be required to take these courses. The dots are "literally a gift," German says.


The Amazon Alexa team “met frequently” with the university, and “offered advice,” says John Rome, ASU’s deputy chief information officer.


The company also recently set up the Amazon Alexa Fund Fellowship, which so far includes four colleges—Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Southern California, and Johns Hopkins University. The year-long program will give selected students “funding, access to Alexa devices, and mentoring from an Alexa Science team member to develop an undergraduate or graduate curriculum around one or more of these disciplines,” according to a company blog post.


And the company is also running a research competition for universities called the Alexa Prize, in which it will dole out $2.5-million in prizes to teams developing new ideas in conversational artificial intelligence.


Amazon officials imagine a world where their devices are woven into student life, used for things like “ordering transportation and setting homework reminders,” says an Amazon spokesperson, who asked not to be named.


Phil Hill, an edtech consultant and blogger for eLiterate, says he believes Amazon is “playing the long game” with its Echo strategy, just as many big tech companies do in education.


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So you got a free Echo Dot at the BbWorld DevCon, now what?



Well, you can say "Alexa, tell me a joke", or "Alexa, tell me a cat joke", or "Alexa, tell me a Star Wars joke" ... but eventually you'll run out of the funnies.  You can buy accessories on Amazon like a pink skin or a wall mount.  If your flight got re-routed to Orleans, France, instead of New Orleans, and you didn't get the Dot, here is a way to run an emulator with just your existing Amazon account: Alexa Skill Testing Tool -

You could try the game: "Alexa, enable Blackboard Game; Alexa, open Blackboard Game"


Or you can Google "things to do with Alexa", and come up with all kinds of gems like: 10 things you should do now that you've welcomed Alexa into your life

Eventually you'll be like "ok, Google".


So why not integrate your Dot with the Blackboard Community site to hear only the unanswered yet questions or latest discussions?


Steps to enable Bb Community in Flash Briefing.


You can say: "Alexa, enable Bb Community News Feeds".


or follow these steps:


1. Login to the Alexa app on a mobile device or

2. Go to skills and find "Bb Community News Feeds"

3. Go to Settings -> Flash Briefing

4. Select the section of the site you want to hear about: Unanswered Questions, Discussions, Announcements.

5. Say: "Alexa, give me the news"


You may need to configure your Dot for English (U.S.) to listen to this skill.  The custom flash briefing skill doesn't have the U.K. option yet.  Plus, in U.K. English things are misspelled and pronounced funny.  Probably a bug, ex: centre, theatre, defence, organise, etc.


By the way, this skill uses Bb instead of Blackboard to avoid students being confused in adoption of the My Blackboard skill.  The search in the app store should skip the community site skill when keyword "Blackboard" is used.


What does your Dot look like?


If you can, post a picture of your Dot in the comments.  Does it look pretty? Is the ring orange, red, blue, white, or green?  Let us know!



More about Alexa:

Digital audio assistants in teaching and learning - Blackboard Blog

From Automatons to Amazon Alexa – the History of Digital Assistants .

Amazon Alexa for Blackboard Learn - BbWorld17 Teaser for Innovation Corner

Amazon Alexa game for BbWorld New Orleans

Free Amazon Echo at BbWorld.  Get yours and start sweet talking the AI.

Source code: GitHub - OSCELOT/alexaFlashcardsBlackboardGame: Alexa Flashcards Blackboard Game: working version of the unavailable pro…