Contest Winners Aim to Transform Education Through Voice Technology with Amazon Alexa

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Recently, we profiled the six finalists competing for the top prize within the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge, every hoping to remodel training with their new Alexa talent. Now, the votes have been tallied, the judges have made their choices, and the outcomes are lastly in!

For their cutting-edge use of voice know-how, SayKid captures the Judge’s Choice award, value $50,000 in AWS Promotional Credit, and VOGO Voice takes dwelling the People’s Choice award, a prize of $25,000 in AWS Promotional Credit. All different finalists obtain $10,000 in AWS Promotional Credit.

Launched by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SXSW EDU in July 2019, the Challenge known as on builders to create progressive Alexa abilities to enhance training. Edtech corporations throughout the U.S. answered with thrilling methods to leverage voice know-how to strengthen scholar studying, increase accessibility and foster stronger home-school connections.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the big opportunities I saw and the encouraging level of early development that could have a real impact in education,” says Michael B. Horn, a number one training innovator and one of many competitors’s judges. “It leaves me optimistic that the educational opportunities are more than I’d expected from this medium.”

Part of a panel of knowledgeable judges, Horn brings 15 years of expertise guiding and advising edtech startups on ideas of educational design and studying engineering. The judges assessed every finalist’s innovation, paying particular consideration to whether or not an thought was probably to stick and, subsequently, make an enduring affect within the discipline.

“The authenticity and deep research base of a few of the skills were notable and can create some really engaging learning experiences that tie neatly into students’ motivations to learn,” he defined. The finalists that finally rose to the highest efficiently built-in research-based finest practices and voice know-how to enhance studying experiences.

“All too often, educational apps overload students’ working memory with visual and audio elements at the same time. Voice creates an opportunity for students to engage authentically and to build compelling experiences in line with proven cognitive science research,” Horn provides. “I’m hopeful that this group of skills will inspire more entrepreneurs, educators and researchers to work together to create experiences that engage learners.”

EdSurge spoke with SayKid and VOGO Voice to hear about their Challenge experiences firsthand and to study what’s subsequent for the massive winners.

Judge’s Choice Winner: SayKid

“SayKid entered the Challenge to show the world that Alexa has the potential to be a voice for change,” says DeLonn Crosby, co-founder and CEO of SayKid.

“Many people don’t realize this, but the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of early childhood education enrollment in the world. Effectively, we don’t have a practical way to reach kids where they’re at—which is often at home and without a screen,” he says. Through voice-led, screenless, play-based studying, SayKid encourages youngsters to study in a protected, pure and interesting approach.

The Letter Game skill they created helps early childhood literacy via enjoyable conversations. Designed particularly for early learners, the talent combines the strengths of voice know-how with research-based finest practices on early childhood literacy and tangible play.

Participating within the Challenge allowed them to get suggestions that may assist additional develop their product. “There’s a misconception that speech technology has to be perfect for it to be extremely beneficial. We discovered that kids have very low expectations. If there was ever a misunderstood letter, kids didn’t get frustrated or discouraged,” explains Crosby. “They’re building early literacy skills, but the experience is also about tangible and imaginative play.”

“Naturally, understanding children is very different from understanding adults. Moreover, understanding and pronouncing specific parts of words (like letters and phonemes) is a much harder technical challenge than just words and phrases. After developing various approaches to better understand children’s vocal tracts and speech patterns, we decided to add letter sounds and blends (combining letters to produce a sound) to support a broader assortment of early literacy skills,” explains Crosby.

Igniting a ardour for studying via play is a central worth that shapes the event of their product. Another motivating issue for SayKid is to construct know-how that brings households nearer. “We heard feedback of siblings playing together when they’d normally be fighting and even parents playing the Letter Game as they would a board game with their kids. The insight here is that when you force kids to learn, it feels like work, but if we let them play, they want to learn,” Crosby says.

The staff at SayKid is honored by the Challenge win and nationwide recognition and humbled by the overwhelming assist they’ve obtained from the bigger voice, edtech and educator communities. They plan to use this momentum and their AWS Promotional Credit to improve their assist for households, notably throughout this troublesome time.

“We weren’t planning to launch to consumers until later this year, but given the incredible strain that COVID-19 has put on the entire education system and families everywhere, we’re accelerating our production schedule and making our screen-less, play-based learning platform available to consumers now on the SayKid website,” says Crosby.

When requested his recommendation for different entrepreneurs fascinated by creating voice edtech, Crosby’s reply is evident: “Start with the problem you’re trying to solve, not the technology—and that is especially important in education.”

People’s Choice Winner: VOGO Voice

VOGO Voice was in a position to develop and construct out their talent rapidly, together with many vital rounds of testing and iteration to catch points early on. This allowed them to enhance their idea earlier than publishing, making their talent extra responsive and related to customers.

As all contestants had been required to submit an thought for approval earlier than any growth work might start, timing itself was a giant issue. “We saw the Challenge as a way to test and prove that our company could get a complex skill built and published in a very short time,” explains John Thompson, Operations Manager at VOGO Voice. “When we began, all we had was a concept document; we hadn’t done any development prior to getting selected.”

Kids Decisions is an interactive, story-based social-emotional studying (SEL) expertise designed to assist college students in grades Ok-5 develop vital considering, empathy and decision-making abilities. Journeying via character-developing tales with narrator Ember the dragon, youngsters study to be extra socially conscious by exploring selections and their outcomes. Parents and lecturers can even simply contribute to the Alexa-driven storytelling by including classes via an accompanying web site.

VOGO Voice had an excellent expertise taking part within the Challenge and discovered loads about creating a talent for edtech. “We found early on in our efforts that many assumptions we’d made around content were incorrect, and we needed to explore and test these assumptions more thoroughly,” Thompson explains. While their talent carried out effectively, that they had to find out how to efficiently develop and handle the SEL portion of their creation. “We learned it’s best to partner with experts in the educational field for content creation, but it also reaffirmed our understanding that there is value in the product we built,” says Thompson.

VOGO Voice considers the People’s Choice award an enormous accomplishment. “The AWS Promotional Credit will allow us to continue developing our product roadmap for Kids Decisions and also explore niche offerings of the skill for specific use cases without the worry of infrastructure costs,” says Thompson. Their plan for now could be to proceed to develop and have interaction with neighborhood content material contributors whereas additionally searching for studying firm partnerships to develop their choices.

Thompson’s recommendation for different builders and entrepreneurs fascinated by creating for voice experiences echoes the sentiment of the Judge’s Choice winner: Do your research earlier than you start. “Building an Alexa skill can be hard on your own when working with dynamic content. We encourage others to learn about all the resources out there before diving in,” he cautions. “It’s also really important to test early with the interactions to make sure you are addressing the pain points of your user base.”


Watch the 2020 Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge Event Recap.


Learn extra about how AWS helps edtechs broaden their attain, deepen person engagement and assist scholar studying with solutions like Amazon Alexa and AI/ML.



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