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Beyond Music & Weather: 3 Ways to Get Smarter with Smart Speakers

Smart speakers were "The Gift" of the 2018 holiday season. By the end of 2019 they are expected to be in about half of all American households. Alexa has a 66% share of the market. Google has 29%. HomePod has just 5%. 

Currently the top use for the device is playing music. This is followed by answering a general question, providing the weather forecast and telling a joke.  

So, where does getting smart come in?

Smart speakers provide a great way to listen to a diverse selection of news outlets, podcasts, and books. Here is how to access each on the most commonly used speakers from Amazon and Google. 


The news is a simple feature to find and set up in your app's settings. 


On Alexa news is found in "Flash Briefing." With Alexa you can have this as a part of your, "Start my day" routine.  

Google Home

On Google Home it's called "News." With Google the news can be a part of your "Good Morning" routine. This is where you can set up all your favorite news shows. 


Did you know that podcasts weren't even a thing before the internet? Since then their popularity has exploded, but how do you know what to ask your smart speaker to play? 

Here is how to get started.


The best way to listen to podcasts on Alexa is by enabling the "Skill" called "Anypod." Once you've enabled it, you can ask Alexa to subscribe to your favorite podcasts. You can also visit Anypod to search for and add podcasts. Not sure where to start? Check out the "Podcast Playlist for Innovative Educators" or head over to NPR and see their selection of podcasts. Anypod will allow you to fast forward, rewind, play first, latest, or a specified podcast number.

Here is what it looks like.

Anypod screenshot Hidden Brain podcast

Google Home

Visit Google Podcasts and you'll see numerous options from which to create your podcast playlist. From there, you simply ask Google to play your podcasts. 

Here is what it looks like:

Screenshot Google Podcasts


Smart speakers provide a great way to listen to books. Here's how to get started.


Screenshot Audible

Alexa is connected to your Audible account. Once you have audio books there Alexa can play them.  

Here is what that looks like:

Google Home 

Google is connected to your Google Play Audio Books account. Once you have books there, you can ask your smart speaker to play them.

Here is what that looks like:

Screenshot Google Play

Your Turn

What do you think? Can smart speakers provide a useful way for you and your family to get smarter about topics, news, and events that are important to you? If you have tried it, what's the experience been like? If you haven't it may be time to give it a go.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several booksand her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, Tech&Learning, and T.H.E. Journal.