Alexa in the Classroom? Amazon’s Voice Assistant Leads Kids’ Story Time: Bamboo Learning, co-founded by an Amazon alumnus, wants to be a leader in ‘voice-powered education.’ Some educators are skeptical, by Matt Day, Bloomberg, June 12, 2019.
Amazon Alexa Fund Invests in Bamboo Learning as startup introduces screen-friendly Alexa math skill, by Frank Catalano, Geekwire, September 27, 2018.
[video] How Bamboo Learning Uses Alexa to Teach Music, by Brad Stone, Bloomberg Technology on Bloomberg Television, July 6, 2018.
New Alexa Skill “Bamboo Music” Teaches Music Theory, by David Novak, Gadget Gram, June 22, 2018.
Alexa Skill of the Week: Bamboo Music, by Rod Trent, My IT Forum, June 22, 2018.
Bamboo Music is a new Alexa Skill that makes learning music fun for the family, by Lulu Chang, Digital Trends, June 20, 2018.
Former Amazon devices executive Ian Freed launches Bamboo Music skill for Alexa, by Frank Catalano, Geekwire, June 19, 2018.
Bamboo Music teaches via Alexa, by Casey Coombs, Puget Sound Business Journal, June 19, 2018.
Amazon veteran Ian Freed launches Alexa music learning startup, by Casey Coombs, Puget Sound Business Journal, June 19, 2018.
TO SUPERCHARGE KIDS’ READING AND LISTENING COMPREHENSION SKILLS
“FUN WITH A PURPOSE” TO ALEXA CUSTOMERS IN OVER 80 COUNTRIES
COLUMBUS, OH AND SEATTLE, WA – Highlights for Children and Bamboo Learning introduce Highlights Storybooks from Bamboo, a highly-engaging skill for Amazon Alexa featuring ability-leveled stories, interaction and narration from the Highlights Storybook Collection series. The Highlights Storybooks skill for Amazon Alexa initially offers 12 free English-language titles with associated skill-building exercises. The skill is available to customers using any Alexa device in over 80 countries by asking Alexa to “Open Highlights Storybooks”.
The Highlights Storybooks from Bamboo skill is designed by literacy experts to help children develop and practice skills in vocabulary building, language acquisition, and reading comprehension. Because Alexa is a voice-first service, children build the listening comprehension skills needed to become strong readers and learners. Studies show that reading makes kids happier, healthier, and more empathetic, and that kids who are confident readers are more successful overall in school.
How It Works
Highlights Storybooks from Bamboo works with any Alexa-enabled device, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot Kids Edition. In addition, families with screen-based Alexa devices, including recent Fire TV products, Fire tablets, and Echo Show, can take advantage of visually engaging illustrations and text to enjoy an enhanced play experience. The skill can be enabled for free by saying “Alexa, enable Highlights Storybooks.” The skill can also be enabled using the Alexa app or via Bamboo Learning’s web site at: www.bamboolearning.com.
The skill enables children to select a level using their voice and listen to a human narrator reading selections from the storybook. After each narration, Alexa asks questions about the story, evaluates the child’s answer, and provides feedback. Parents have the option to review their children’s progress and results via Bamboo Grove at www.bamboolearning.com/grove.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Bamboo Learning to bring a new kind of Fun with a Purpose™ to children around the world,” said Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children. “Highlights Storybooks incorporate what families love most about Highlights – detailed, engaging content that helps kids learn and grow – and incorporates the element of voice-based interactivity which adds to both the delight and the educational benefits. We are excited to see where children’s passion for these new voice-based products will take them.”
“At Bamboo Learning, our goal is to offer families fun, educational, breakthrough experiences for voice services like Alexa,” said Ian Freed, Founder and CEO of Bamboo Learning. “We’re thrilled to work with Highlights, one of the most trusted, family-friendly companies in the world.”
Kids engage more when they can choose the stories and topics they read. Their innate desire to continue reading will motivate them to answer Alexa’s questions and move forward through the skill. Success and positive reinforcement will boost their confidence through the experience. Highlights Storybooks can go anywhere, anytime, so skill-building and fun can fit seamlessly into existing routines, study time, or down-time before bed.
“Customers tell us that they love using Alexa in the home, especially with their families,” said Joe Balzarini, Director, Alexa. “It’s our goal to provide families a fun and educational experience with Alexa, so we’re thrilled to offer the Highlights Storybooks skill that not only helps with reading and vocabulary, but sparks the imagination in a new way through voice.”
