Amazon yesterday took the wraps off of a beta version of Amazon Inspire, a massive free portal for K-12 educators that provides them with the ability to upload, share and rate lesson plans, apps, software and other resources.
“Amazon is establishing a foothold that could expand into a one-stop shopping marketplace — not just for paid learning materials, but for schools’ wider academic and institutional software needs, said Tory Patterson, co-founder of Owl Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in ed tech start-ups,” reports Natasha Singer for the New York Times. “‘Amazon is very clearly positioning itself as a disrupter with this move,’ Patterson said.”
“Sharing is caring — and it can also be profitable,” writes Jason Abbruzzese for Mashable. “The tech portion of the education industry (sometimes called EdTech) is sizable, having hit around $8.4 billion in 2014, with Google and Apple already heavily involved.”
But Amazon had been advancing at an uncharacteristically slow pace to date. (It is now the second-biggest player in consumer-electronics sales behind Best Buy, as Marketing Daily’s Sarah Mahoney reports.)
“Until now, Amazon’s presence in educational institutions has been mostly limited to its original business of selling digital and physical books. The e-commerce giant has partnered with a handful of universities to open co-branded online bookstores for selling textbooks and a number of physical campus stores as package pick-up centers,” reports Leena Rao for Fortune.
“But lately, Amazon has been making inroads in early education as well. Earlier this year, Amazon signed a deal with New York City public schools, one of the largest U.S. school districts to provide digital books to its million-plus students,” Rao continues.
Also, “in March 2015 Amazon debuted AWS Educate, a program designed to help educators accelerate cloud technology learning in the classroom. And then there's Amazon Education, bolstered by the 2013 acquisition of online math company TenMarks, which has been operational for some time,” writes Natalie Gagliordi for ZDNet.
“Inspire is part of Amazon’s commitment to the U.S. Department of Education’s #GoOpen initiative, providing educators everywhere access to a platform not only to upload and share free digital teaching resources, but to review and provide feedback similar to Amazon’s shopping site,” reportsGetting Smart.
“Designed to look and operate much like Amazon’s well-known flagship site — but without the e-commerce back-end — Inspire lets users sort content by relevance, user ratings and popularity, along with several criteria pertaining specifically to the materials at hand (level, skill, etc.),” writes Ingrid Lunden for TechCrunch. “The content is a mix of ‘crowdsourced’ resources from teachers and other educators — uploaded via an interface that is not unlike Amazon’s self-publishing platform.”
“As a concept, it bears a striking resemblance to Wikipedia, which many students can no longer cite as an official source for academic works. Inspire is built around a simple uploading concept: educators can drag and drop files they want to share, add basic metadata such as title, description, grade and subject, and publish the content on the service,” writes Tom Brant for PC.
Besides the teachers themselves, publishers and other content developers — such as the Washington, D.C.-based Newseum and the Folger Shakespeare Library — are contributing digital educational resources to the service.
“Too many teachers struggle with time and budget constraints to get high-quality content for their students,” says Barbara McCormack, VP of education at the Newseum. “By collaborating with Amazon, we can take an open-access approach to scale quickly….”
“Our ultimate goal is for every teacher in every single subject to benefit from Amazon Inspire,” Rohit Agarwal, GM of Amazon K-12 Education, tellsGeekWire’s Todd Bishop. “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.”
In the release announcing the program, Agarwal says “teachers tell us that they spend upwards of 12 hours a week searching for and curating resources for classroom instruction.”
“Time is Money,” as Ben Franklin wrote in Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One. “Money can beget Money,” Franklin also pointed out. And giving something away can beget money, too, down the digital path.