Thursday, January 24, 2019

Alexa, I wanna kiss your face!

In the last two days, Amazon has made our Echo Dot Kids Edition devices more useful in the classroom than ever before! Yesterday, I learned how to "whitelist" Alexa Skills for our Kids Edition Dots that were not specifically made as a kid's skill.

What does this mean? According to this article, "Amazon says that the FreeTime on Alexa experience is tailored for kids ages five to 12, and most of the skills and features are appropriate for ages five to nine. Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president in charge of Alexa and Echo devices, says the company is taking privacy and security very seriously with the FreeTime service and noted that it does not share customer info with any of the developers of FreeTime skills." (Siefert, 2018) Developers had to jump through additional hoops to create kids skills and oftentimes a really good educational skill wasn't available as a kid's edition skill because it was tagged as an "educational skill." 

While at the Alexa Conference last week, I realized that many developers (as well as some Alexa employees themselves) did not realize this was the case. After a bit of trial and error yesterday I enabled the FreeTime service on one of our school own devices and I was able to allow that device to access some very worthy educational skills by allowing them through the parent portal. What did this look like?:

  • I signed into the Amazon Alexa app that was associated with the account that managed the Echo Dot Kids Edition device I was working with. I then started searching for the educational apps I wanted. Specifically for me this time, 123 Math and AskMyClass. 
  • I then downloaded the FreeTime app for Alexa and signed in with the same credentials. 
  • I then launched the Parent Dashboard inside the app by clicking on the "Child" that I had set up already. (This is password protected so that children can't add things without permission."
  • I then clicked on "Settings"/"Add Content"/"Alexa Skills"
  • I was able to swipe on skills I wanted to add to this device.  
Two concerns:
  1. That's a whole lot of steps, maybe there is a shorter way to do this that I am not aware of right now.
  2. FreeTime will not be free after a year grace period that I received when I got the devices this year. 
Next thing happened TODAY! When I opened my Amazon Alexa app today I noticed something new.
  • Click on "Your Skills" at the top of the app
  • Now I see "Blueprints" 
  • Not only do I see Blueprints but I can create them right from the app now. This can be an amazing formative assessment tool on the fly.
This is a gamechanger for the classroom! We can now personalize the use of our Kids Edition Echo Dots with skills that relate to OUR classrooms and do it safely by using the Kids Edition Echo Dot! Alexa, I could kiss your face! I can't wait to share all this with my teachers tomorrow! 

P.S.-ALEXA, did you read my blog yesterday? Am I vain to think I might have been the catalyst for this change????

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