A video demo of Highlights Storybooks from Bamboo is available at www.bamboolearning.com/highlightsdemo.
A focus group video featuring children trying Highlights Storybooks from Bamboo together with Bamboo Learning’s Co-Founder and SVP of Content, Irina Fine, is available at www.bamboolearning.com/focusgroup.
Highlights is a beloved global media brand dedicated to helping children become curious, creative, caring, and confident™ through engaging content and experiences that are focused on nurturing and developing the whole child. Through stories, poems, puzzles, jokes, riddles, science, art, and more, kids are encouraged to think, problem solve, and build their literacy skills while having fun. Highlights reaches children 0–12 with its most popular magazines (Highlights, Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Highlights High Five Bilingüe [English/Spanish]), digital apps (Highlights Hidden Pictures, Highlights Monster Day and Highlights Shapes), books, toys, games, and a podcast incorporating classic favorites like Hidden Pictures® puzzles, Goofus and Gallant®, Dear Highlights letters, and more. Because Highlights offerings may be print or digital, purchased through subscriptions or retail, kids can engage with Highlights anytime, anywhere. To learn more and connect with Highlights, visit Highlights.com, HighlightsKids.com, Highlights Hangout, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
About Bamboo Learning
Based in Seattle, Bamboo Learning is an education-focused software and services company with a mission to become the leader in voice-first education applications and content. Bamboo Learning is focused on developing skills for Alexa that enable children and adults to have fun learning and practicing different subjects while listening, viewing pictures, and using their voice. Bamboo Skills, including Bamboo Books, Bamboo Math and Bamboo Music, automatically get more challenging as children and adults master different levels. Learn more at: www.bamboolearning.com and find us on Twitter at: @learnwithbamboo.
WITH FREE ‘BAMBOO BOOKS’ SKILL FOR AMAZON ALEXA
Featuring Human Narration of Classic Children’s Literature
Children’s Progress in Bamboo Books and View Bamboo Badges
SEATTLE—May 1, 2019 – Today, Bamboo Learning announced Bamboo® Books, its third voice-first, free, education-focused Alexa skill to help children (from pre-readers to advanced readers), learn and practice listening comprehension skills featuring classic children’s stories and books, including: Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Little Red Riding Hood, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and many more, using Alexa-enabled devices such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Dot Kids Edition.
Bamboo Books can be enabled for free by saying “Alexa, enable Bamboo Books” to any Alexa-enabled device. Bamboo Books can also be enabled using the Alexa app or via Bamboo Learning at: www.bamboolearning.com. A video demo of Bamboo Books can be found here: www.bamboolearning.com/booksdemo
Additionally, Bamboo Learning introduced Bamboo Grove, a web and mobile tool for parents to follow their children’s progress in Bamboo Books, including time spent using Bamboo Books, questions answered, correct and incorrect answers, as well as Bamboo Badges awarded. To learn more about Bamboo Grove and how to set up an account and link it to the Bamboo Books skill for Amazon Alexa, parents can go to www.bamboolearning.com/grove.
“In Bamboo Books, we have created a richer book experience using a mashup of Alexa interactivity with professionally narrated audiobooks and eBooks to empower children to learn more through listening, following along, and participating in exercises using their own voice,” said Ian Freed, CEO of Bamboo Learning. “Bamboo Books is another step in our journey to develop the best voice-powered education applications for customers. Based on early feedback from kids and adults, Bamboo Books may be our best Alexa skill yet, and we hope you enjoy it as much as our early students have.”
Using Bamboo Books, children may select from a range of classic literature targeted at three different reading levels and participate in exercises to help them learn about characters, plot, setting, and other story details. Some books by level include:
Level 1: The Little Red Hen by Florence White Williams, Little Red Riding Hood by Unknown Author, The Story of The Three Bears by Robert Southey
Level 2: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Level 3: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
“Bamboo Books’ instructional tools are based on decades of experience developing children’s reading and literacy materials for schools and teacher training programs,” said Irina Fine, COO and Senior Vice President of Content for Bamboo Learning. “Combining these time-tested curriculum concepts with classic literature and new voice technology like Alexa provides children and families with a completely new and fascinating learning experience.”
