Edtechs Build Alexa Skills That Deepen Learning in AWS Challenge. Which Gets Your Vote?

May 08, 2020

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SXSW EDU collaborate to issue a challenge, the edtech world answers.

In July 2019, the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge gave developers a chance to make cutting-edge Alexa skills for creative educational improvements.

In July 2019, the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge gave developers a chance to make cutting-edge Alexa skills for creative educational improvements. Edtech companies across the U.S. submitted innovative ideas to bolster student learning, teacher productivity, accessibility and the home-school connection.

The winners for this competition will be decided in two parts: the Judge’s Choice award and the People’s Choice award.

An expert panel of judges has already narrowed down the competition to six finalists, based on each skill’s innovation, impact, usability and stickiness factor. One finalist from this group—Blast Learning, Healthy Teen Network, NuMoola, SayKid, StrongMind or VOGO Voice—will win the Judge’s Choice award, receiving $50,000 in AWS Promotional Credit to help bring their next big idea to life.

Voting is now open for the People’s Choice award, where the winner will receive $25,000 in AWS Promotional Credit. Cast your vote by May 15, 2020 to be eligible to win an Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen).

Finalists for the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge

You learned about three of the finalists in the first article of this series. Read about the remaining three below.

Blast Learning

Blast Learning helps students remember information they learned, while identifying and filling in knowledge gaps.

Leveraging research on how to accelerate long-term memory formation, “the Blast Learning Alexa skill quizzes students in a way that helps them ace the test on a current unit and then continues to periodically quiz them on the material until the knowledge and skills become durable. Along the way, when a learning gap is discovered, the skill re-teaches that information and provides additional reinforcement,” explains Bruce Lewolt, Founder of Blast Learning.

“When Blast asks a question that the learner can’t answer, the concept is retaught before engaging in memory enhancing activities. Blast adapts to each learner’s unique set of gaps as well as their unique forgetting curve,” he adds.

We know that studying effectively requires focused, dedicated time and consistency. Voice technology provides students flexible and easier access to studying through portable devices or smartphones and does not require sitting in a fixed location. Learners can use this skill to study even while they exercise, which has been shown to supercharge the brain for learning, Lewolt described. “Imagine being able to jog and study at the same time. Now, imagine how good it would feel to know that jogging is a force multiplier for your studying!”

With a product backed by neuroscience and learning research, the folks at Blast Learning are excited to continue supporting all kinds of learners in academic and professional contexts. “Blast Learning can look across the study requirements for all of a student’s courses and build a prioritized, personalized study schedule across all subjects,” Lewolt says. “Since Blast remembers everything a student has ever studied and learns the best way for that student to study, the intelligent application becomes a lifetime learning resource for students.”

Blast adapts to each learner’s unique set of gaps as well as their unique forgetting curve
- Bruce Lewolt, Blast Learning
Blast Learning | Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge finalist

SayKid

SayKid “combines new school tech and old school play” for screen-less delivery of fun and interactive voice-led learning. The Letter Game skill they created supports early childhood literacy. Children build letter recognition, phonological awareness and other literacy skills in a way that is intuitive, encouraging and developmentally appropriate for children learning to read.

“Most technology isn’t designed for early learners,” said DeLonn Crosby, co-founder and CEO of SayKid. “Kids don’t build language skills by pressing buttons or social skills by swiping screens. Touch interfaces aren’t natural, visual content often overstimulates, and rigid form factors aren’t playful. Voice is a natural interface that requires active engagement—it literally requires actively listening. By combining voice technology with tangible play, we can change how young kids learn.”

SayKid has been recognized and awarded for their designs, which incorporate proven early childhood developmental and educational best practices. For example, children have the opportunity to teach and demonstrate their knowledge as they learn. “Research shows that kids learn best when they feel competent. We empower kids to play the role of teacher, which helps build agency and foster a love of learning,” explains Crosby. Children can play independently or with a group of friends, developing social and emotional skills along the way.

SayKid is excited to introduce more children to interactive learning through play. “Ultimately, we’re passionate about bringing families together through play, so we want to reach as many homes as possible,” says Crosby.

We empower kids to play the role of teacher, which helps build agency and foster a love of learning
- DeLonn Crosby, SayKid
SayKid | Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge finalist

Healthy Teen Network

Standard school-based, one-size-fits-all, “safer sex” messages fail to speak to the needs and complexities of teens’ lived realities, explains Milagros Garrido, Associate Director of Innovation and Research at Healthy Teen Network. These impersonal and scripted approaches can result in youth feeling disengaged from traditional sex education, which could lead to high-risk sexual behavior. “It also fails to resolve the stigma and shame that plagues human sexuality,” she adds.

Designed as a way for teens to use voice technology to access high quality sexual health information, “Hush Hush is an Alexa-driven, trusted and confidential mentor that engages students in relevant, thoughtful and personalized sex education conversations. Youth can confidentially explore gender and sexuality, assess relationships, choose a birth control method, get non-judgmental guidance through complicated love and sex dilemmas and more,” says Garrido.

Young people are increasingly accustomed to seeking information from voice-enabled technology, and Healthy Teen Network helps meet them where they are.

Gender identity and sexual health conversations can carry heavy burdens of social stigma and shame and “this technology can work as an equalizer. Youth living in communities where sexual health services and education are limited can still get the information needed to make healthy sexual decisions in the privacy of their home, through their Alexa device or Amazon Alexa App,” explains Garrido.

The Healthy Teen Network is pursuing ways to expand and boost the skill’s machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to equip students with more knowledge that will support sexual health and wellbeing.

Hush Hush is an Alexa-driven, trusted and confidential mentor that engages students in relevant, thoughtful and personalized sex education conversations.
- Milagros Garrido, Healthy Teen Network
Healthy Teen Network | Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge finalist

For more on the other finalists, StrongMind, NuMoola and VOGO Voice, read 6 Edtechs Compete in a Voice Challenge — 3 Finalists Focus on Student Life Skills to Win.

Vote for your favorite to win the People’s Choice award by May 15, 2020 and be entered to win an Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen).


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