Amazon is coming up with a new portal called Amazon Inspire, which will allow the uploading, accessing and sharing of unlimited education and classroom resources across the country. Thousands of education resources such as videos, projects, tests, worksheets and lesson plans, would become available to K-12 teachers for free.
Amazon Inc. made the announcement on Monday, during a ‘Transitioning to OER’ session as part of the National Conference on Education of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, held here.
Andrew Joseph, Vice President of strategic relations for Amazon Education said that the new platform is in beta testing now, and is scheduled to be released publicly within the next two to three months.
This is the latest in a series of moves by Amazon and it’s biggest yet in the education technology market after it acquired the TenMarks online math startup in 2014. Amazon also provides technical resources and support for the department’s Learning Registry open database. Amazon separately markets e-books and tablets for teachers and school districts.
Amazon Inspire will be made available to schools for free. “We’ve made a commitment that we will never charge for this,” Joseph said, noting it will be “a completely free, open platform for free resources.”
Asked about the company’s financial interest in the effort, Joseph said, “Amazon is a big commercial entity and we have to make this sustainable over time. This piece we have committed to making absolutely free forever. We’re not going to lock the content up. We promised we won’t put a pay wall in front of it.”
Joseph said the company has not decided exactly how it will achieve financial sustainability for Amazon Inspire, but he said it could be in connecting users to books they might want to buy to go with a unit on Shakespeare, for instance, or in using Amazon’s capabilities in self-publishing books. “We don’t know exactly what it looks like… but we believe we have all these other paths down the road,” he said.
The company describes the project as an outgrowth of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Education’s GoOpen initiative and was developed in support of its commitment to making digital classrooms a reality. The company indicated that it was inviting educators to shape the evolution of this innovative service to best serve teachers.
In a statement, the company said, “Our ultimate goal is for every teacher in every single subject to benefit from Amazon Inspire. When they walk into a classroom, we want every teacher to benefit from the collective knowledge, the collective insights and the experience of every single one of their peers.”
Teachers can literally shop for resources on this new portal by selecting and filtering categories along the left pane of the webpage. They will be able to access open resources, notes, information, and in turn, publish material online. Users will also be able to add ratings, reviews, and recommendations. A school’s total digital library could be made available on the site.
Features of Amazon Inspire include Smart search, Collections, Simple upload, Customer reviews and Accessibility support.
The company is looking for more districts to become partners for the testing phase before launching the site, Joseph said. At present a variety of school districts in Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont among others are using the platform.
The online retailer’s GM of K-12 Education, Rohit Agarwal, commented, “Amazon joins educators from around the country in recognizing the power of digital learning to transform the classroom, by creating a personalized, engaging learning environment for all students.”
He continued, “However, we also know that making that promise a reality is a time-consuming proposition and teachers tell us that they spend upwards of 12 hours a week searching for and curating resources for classroom instruction, placing a high degree of trust in resources shared by their peers. With Amazon Inspire, we aim to quickly and easily put the best and most trusted digital resources at teachers’ fingertips, saving them valuable time that can be devoted to what they do best and enjoy most-teaching.”
“If we could enable every teacher to contribute resources or help discover them, we could collectively raise access for the 3 million-plus teachers out there,” he said.
“We’re mentors, facilitators, coaches, listeners, and learners,” said Michael Buist, a teacher at Knox Gifted Academy in Chandler, Arizona. “We need inspiration and resources. Amazon Inspire is that place to not only share, but learn from each other and enhance our craft.”
Apart from teachers sharing resources on Amazon Inspire, publishers, and other content developers are contributing to the service. One contributor is the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“Too many teachers struggle with time and budget constraints to get high-quality content for their students,” said Barbara McCormack, Vice President of Education. “By collaborating with Amazon, we can take an open access approach to scale quickly, ensuring teachers and students get the resources they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
New York’s Mineola Public Schools is among the first school districts in the country to join the Amazon Inspire service. Tulare County Office of Education in Visalia, California is also a contributor. The Folger Shakespeare Library is also a contributor to Amazon Inspire. There are more than 100 teaching resources added by the library, with an estimated 2,000 more pieces of educational material including classroom instruction being added in time for the 2016–2017 school year.
Amazon Education’s mission is to improve learning outcomes with solutions that help teachers focus on what they do best—teach, engage and motivate students to learn.
The program isn’t entirely open yet, with teachers having to request access for now. Teachers are advised to sign up now while it’s still in beta mode so that 2016–2017 school year might just get a little easier!