“The Bamboo Books skill offers interactive reading and listening lessons through Alexa based on classic children’s literature,” said Joe Balzarini, General Manager, Alexa Skills. “It’s great to see a developer like Bamboo Learning continue to find new and innovative ways for parents and their kids to learn through voice.”
HOW ‘BAMBOO BOOKS’ WORKS
Bamboo Books enables children to select a listening comprehension level using their voice, and listen to a human narrator read selections from stories and books. At the easier levels, children are provided with guidance on what to listen for before the narrated selection begins; Alexa then asks questions about that particular selection. The human narrator then continues with additional passages and questions, so children learn to listen carefully to different parts of the story and identify characters, plot, setting, and details. As levels progress, Bamboo Books offers more complex questions and fewer hints so that students from pre-readers to advanced readers can benefit from working with this exciting new Alexa skill.
Children with access to Alexa-enabled devices with a screen, including Echo Show, Fire tablets, and Fire TV, can take advantage of the engaging visuals to improve their reading comprehension using Bamboo Books to follow along the text of the stories, and receive visual hints to help answer Bamboo Books’ questions.
“It’s chaotic around our house. The kids need attention and my husband and I are both busy all the time, so reading 3 to 4 times a week to our 5 and 8 year old kids is an important anchor for our family,” said Stacy Fojas-Tauthong, mother of two from Secaucus, NJ. “We introduced the kids to Bamboo Books, and now they can listen and follow along to classic stories like Peter Pan on our Amazon Fire tablet, and participate in exercises to help with their listening and reading comprehension. Bamboo Books actually enhances our story time with them, which we still do regularly; the kids also do Bamboo Books on their own, and we know they are getting a high-quality experience that’s educational and fun for them.”
HOW ‘BAMBOO GROVE’ WORKS
Bamboo Grove offers parents the option to review their children’s progress in Bamboo Books, including dates and times used, session length, number of questions attempted, correct and incorrect answers, as well as badges awarded.
To access Bamboo Grove, parents need to sign up for a Bamboo Learning account at www.bamboolearning.com/grove. Once they have signed up for a Bamboo Learning account, parents then need to link that account with the Bamboo Books skill within the Alexa App (by searching for Bamboo Books within the skills section of the Alexa App). After a parent has linked their Bamboo Books skill to their Bamboo Learning account, they can then view results and follow their children’s progress using a PC or mobile browser at: www.bamboolearning.com/grove.
“My wife and I have read to our 5 year old daughter almost daily for a couple of years, but we have never been sure if she was truly understanding the stories beyond the basic characters and plot,” said Henrik Hallum, a father from Brooklyn, NY. “Once we tried Bamboo Books as a family, we were thrilled with how attentive our daughter was. Because we linked Alexa to our Bamboo Learning account, we can now use Bamboo Grove to see how she is progressing, and the badges she has earned.”
About Bamboo Learning
Based in Seattle, Bamboo Learning is an education-focused software and services company with a mission to become the leader in voice-first education applications and content. Bamboo Learning develops skills for Alexa that enable children and adults to have fun learning and practicing different subjects while listening, viewing pictures, and using their voice. Bamboo Skills, including Bamboo Books, Bamboo Math, and Bamboo Music, automatically get more challenging as children and adults master different levels. Parents can sign up for a Bamboo Grove account to follow their children’s progress in Bamboo Learning Alexa skills.
Bamboo’s co-founders are Ian Freed, CEO, and Irina Fine, COO and SVP of Content. Ian Freed is a thirty-year veteran of the technology industry, including twelve years at Amazon.com, having served as vice president of Amazon devices, where he led both the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Kindle businesses, and served as technical advisor to Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Irina Fine is a thirty year veteran of elementary education curriculum development and teaching, having worked in public and private sectors of education in New York, Washington DC, London, and Moscow, after receiving her M.Ed. in Curriculum Development and an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance and Music Education. Learn more at: www.bamboolearning.com.
ALEXA SKILL TO HELP STUDENTS PRACTICE NUMBER AND WORD PROBLEMS
to Help Students Practice and Improve Auditory and Visual Math Skills
SEATTLE—September 27, 2018 – Today, Bamboo Learning announced Bamboo Math – the first education-focused voice-first Alexa Skill that combines rich visual elements with voice interaction to help students practice arithmetic as part of their math education. Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and the all-new Echo Plus, can use Bamboo Math. Students with screen-based Alexa devices such as Echo Show, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Fire TV Cube also can take advantage of Amazon’s new visual Alexa features to view images to help them learn using auditory and visual skills.
“We’re excited to introduce students to a new way of learning with Alexa. For the first time ever, students can practice math while exercising their auditory listening skills and visual comprehension through number and word problems on Echo Show, Fire tablets, and Fire TV,” said Ian Freed, CEO, Bamboo Learning. “We chose Alexa because we believe voice interaction is a powerful, fun, and engaging guide to learning that reinforces and supplements what students are learning in school.”
The second in a series of Bamboo Learning offerings, Bamboo Math features a colorful and interactive interface that intersperses numeric problems such as:
3 + 2 = ?
with word problems like:
Four frogs crossed a bridge. Five times as many foxes followed them. How many foxes crossed the bridge?
For students who have a screen-based Alexa device, Bamboo Math automatically displays images of animals and objects in different environments to enhance students’ cognition and keep them entertained while they are learning.
“Research shows that instructional materials which incorporate both auditory and visual content help students learn more quickly while better retaining the material,” said Irina Fine, COO and Senior Vice President of Content for Bamboo Learning. “Using Amazon’s new Alexa Presentation Language and Alexa-enabled devices, Bamboo Math is a unique voice-first education tool that combines audio and visual elements to help students deepen their understanding and knowledge of mathematics.”
Bamboo Math offers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, initially starting at Level 1 with simple problems for each arithmetic function. Students can ask for more difficult or easier problems by simply saying “Harder” or “Easier”. At the highest levels of multiplication and division, many adults may have difficulty answering the questions without some practice, thus beginning math students have plenty of room to improve their math skills.
Additionally, just like Bamboo Learning’s existing music theory skill – Bamboo Music, students automatically gain new levels in Bamboo Math to challenge them appropriately as they master easier exercises. Once a student has mastered all levels in a particular arithmetic function, Bamboo Math promotes the student to the new functions. For example, students mastering addition are automatically promoted to subtraction. Also, students can switch at any time to other arithmetic problems by simply saying “Addition”, “Subtraction”, “Multiplication”, or “Division”.
“I introduced my children to Bamboo Math to see how they’d like it,” said Sherry Garrison Taylor, mother of three from Brooklyn, New York. “When Bamboo Math asked them a question about tarantulas falling off a trampoline, my children’s laughter immediately filled the air, followed by chatter and many, many tries to see what other fun word problems Bamboo Math had in store. I think that Bamboo Math is a must-have for any parent interested in helping their children learn and retain math.”
Investment and Release Date
In addition to previewing Bamboo Math today, Bamboo Learning also announced an investment from Amazon’s Alexa Fund. Bamboo Learning will use the investment to continue building education skills that help students learn a variety of subjects.
“The goal of the Alexa Fund is to find compelling companies for its portfolio that demonstrate how voice technology can improve everyday life, and Bamboo Learning embodies that vision,” said Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund. “Bamboo Learning skills benefit from their founders’ deep understanding of Alexa and decades of education experience, and we’re excited to support them as they build more educational skills for Alexa customers.”
Bamboo Math will be released to the public on October 11. A video demo of Bamboo Math can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/BambooMath. Anyone interested in participating in an invitation-only public beta of Bamboo Math prior to that date may contact the company at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Bamboo Learning
Based in Seattle, Bamboo Learning is an education-focused software and services company with a mission to become the most trusted guide to lifelong learning using voice-first devices and software. Bamboo Learning is focused on developing skills for Alexa that enable children and adults to have fun learning and practicing different subjects while listening, viewing pictures, and using their voice. Bamboo Skills, including Bamboo Math and Bamboo Music, automatically get more challenging as children and adults master different levels.
Bamboo’s co-founders are Ian Freed, CEO, and Irina Fine, COO and SVP of Content. Ian Freed is a thirty-year veteran of the technology industry, including twelve years at Amazon.com, having served as vice president of Amazon devices, where he led both the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Kindle businesses, and served as technical advisor to Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Irina Fine is a thirty year veteran of elementary education curriculum development and teaching, having worked in public and private sectors of education in New York, Washington DC, London, and Moscow, after receiving her M.Ed. in Curriculum Development and an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance and Music Education. Learn more at: www.bamboolearning.com
SEATTLE--June 19, 2018 -- Today, Bamboo Learning unveiled Bamboo Music – a new Alexa Skill for Alexa-enabled devices that enables the entire family to have fun learning and practicing music theory while listening and using their voice. Bamboo is focused on making learning fun and easy-to-use for kids and adults, expanding consumers’ auditory learning capabilities, and providing opportunities for parents to see how their children are progressing.
Bamboo Music introduces foundational music concepts such as notes, scales, chords, tempo, dynamics, intervals, and the sounds of different instruments such as piano, violin, and clarinet. Through a variety of exercises carefully selected to follow time-tested music theory teaching methods, students of all ages can learn a wide range of music skills: from notes’ directionality, to the distinct sound of major and minor chords and scales, to identifying multiple instruments playing in selections of children’s songs, folk songs, and classical pieces. As students practice different skills, they can earn Bamboo Badges, and Bamboo Music automatically advances to the next difficulty level as students master new skills.
Attractive to consumers of all ages because it teaches them something interesting and useful, Bamboo Music is designed from the beginning with audio interaction in mind, and combines the voice of Alexa with carefully chosen recordings of musical phrases, including selections customized for Bamboo Music, and played by professional musicians in a recording studio.
Bamboo Music offers the option to register different accounts for each member of the family, enabling family members to play Bamboo Music together, while permitting everyone’s progress to be tabulated separately. Optionally, parents can set up the ability to receive emails of the results from Bamboo Music, which they can forward to music teachers.
Bamboo Music can be enabled by saying “Alexa, enable Bamboo Music” to an Alexa-powered device, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, or Echo Show. Bamboo Music can also be enabled using the Alexa app or via Bamboo at: www.bamboolearning.org.
“Bamboo’s approach to developing the Bamboo Music Alexa Skill is to focus on learning that works well on a voice device, build lessons based on solid educational research and philosophy, make the Alexa Skills fun for the entire family, and enable parents to easily track progress,” said Irina Fine, co-founder, COO, and SVP of Content for Bamboo. “Feedback from trial users has been amazing, from both kids and adults, so we are optimistic about the future for Bamboo Music as a new way for consumers to learn the fundamentals of music.”
“When we first got an Amazon Echo, my 6 and 8 year old daughters mostly played some of their favorite songs and a few trivia games with it. Then, as they started using Bamboo Music, their ears and their minds were opened up to music in a whole new way, and I really started to see how Alexa could help my kids learn while also enjoying themselves,” said Shayle Emerson, mother of three and high school science teacher from Kingston, MA. “The most wonderful thing is that Bamboo Music really got my daughters excited to actually learn how to play an instrument, and this year, they enrolled in ukulele and piano lessons. And now, they’ve continued to use Bamboo as part of their music curriculum. As a teacher myself, it’s awesome to see that Bamboo knows and keeps track of what each member of my family is learning, and makes the questions harder as they reach new levels.”
“By understanding and capitalizing on the power of voice to help consumers learn new things, Bamboo has taken an innovative approach to developing their Bamboo Music Alexa Skill -- which is such a fun and easy-to-use way for children and adults alike to explore music theory,” said Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “The whole family will enjoy competing for new badges as they progress through the Bamboo Alexa Skills, and parents will be thrilled to see how much their kids are learning through their Alexa device.”
About Bamboo Learning
Bamboo is an education-focused software and services company with a mission to teach using voice-based devices and software. It is focused on developing skills for Alexa that enable children and adults to have fun learning and practicing different subjects while listening and using their voice. Bamboo Skills automatically get more challenging as children and adults master different levels; they also tabulate progress and offer an option to receive results via email.
Bamboo’s co-founders are Ian Freed, CEO, and Irina Fine, COO and SVP of Content. Ian Freed is a thirty-year veteran of the technology industry, including twelve years at Amazon.com, having served as Vice President of Amazon devices, where he led both the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Kindle businesses, and served as a Technical Advisor to Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Irina Fine is a thirty-year veteran of elementary education curriculum development and teaching, having worked in public and private sectors of education in New York, Washington DC, London, and Moscow, after receiving her M.Ed. in Curriculum Development and an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance and Music Education. Learn more about Bamboo Music and Bamboo Learning at www.bamboolearning.org
Lisa Amore for Bamboo Learning